If I Had Control Of My Life, It Would Look Like This:

I would’ve married the boy I had a crush on in second grade. My hair would’ve stayed bright blonde for my entire life. I would always hear appropriate theme music playing in the background as I go about my day (like in a movie). I would’ve had kids at an earlier age. I would own a big dog that doesn’t shed or drool.

I’m going to take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have control of my life. (Although I would still like that dog).

Nobody wants to be labeled as a control-freak. But can we be honest for a moment? If you dig deep enough, we all face this struggle. Even my 1-year-old daughter has control issues!

Desiring to be in control is a reality of the Fall, so it could be easy to justify our tendencies as part of the human condition and make it an acceptable sin. I’ve tried excusing this issue. I’ve tried denying it, too. In the end, I have decided it’s more helpful to just address it. The problem is that my control issues are the symptom or the reaction; the roots are something much uglier.

For me, there is one deep root that makes my control issues rear their ugly head — thinking that I know better.

I could make a long list of the ways that life in China challenges this issue in my heart. I’d love to have control over communications at my school. I’d love to organize when the water or electricity is turned off around the city. I’d love to be able to reset the traffic light patterns in my neighborhood to help deal with the constant gridlock. I would love to give my host country my opinions on their central heating system, their use of concrete for indoor walls, their uneven brick sidewalks, and many other things. I’m sure I know a better way to do things around here. (What gives me that notion? Crazy talk, right?).

The worst is when this root of thinking that I know better gets into my spiritual walk. Why are you sending me to do that, Lord? I would be better used in this way. Why did you put me on this team? I would serve better with those people. Why did you give me this portion? I want that one!  

For me these kinds of conversations with myself or in my prayers have led to hard seasons of obedience when I had to learn that the Lord’s ways are better. I want control because I want to choose what is convenient, what is comfortable, or what is beneficial to me. That isn’t how God chooses to do things.

I love how the New Living Translation renders Isaiah 55:8, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

His ways are far beyond anything I could imagine. Anything? If you could be inside my head (which it’s best you can’t be), you’d know that my imagination is quite active. Over the years I have often imagined what the next season would look like. Where am I headed? Who will be going with me? Even this past summer I was trying to scheme a way for everything to fall perfectly into place in my life in 2016.

So far on the journey of my life, things have always turned out greater than I could imagine. Not because I set my expectations or dreams low. Not because life turned out to be convenient or comfortable or seemingly beneficial for me. But because I wasn’t in control. If I were in control, I’d make a mess of everything. The One who made me, knows better than I do. And He is the one in control. Therefore I can rest in His plans and relax in His sovereignty.

How does your host country challenge your desire to be in control?

When have you wrestled with the desire to control what the Father is doing in or around you?

How have you learned to let go of control in your life?



  1. Michele Zintz October 29, 2015

    This is such a great reminder!  I remember learning to lay down control in my first host country (a two year-stint) and then being super-intentional about it in my second- which was home for ten years.  I still feel more at home in Indonesia than anywhere else in the world, and I can attribute that to the grace I had to ‘let it go’ particularly in my early years there.  But lest I become proud of that ability, God moved me to another country for three years, and then to still another.  I’ve found out how much of that control stuff is still in me the last few years!  Of course, I still have no control over the issues-which very closely resemble the ones you’ve listed!  But it’s taking time to surrender on the inside and not be irritated.  Much of culture shock is really about control and the lack of it, isn’t it?

    1. Valerie October 29, 2015

      It seems like each change and new place peels back new “layers” of this issue, right? Surrendering on the inside is a continual battle and one that doesn’t always happen so graciously!

  2. Ashley Felder October 29, 2015

    Amen to being a bright blonde (double meaning? ha!) our whole lives! Every time I have a kid, my hair grows out a shade darker. Right now, I have the “ombre” thing going on. Nice. Thankful that His ways are higher than my ways, even when it comes to hair. Hey, maybe we won’t get as many blonde jokes anymore, huh?!

    1. Valerie October 29, 2015

      Ashley – “bright blonde” … hadn’t even thought of that!

  3. Michele Womble October 29, 2015

    oh, bring on the theme music!  So glad I’m not the only one who would totally have theme music following me around during the day! (You know, if I was in control.)


    1. Valerie October 29, 2015

      Michele — glad you understand! I think it would help me rejoice more in the moments of rejoicing and express myself better in moments of frustration :). And it would just be funny.

  4. Monica F October 31, 2015

    Your description of ‘China challenges’ caused my blood pressure to rise instantly- ha ha ha!  Been living that for years- along with the wonderful challenge of not knowing when school breaks for my kids are (in local school), listening to firecrackers go off in the alleyway at 3am, and going to our favorite noodle shop only to discover they have vacated the premises! Ha ha! Great post:)

    1. Valerie October 31, 2015

      Monica, it is SO SAD when your favorite places disappear! It seems like it always happens overnight too. So tragic. I’m sure these opportunities you mentioned are great chances to be stretched and gracious 🙂

  5. Cecily November 2, 2015

    So thankful for these posts about control.  It hasn’t been a topic that I have been consciously thinking about, of late.  However, as I look at the anger in my life, I can see that much of it has to do with control.  I think maybe the Lord wants me to have some conversations with Him about control.

    Thanks for being honest, Valerie, in talking about conversations with God that question His choices.  I believe He wants us to engage in conversation with Him about stuff before the control-crisis sets in.  Let us walk in close connection with Him!

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