On almost any given day, social media is flooded with happy stories of surprises. Surprise birthday parties, engagements, pregnancy announcements, and gender reveals are quite common. It’s even customary now (which is a soap box topic for me that I will save for another time) that high school and even middle school students develop elaborate “promposals” or homecoming invites with the most credit going to those that are overly creative and outlandish. But, if I’m being honest, I hate surprises. My sweet husband found this out the hard way when he went against my very vocal instructions to NOT throw me a surprise party for my 40th birthday, but did anyway. It’s not that I’m not extremely grateful that my friends and family wanted to celebrate my special day with me. I certainly was. It’s just that being the recipient of a surprise means I am not in control of the planning or the outcome. It leaves me feeling anxious and vulnerable. Just thinking about it now makes me a little queasy. Hello, my name is Stephani and I am a control freak.
For those of us who grew up in the 80’s, Janet Jackson likely pops into your mind when I mention the word control. I had to Google the lyrics just to remind myself what came after the catchy “Controooolllll” in the chorus. Sing along with me:
I'm in Control - Never gonna stop
Control - To get what I want
Control - I like to have a lot
Control - Now I'm all grown up
She was so sassy and, well, in control as she danced through her video with authority and confidence donned in black leather. I still hear her now with the tag line, “It’s Janet, Mrs. Jackson if you’re nasty.”
As much as I loved Janet’s music as a teenager, I’m going to have to disagree with her lyric at this stage of my life. What I am learning “now that I’m all grown up” is that living in control isn’t really living well at all. In fact, I would argue that wanting to live in control, at least in my life, is more about fear than anything else. By planning, expecting, manipulating, and taking charge of every situation, I never have to worry about what might be unexpected or if I will fail. It’s insurance that if nothing out of the ordinary occurs, then everything stays in my control. But God is showing me more than ever before, that it’s in the unexpected that He shows up the most. When I choose to live in constant fear of what might happen, then I miss out on the incredible moments of what might happen!!
As a follower of Christ, I am called to live in surrender. However, I can’t say I live in surrender, when in reality I only surrender as long as nothing unexpected comes along; if I only surrender as long as God chooses to do it the way I think He should. The very definition of surrender is to relinquish control. If I say I trust Him in all things, then constantly trying to be in control is really a lack of faith and is in direct opposition to what I say I believe. What God is teaching me in this season is that each day is full of incredible surprises if I choose to be open to what He brings into my life.
If control is something you struggle with, I encourage you to practice daily surrender. Start each morning with a prayer to be open to whatever God chooses to bring into your life that day. Ask for Him to bring new people, new experiences, new dreams or new desires into your life with the anticipation that “we can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Trust that His ways are higher than our ways and that we can’t even begin to understand what He can do in our lives. And don’t be afraid to take some risks, even risks that might lead to failure, for it’s often in those times that we grow the most, learn the most or discover things we never thought possible.
It’s been 10 years since that surprise party and I have another big birthday right around the corner…..I’m feeling queasy again.
"You will not find MY peace by engaging in excessive planning, attempting to control what will happen to you in the future. That is a commonly practiced form of unbelief."
Sarah Young, Jesus Calling.