I’ve been struggling as a parent the last few days and in reflecting on my transgressions, I see the root of my problem: holding tight to the reins, controlling what is not mine to control.
In therapy for PTSD, the thing that had the biggest impact on reducing the fear and the tension that consumed my body and controlled my reactions, was my conscious decision to release everything I’d been holding tight into the arms of Jesus. But this release only came after Jesus met me in film-like images, which pierced into the cocoon of traumatic memories, in which I felt Him physically embrace me and heard Him repeatedly speak soothing, reassuring and encouraging words over me. You see, I had to receive Him to be empowered to release the hold of fear and trauma upon me, and in the releasing, I opened to receive His Love, which then allowed me to gift it to others: to give of myself, rather than hide in shame and fear.
In reading Jeanne’s blog post on gratitude, on receiving the gifts held out to us, and Andrew’s response in which he shared of his terminal illness teaching him that gifts must be held like a baby bird, in the knowledge and acceptance that they will fly off again, I was given my own special gift. It made me step back and realize that I was again choosing to hold onto my own prideful control, and yet in the holding tight, I was putting a wall between myself and the gifts Jesus was holding out to me.
Matthew 10: 38 – 39 (The Message)
“If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”
If you’ve read the story of Exodus, you will be familiar with the Israelites’ problem with the same thing and God’s grace extended in the form of manna falling from heaven. By removing the natural provision of food, God taught His people to wait upon His provision and to both receive His gift in the eating of it and let go of it in the trust and obedience of only consuming what they needed for that day, rather than hoarding it for the following in distrust and greed:
Exodus 16: 13 – 26, 31 (NIV)
13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.
Moses said to them, “It is the bread theLord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’”
17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.
19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”
20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.
21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 22 On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. 23 He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’”
24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”
In identifying my urge to control the behavior of my children, I recognize a decision to hold onto pride at the cost of receiving the manna that is held out to me. Love, you see, our greatest commandment, is a cycle of receiving, letting go, and giving what we receive back again (“We love because He [Christ] first loved us”, 1 John 4: 19). And yet my selfish human heart inclines toward holding onto pride and not waiting upon the love and grace of the Lord that is held out to me. My heart holds tight in anger, looking to protect myself from embarrassment:
“Don’t you dare make us late. Don’t you dare embarrass me like this. I don’t deserve this.”
instead of looking to the Lord, telling Him: “I believe, but help my unbelief.”, and waiting upon Him to empower me to release the unbelief of my own prideful control to fully receive the gift of His Love that in turn enables me to release the Love He has gifted me to my children. Control, you see, is often rooted in pride and pride is in turn often rooted in fear, and, yet:
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4: 18)
And so, every time I feel my body tense in anger, as my teeth set, my fingers clench and my toes set downward, I have a choice: look up, wait, receive and let go, or look down, hold tight and unleash the anger.
I am not very good at the waiting part. And I think it is because I am also not very disciplined, or practiced at it. My church is planning a 10-day fasting and prayer marathon and in introducing the concept our pastor reminded us that man is not made to survive on bread alone, as being made in the image of God, life was first breathed into us through His Word. It is the Word that sustains our souls and yet in our Western society of affluent provision we are not practiced at waiting upon His Word alone to sustain us. This is where the Biblical call to fasting comes in. Moses, King David and the prophet Isaiah fasted and prayed to wait upon the wisdom of God and have their human wills submit to God’s, but so did the New Testament church. In Matthew 5: 6 we are told: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”. Fasting can help us hunger after righteousness, as we begin to rely on God to feed and sustain us with His Word, just as Jesus did in the dessert, rather than ourselves or others with physical food or lusts.
I am keen to partake and seek God’s power to break the hold of my knee-jerk reaction of control. But it also has me thinking about how I fill my days: in what way do I fill them with the power of His Word and in what way do I fill them with things that distract and pull me away from His Truth. I have also committed to start memorizing more Scriptures, not just reading them, as I want to feed myself with more than just physical food.
I want Hope to fill me to overflowing. I want Hope to work its way into the depths of me, cutting down the prideful fear of self-control with God-control. I want Hope to empower me to wait in assurance and confidence upon the Lord. I want my Hope to guide me forward, to release in surrender, so that I might pour out the Love that was freely given for me at the Cross and is held out to me, every single day.
Job 14: 7 – 9 (ESV)
“For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.
Romans 5: 5 (ESV)
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.