The Issue of Control

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by Hilary Cronon

“When I have kids, they’ll never act like that in the grocery store.”

“I’ll never bottle feed my newborn.”

“My kid will never eat a Happy Meal.”

“My kid will never watch television, except for select BBC documentaries that are pre-approved by my spouse or me.”

“My kid will never drink underage.”

“My kid will never live with their boyfriend/girlfriend.”

As a teenager or young adult, did you ever think about how you were definitely going to raise your kids? If that younger version of you were to see your parenting now, what would they think?

How much is really within our control?

Our family is in something of a state of upheaval right now. My husband just started a new job. We’re in the process of trying to sell our house. Once we do, we have no idea where we’re actually going to live. The kids and I have been temporarily staying with my parents (six hours away) while my husband spends every minute after work organizing; all in a vain attempt to get our house clean long enough to get it photographed. I catch myself, more often than ever, snapping at my kids, or berating my parents for not following my instructions about them to the letter, or just grinding my teeth. I stress out constantly. I find myself apologizing to my two-year-old every single day for losing my cool with him because he’s behaving like a perfectly normal two year old does.

If I’m honest with myself, all of my issues with sin stem from the prideful illusion that I am in control over any aspect of my life. Recently, my discipleship group studied James chapter 4. At the end, James discusses the pitfalls of boasting about tomorrow:

Now listen, you who say, ‘today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there’… you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.

James 4:13a & 15

It’s not exactly the part of the Bible you see folks sharing on social media. Making plans is human. We desire worldly comfort. We crave stability; whether in the form of relationships, health, financial security, or finding a permanent home. We want to feel like we’re doing the very best we can as parents; whether that means restricting junk food or finding space in the budget to make room for extra academic help.

But any control we feel that we have over our lives is an illusion. A mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. None of us is promised tomorrow. To someone who is not yet a believer, that must be an immensely frightening thought. To those of us who trust in God, it can be immensely freeing. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus promises that if we seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, he will meet our needs.

If I were to show my current self to the know-it-all I once was, I’m not quite sure what she would think. Very few of the hopes and dreams I had as a teenager ever came to pass. But what I have been given is so much richer and more meaningful than anything I ever could have imagined. In this, I suspect God must view me -his daughter – the way I often view my children. He knows what’s best for me. Why do I constantly struggle against it? As I butt heads with my two-year-old, trying to get him to take his antibiotics or keep him from running out into the street, I can’t help but think about how much more frustrating it is for my perfect heavenly Father to parent me. “If only my kids would listen,” we lament, “I could save them so much heartache. Don’t they realize we only want what’s best for them?”

In Matthew 7, Jesus reminds us that though we know how to give good gifts to our children, our heavenly Father knows so much better. Never am I more at rest than when I give myself permission to stop worrying, to stop wasting precious days with my family fretting over things that I can’t control. More now than ever before, I have begun to witness the beauty in surrendering every part of my life to God’s will.

It’s okay when my kids eat nothing but french fries two meals in a row.

It’s okay that my toddler acts like a toddler most of the time.

It’s okay that I don’t know right at this moment where I’ll be living a few months down the road.

I must relax. God is in control.

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