Spending many days each year on the road means that we are often packing up from a hotel room early in the morning, heading for the van. I was struggling with trying to get five children up, through their personal Bible time, in and out of the bathroom, down to the breakfast room, packed up, and out the door those mornings. Often I could hear a commander-style tone in my voice as I told each person what he or she needed to accomplish. This process was making miserable mornings for me, and I don’t think my children liked it either.
My justification was that Steve wanted to be driving at a certain time so I should be facilitating that process. That was true, but my methods were not the godly ones that I desired them to be. Steve was right there in the room with us. As the father, he was capable of directing the children if he felt they weren’t moving at the speed they needed to go, or if they weren’t doing what he thought they should be doing.
After several unhappy mornings and then crying out to the Lord through prayer during the van drive in the day, the Lord gave me the solution. I wasn’t the one in control. I needed to be quiet and let Steve do the job the Lord Jesus had given to him—without my attempts to take over. I wouldn’t have thought that was what I was doing, but it was. What Jesus showed me I was to do was to first get myself ready to go. Then I could begin to help any child who was still getting packed up or eating breakfast. No more orders, no more tones in my voice, and no more controlling. I can testify that when I got into the van after following the plan the Lord Jesus had given me, my heart felt joyful rather than condemned.
One of my greatest struggles comes from trying to control—my husband, my children, my circumstances. You name it; I want to make it go the way I think it should go, and grab the responsibility to try to ensure the outcome. I have a great distance to go in learning spiritual lessons about not being a controller, but I want to share what I have gleaned and applied so far.
The first step in my journey to not be a controller has been to recognize that my controlling tendencies and actions are unpleasing to Jesus, and therefore they are sin in my life. Even this step has been difficult for me, because I find I always have a justification for my controlling behavior, and as long as I justify it, I am content continuing as I have been.
Why would controlling be sin? For me there have been three main reasons. First, when I am controlling, I am not trusting the Lord but rather attempting to manage the situation to accomplish the outcome I have deemed to be best. Philippians 4:6–7 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” These verses do not indicate that I am to then solve the problem. Rather I am to take these issues to the Lord Jesus in prayer and then allow His peace to keep my heart and mind. When I am a controlling wife or mom, my tendency is to action rather than to prayer. Even though I pray, I do not experience His peace because I am focused on doing what I think I should do rather than waiting on Jesus to direct my steps.
The second reason I am sinning when I am controlling is that regularly I am usurping my husband’s authority. If Steve is around, then it is his responsibility to deal with situations that come up, not mine. I am my husband’s helpmeet, not his mother. Therefore, my role is better served by being in the background and serving with a meek and quiet spirit rather than trying to make happen what I think should happen. Early mornings in the hotel room are a great example of that. I see myself as a controller concerning my husband when I continually remind Steve of things he needs to do or when I point out areas in the children’s lives that I don’t believe he is noticing.
Here again, I can apply Philippians 4:6–7, pray about any concerns I have, and trust the Lord to bring them to Steve’s attention if He chooses to do so. I have noticed that because of my controlling tendencies, I focus on the negative and therefore criticism comes easily from my mouth. When I am being quiet and letting Steve have the role the Lord has given to him, then I avoid the critical and harsh words I so dislike in myself. It is my desire to be my children’s encourager, not discourager. Growing away from controlling is a part of that process for me.
The third reason my controlling is sin is because that controlling is not done with a meek and quiet spirit. 1 Peter 3:4 instructs me on the importance of a meek and quiet spirit: “. . . the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Usually when I am in a controlling mood there is a tone in my voice that indicates the emotion I am feeling. That tone is evident to my family, recognized even more quickly by them than it is by me. The controlling can disintegrate into an argument or confrontation with the person I am interacting with, which seldom has the characteristics of love and harmony that I want for my life or my family’s lives.
My commitment has been to confess my controlling each time the Lord or someone else points it out and to repent of it. Since controlling is wrapped up in pride, confession and repentance are critical to overcoming it. James 4:6 says, “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” I am continually praying for God’s grace and help in leaving my controlling heart behind to be replaced by a humble heart. The more I control, the more the help of the Lord Jesus, which I desperately need, is unavailable to me because of my pride.
As I grow in this area, I have recognized the importance of choosing to be quiet and serving my family rather than being their commander, especially when Steve is at home. As a mom, I still have responsibility for the children and authority over them when Steve is not around, but that can be accomplished without being a controller. For me, controlling versus not controlling usually comes down to my attitude. Controlling is evidenced when I am being selfish. Let’s say a child doesn’t do his chore. When I feel inconvenienced by this, I will respond with the controlling attitude—a critical spirit with negative tones in my voice. When I see the child’s failure as an opportunity to help him learn and grow, then my response is not controlling but is patient, encouraging, and gentle. That is the attitude I want to have in all my mothering tasks.
May I encourage us as wives and mothers to evaluate whether we have controlling tendencies. If so, is that what pleases the Lord Jesus? If not, are we willing to use the situations in which we feel a need to control as opportunities to trust the Lord and develop a meek and quiet spirit? My prayer is that we would choose to serve our families with gentle spirits, patient hearts, and quiet voices rather than with controlling attitudes, behaviors, or voices.