Letting Go of Control – Part 1 of 2

» Posted in Inspirational, Personal Growth | 2 comments

 Land of the Unknown

I don’t know about you, but I hate missing out. I’m a planner, so I always try to orchestrate my life to get the best deals on vacations, snag the early bird specials on any events, and line up early to save big on sales (what can I say, I’m Asian so it’s genetically impossible to pay full price for anything).

I’m also goal-oriented, so I drive myself hard to achieve my objectives in the timelines I have decreed are reasonable. Which is usually yesterday. And once I achieve my goal, I’m quickly on to the next one. No time to wait.

Can you see the picture emerging? I hate to wait and I love being in control.

If I’m honest with myself though, behind this is the fear I will miss out, I won’t get what I want, and life will be terrible if it doesn’t turn out the way I expect. Layer over that the fear of failing, fear of disappointing others, and fear of falling short of the life God calls me to live, and well… Is it any wonder I need to stay in control?

Can you imagine the toll this type of lifestyle takes? Beyond the impact on my health and well-being, I’m so busy rushing to the Next Thing that I don’t have time to savour or enjoy each moment. Sound familiar to any of you?

Into My Own Hands

Three years ago, I was so exhausted from living life at this frantic pace that I ended up in a dark season of burnout. Ironic, really, given the work I do in my office counselling others about balance.

Part of what led to this burnout was the overwhelming pressures in my life and feeling like I had no control. As the executive director of a busy counselling practice, I felt like I had the weight of my team and our clients on my shoulders. We were in a time of transition so there was a lot of stress and uncertainty. It seemed like whatever decisions I made, I couldn’t make anyone happy. I had big dreams but no matter how hard I worked, things didn’t turn out as I planned. I kept falling short of my goals. Worse, I felt like I was failing others.

Throughout this, I felt all alone. Where was God when I needed him?

Like the Israelites, I felt like God had shown me the Promised Land but then promptly threw me into the desert – to a place I call the Land of the Unknown. You ever been there? No matter how often I begged God for answers or direction, God remained silent. It seemed he had doomed me to wander in a vast desert with my unanswered prayers and questions.

Why? Had he set me up just to withhold his goodness from me? Why didn’t he come through with what I REALLY wanted? I didn’t understand. Well, fine then, I decided, I guess getting what I want is all up to me.

Can you imagine the painful time that followed? Every day, gritting my teeth to go to work, pretending all was well, drunk on the toxic wine of denial. But then unable to keep up the pretense and going home many nights either numb or in tears. Sleepless nights gripped by anxiety so fierce I could feel the panic biting the edges of my sanity. Pushing my fears down only caused my mood to explode in unreasonable anger over the smallest grievance. But as was my habit at that time, I coped by withdrawing. Alone, rang the familiar clang. Numb and exhausted, I sleepwalked my way through life at work and home.

One foot in front of the other, I kept trudging forward wearily. Every day, I woke to the drumbeat of go, go, go pounding in my head as I drove myself to keep going. No time to pause, no time to relax.

Until one day, I just couldn’t do it any longer. Then the headlong crash into burnout – a dark time of depression and wrestling with God.

But, as it turns out, out of that time of death came an incredible season of new life. Life-changing, really.

Is God Holding Out on Me?

How often we look at our lives, and when we see it’s not all we want it to be, we wonder at God’s goodness. When we suffer or miss out on something we’ve desired for so long, we question his provision and his love for us. We think he’s holding out on us. We blame God when things don’t turn out the way we wanted.

You ever feel like your life didn’t turn out the way you planned?

When I was a child, my dream was to be an author. But through a series of events, my life took a different turn and I became a psychologist. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I can see God’s purposes in what I now do, but this unanswered dream has been an ache inside me for years.

Five years ago, I resurrected that dream and began to write my first book. About four chapters into my book, I felt God ask me to put my dream aside to focus on the practice – which at that time was entering a crucial time of transition and potential growth. Painfully, I put my dream aside once again, trusting that he was calling me to something that would reap great results. When instead, I ended up in the Land of the Unknown culminating in burnout, I was left shattered and bewildered. Was all that sacrifice for nothing?

Let it Be with Me as You Say

I love the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, when as a young girl, she encountered an angel who went on to tell her that she would be bearing the Son of God, even though she was a virgin and would surely face public condemnation and judgment. That wasn’t her plan when she woke up that morning, nor was it something she even contemplated as she planned her future married to Joseph. Who knows what dreams or hopes she carried in her heart, what plans she had for her life.

