I am enjoying the marriage class that I am teaching on Wednesday evening. It is hard to go wrong using Gary Thomas as our guide in his book Sacred Marriage. I have especially been encouraged by the openness and vulnerability of the class. There is something about expressing the reality of marriage as it really is that is actually very encouraging. I think that most of us just need to know that there are others like us and that we can share with one another what has been helpful.
Far too often, we think in terms of control instead of just being real. We carefully reveal just enough of ourselves that people will hear something about our lives but yet not think badly of us. For too long, many of us in churches have modeled a persona that encourages everyone to keep their “cards” carefully hidden. Then we wonder why everyone seems distant and removed.
When we attempt to control people, we ultimately stifle their growth.
A parent who tries to control every move of his teenage child will eventually raise a child who will have no confidence to make important decesions when he or she leaves home.
A teacher who tries to control every comment in class (and who gets overly nervous when someone makes a comment that he believes to be incorrect) will shut down any real thinking.
A ministry leader who does it all himself or herself instead of helping others grow and mature will end up tired and will have failed to equip anyone else.
Most of us do our controlling with some degree of “sophistication.” (Who wants to be thought of as a “control freak”?) So we say things like, “I’d rather do it myself.” Or we might say, “I’m just a perfectionist.” Or we might say “The risk is too great to turn loose.” Consequently, we remain rigid and unbending as we try to maintain control.
Quite frankly, I am tired of all that. I would like to relinquish attempts to control. Consequently, I would like to resign from the following jobs:
1. The parent who is supposed to somehow produce these successful (as the world defines it) children. Children who always have it together.
2. The guy who is somehow supposed to be perfect (or near perfect). In the real world, we (as Christians) are a bunch of flawed, sinful people who each day are working to surrender to the Lord.
3. The preacher who foolishly trys to please people and gets anxious when a person is unhappy. (Anxiously trying to please people is not love. Rather, it is a display of weakness. It suggests that being liked is more important than just doing the right thing).
4. The church leader who worrys more than prays. Ouch!
All four of these are simply efforts to control. It may feel risky to renouce efforts to control. However, I really think that the end result will be a calmness produced by the Lord. Either I can trust in God and move on or trust in myself. Maybe that is a familiar challenge to you as well.