I am a control freak.
I am not a type-A personality, I do not have drawers that stay organized, and my email often piles up unanswered in my inbox for weeks. But I am a control freak. This has been my discovery since my fourth, precious baby was born on August 12, 2010. James’ sex was a surprise at the delivery, as it was with his three older sisters. We were thrilled and grateful beyond words for this new addition to our family.
This fourth pregnancy was unexpected. I knew immediately that God was going to use this baby to grow me in new ways all over again. My 8-month-old, 6 ½ and 8 year old girls kept me, like all moms, going non-stop. Naively, I thought, “I know God wants to keep growing me, but what will that look like in my life?” I had no idea what was coming.
As much as I loved our sweet son, the addition of an infant created new meaning to the words “busy” and “bone-tired” to my every day’s end. Food, clothing, shelter… it’s all so basic and doesn’t sound like it should be so hard to balance. It was. I felt like I was underwater and couldn’t catch my breath.
After James’ birth, I began to suffer in my thoughts and feelings within my marriage. Something in me wasn’t the same. Before I go any further, I want to say loud and clear that I love, love, love my husband. We have been together since I was fourteen years old and I am so blessed to be his wife.
But for the first time, my desire for quality of time with my husband was replaced with a stronger desire to receive his appreciation.
I wanted him to be deeply grateful for the endless hours I was logging: breastfeeding, packing school lunches, helping with homework, putting kids to bed, changing diapers, cleaning, cooking and the endless piles of laundry. Without my realizing it, this desire for his appreciation morphed into an expectation.
And still it became something even worse: a seed of bitterness sprouted and began to grow in my heart.
As much as my husband gave (and he truly GAVE to me and my children with his time and love,) it was not enough. Inside, I was bitter and I was angry because I wasn’t getting the appreciation and love that I thought I deserved. No one knew this was going on inside of my heart…. not even me.
On the outside, I was very positive about the new baby and all the work load that goes along with it. I was so thankful for this precious baby that we all adored. Although I was ignorant of my own deep-seeded bitterness and anger, I was aware that conflict in our marriage seemed seemed to spring up more often than usual. I easily chalked these conflicts up to the strain that every newborn, and lack of sleep, can put on a marriage. My husband and I thought we had discovered a solution when our small group began studying a book about how to have a Godly marriage. We both gave it our very best effort. I worked on showing my husband more respect by trying to choose kind and respectful words in the midst of a conflict (so did he–but this is a story of my own heart.) My trying to change wasn’t making conflict any easier, and I became prideful because I felt I was doing what the book said to do.
My bitterness, anger and now pride, added to the mix, were all disguised because I was blinded by my own efforts of asking God to “help me” in my struggles to be a more loving and patient wife.
It wasn’t until I kept coming across this verse that I started to see my bitterness, anger and pride. John 10:10 says “…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” This verse made me think for a very long time about the freedom (Gal. 5:1) that Christ was claiming to offer me. Was I living life to the full?
Were my own expectations towards my husband actually robbing me of this promised joy–the full life?
I am so thankful that God stepped in to rescue me with His Truth… first at my salvation, and now all over again in my daily life. His truth revealed that my underlying issue was my desperation for CONTROL. My eyes were opened to see that I was trying to control everything and everyone around me. My life felt out of control with all the extra things to do. I felt like if I didn’t control life, everything would fall apart. Isn’t it interesting that this was God’s repercussion to Eve after she bit from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…. that her desire would be for her husband? Her desire equaled her desire to CONTROL him. Just like I was trying to do to my own husband. I was desiring to control his actions towards me, along with the many other things I found myself wanting to change in him as well.
Very soon after this discovery, God used a very wise woman to speak God’s powerful truth to me, “You were created by God for a perfect relationship with Him. He created you to have the basic needs of love & acceptance. He created you with a desire to know that you are valuable, as well as a need for ultimate security. No one else can fill these needs except Jesus. They are God-sized needs that He desires to fill in your life. You can look other places, and it will work–for a while. But only He has the power to fill these needs.” She quoted John 10:10. Again, that verse kept popping up.
I thought about this for a long, long time. An entire summer and still now, every day. After much searching and examining of my own heart, I now KNOW her words to be true.
Every problem I have, I can trace to the root of this:
Somewhere in this problem I am facing, I am not feeling loved, accepted, valued or secure.
I am looking to something other than God to fill this need and ache in my heart.
I am not alone in doing this. No one is. It all goes back to the Garden of Eden. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents our “unbelief” or “self-sufficiency.” We all eat from this tree every day, and as a result, we suffer from our unbelief that He is enough to meet all our needs. But how does He meet these needs in my daily life? Through the power of His grace, He offers us the gospel which is that God sent His Son to live a perfect life (because I never could) and to die for me so that He could now dwell in me and transform me with His perfect love. Because I have received Christ and I am united to Him, He now shares all of His qualities with me. All my of needs for love, acceptance, worth, security–they have been met because He is in me, and I am in Him! (Col. 1:9-14)
This truth has been the beginning of a new life for me. I am feeling the freedom that Paul writes of to the Galatians 5:1: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Freedom to love, freedom to give, freedom to fail. Freedom that offers life to the full.
Understanding this truth has changed me from the inside out. I had come to the end of myself with trying to become a more loving, respectful wife and a more loving, patient mother. All my efforts of doing more–even reading Christian marriage books and asking for prayer from my small group friends–lacked the result of Christ’s true love that I desired to offer my family.
I recently heard a quote from Michael Horton, Christian author and blogger, that describes the joy that I have personally experienced. I love his words “…bring me into the chamber of a holy God, where I am completely undone, and tell me about what God has done in Christ to save me; tell me about the marvelous [Biblical truths of what Christ has done on my behalf] of the gospel…and the flickering candle of faith is inflamed, giving light to others.”
In my own efforts, I had tried to offer selfless love to my husband and children in the way that God has asked me to love them. I saw that I was unable to offer them this kind of love on my own. God has replaced my feelings of frustration and failure by first showing me what He sent Jesus to do for “failures” like me. This truth is replacing my bitterness with gratitude, my anger with love, and my desire for control with open hands to what He has already done for me because I cannot do it alone.
I now love my husband and children in a new way. I am so thankful for the power God’s grace through what Jesus came to do for me. Jesus is breaking my chains so that I am free to love my husband in bigger and better ways than our marriage has ever known. My patience for my children is increasing–only through His reminder of His patience with me.
And I now know the truest love, acceptance, value and security I have ever known–because I am in Him and He is in me.
The beginning of this transformation is slow and it is hard going back and remembering to rest in His Love and Truth every moment of every day. It is only through a daily remembrance of what He has already done for me that is my only hope to continue experiencing His freedom. His power is true. And He is GROWING me.
Thank you, Jesus, for offering me your full life!
For the first time in my life, I am fully alive.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
I am indebted to Pam O’Gwin and Scott Brittin at Grace Ministries International in Marietta, GA, and to Pastor Tullian Tchividjian in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, for their clarity and teaching of God’s grace and the gospel through God’s written word.
COURTNEY NOTES: I am BEYOND thankful for Mandy’s courage today. I hope and pray those that are moved by this will have the courage (me included) to discuss this together or with our spouse and with our heavenly Father. A strong marriage is the best gift we can give our precious kids. Nester giveaway is still going until Thursday at midnight. See previous post.