But I love her response to God’s invitation to be a part of his bigger story in the history of mankind: “Let it be with me just as you say.” (Luke 1:38, The Message). And with those words, she surrendered her plans, her dreams, and her control over her life – not in a minor way, mind you, but in a big time way. And thirty-three years later, her son, Jesus, as he faced the cross, said a similar thing to his Father, “…I’m ready. Do it your way.” (Matthew 26:42, The Message)

Do it your way, Father.

I almost missed it the first time.  I was reading my devotions, mindlessly reading the familiar story of Mary’s encounter with the angel. It just happened to be the chapter of the Bible I was reading. But struggling with exhaustion and depression, I didn’t pay it much heed. My anxiety had a far greater pull on my attention. My spiritual life was pretty dry at this point, but I wasn’t willing to face how my bitter disappointment had shut my heart down. And so I was just going through the motions. But for some reason that day, something caused me to stop. Made me read the passage again. And it jumped out at me: “Let it be with me as you say.”

As I sat with that phrase for a moment, a myriad of emotions raced through me. Resistance. Guilt. Self-criticism. Sorrow. But through that, a dawning realization. My stomach began to unknot. I began to feel a lightness in my spirit as I felt the Lord speaking to me through Mary’s story. I felt a sense of conviction and everything in me began to let go. Yes, Lord, let it be with me as you say!

It was only when I stopped fighting God that I was able to shift from my singular focus on what I wanted. It was then my perspective began to change. Maybe he did have a better plan in store for me. Maybe he was protecting me from some greater pain. Maybe he did know better what was good for me. When I stopped interpreting the closed doors as God’s denial of what I wanted, I began to see the setbacks as his way of leading me to his best for me.

God wasn’t “hanging me out to dry” as I thought he was; instead, he was allowing me to experience the pain of a life I wasn’t meant to live – a life of foolish and short-sighted choices rooted in my pride, woundedness and self-deception. I am thankful he shut doors in his protection and love for me – knowing his good plans for my life. I am in awe of where he has led me, out of the arid desert to the life-giving oasis in that same land.

Same land – but very different experience.

Because I now know my Father is the designer of this land. The Land of the Unknown is a good place to be. He’s the writer of my story, and I am experiencing peace and anticipation for what he’s doing in my life. He was only waiting for me to let go and surrender.

Today, I am once again in the Land of the Unknown – this time waiting on God for the realization of my dream. Out of my time of burnout came my first book – began in the fall of 2011 and completed in the spring of 2012. Now, in the fall of 2013 – a year and a half later – I wait for my Father in his perfect timing for my book to be published. Ironic that the lessons learned and captured in my book are the ones he continues to teach me as I wait on him. But even with all the delays and unknowns, I am content and confident in what he is doing in my life.

Delays, unrealized dreams, disappointments, and closed doors. This is a reality of our life this side of heaven. But my life-changing experience in the Land of the Unknown has taught me so much – about myself, God and life. I have learned to let go of my agenda and my timelines. And in that waiting, I have learned to savour – to taste and see that the Lord is good.

Join me next week for Part 2 as I share some of the lessons learned while in the Land of the Unknown. In the meanwhile, consider whether you are also in the Land of the Unknown. Are you feeling stuck or abandoned? Waiting on God to answer your prayers? Where has God let you down?

 

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2 Comments

  1. this is excellent – I am looking forward to part 2! I too struggle to deal with self sufficiency – I do not like to admit weakness, or ask for help and I was, until a couple of years ago, compelled to anticipate every future event and plan it. God led me to a wilderness that i am still wandering through – in worldly measure. I am now practicing a new habit of trusting God. I still feel at times that this is irresponsible behavior – but He gently reminds me that it isn’t about doing nothing – its about doing everything in His will, and with commitment to the purpose He designed me for. I am beginning to understand the promise of joy in the worst of circumstances. What human mind could ever figure that out on its own? I cry freely now in joy at the love the Father has for his children, i do picture Him singing over me, and daily know the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding me in every step, when i ask. This is not weakness – this is Power manifested in ways that only a relationship with God reveals. To Him be the honor and glory for this revelation and gift, not to me His loving slave by choice.

    • Amen, Dianne, that was very well said! I can see that you well understand being in the Land of the Unknown but it sounds like you’ve chosen to fill your thirst at the oasis there. I know that there will be much fruit in your life as a result.

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