Friday, October 24, 2008

The Illusion of Control

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the girls for hugs, one day after school. At first Mackenzie laughed and said “no thanks” and Abby followed suit. I knew Mackenzie was kidding and she immediately came for her hug. But Abby was having no part of it!

She looked at me, rolled her eyes, held up two fingers and said, “Two mommy…good morning, good night…two mommy!” Ok, I said… But a few minutes later, she rolled her eyes again and said “Come mere” (that’s not a typo, that’s how she says it!) And, she wanted to give me a hug…but, it was a little perfunctory…not the most heartfelt hug I ever received, but beggars can’t be choosers!

Abby broke my heart this morning… Not for the usual reason, that she rejected my hug, but because of the effect it had on her. She had been a little ray of sunshine all morning, bouncing from thing to thing, chattering away, until she refused to give me a hug before school.

I offered and she shook her head ‘no.’ We headed out the door to meet the bus and I looked back and said, “Are you sure?” No, no hug… Then, as I headed around the car, she said, “Yes.” So I turned to go back and give her a hug, and again she said, “No.” At that point, I understood very clearly that this was a game of control, so I decided to let it go and got into the car.

Usually, as we sit in the car and wait for the bus, she is into everything, playing with buttons, the change holder etc. She wants to be right up front next to me. But this morning, the bubbly ray of sunshine had turned into a little thunder cloud.

She had the saddest expression, didn’t interact with any of us, and just stared out the window. At one point I said, “Abby, I love you forever, but I will not make you hug me. That is your choice, but no matter what, I love you forever.” She turned and listened to me, but went back to staring out the window.

This sweet child longs for what is hers, but she just can’t bring herself to receive it. I can’t say I blame her…as I’ve said before, she’s had 4 mother figures in her 6 short years…one every two years…her biological mother, her nanny, her foster mother and now me. It will take a God sized miracle for her to finally let go and really receive my love. But, I believe in miracles…so I wait, and continue to offer her my unconditional love and grace.

When she came home from school today, she came close to me to tell me a story about the day and I said, “Abby, since I didn’t get a hug this morning, may I have one now?” Y’all, I wish you could have seen her smile…one of those that lights up the eyes…and then she gave me a real hug…she actually let me hang on for minute.

But bless her heart, she still just can’t let go of control… After this wonderful hug, she backed away and said, “Two mommy…Good morning…Good night!” “Just two Abby?” “Two mommy!”

But isn’t that just the way we do with our Heavenly Father? He has so much love that He longs to shower on us, but we hold Him at arm’s length. We let Him in a little, but too often, we just can’t seem to give ourselves to Him…to really receive the depths of His love and trust Him…we want to maintain some element of control.

Ephesians 3:17-19, comes to mind where Paul prayed… “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

I never really understood that verse until now…Doesn’t it seem funny that he would pray that we would have the power to grasp the depths of God’s love for us? But when you dig into the words a little, Paul is praying that we would be strong enough to apprehend, to take to ourselves…to possess or own the amazing depths of God’s love for us!

Ah, now it’s starting to make sense…this is exactly what I long for with Abby…that she will finally apprehend, seize, own, my love for her! But she’s going to have to make a choice to trust me and sometimes, surrender requires far more power and strength than it does to maintain control!

Surrender requires trust, a strength of heart, that requires us to risk our deepest dreams and entrust them to someone else who might fail us.

To allow the walls of our heart to be broken down, to really receive the love of another, is one of the hardest things we will ever do…To love another is to give up control and allow them the power to break your heart. Abby has probably done that a few times in her life, and her heart has been broken more than once.

But, for many of us who become Christians later in life, the same is true. Our hearts have been broken by cheap imitation idols and it is so hard to trust God with our heart. It requires tremendous strength to lay down our fears, our desire to control whether or not we get hurt and just let Him love us.

Ironically, Abby refused my hug in an effort to protect herself, and it left her sad and dissatisfied. I pray that soon she will realize that I am worth the risk…that she will find the strength to set aside her fears and really lay hold of my love for her.

But here’s the thing that really hit me…control is really just an illusion. Abby had control this morning, because I gave her control of the moment. I could have taken a hug if I wanted to, but I want the choice to be hers…

But the same is true of God…He gives us control, but the one who gives the control is really the one who is in control! Ok, I know that’s a lot to think about…

But the one who gives control is really the one who is in control…

God loves us, and He will keep pursuing us and offering His love to us, just like I do every day with Abby. So, instead of fighting so hard to control our lives…why not just surrender to the One who loves us with a love we can’t even begin to imagine…the One who gave His Son to die for us so that we might be adopted as His child and call Him Abba Father?!


Leslie said...

Sharla, No words really of advice but a big cyber-hug from me. I KNOW what you are talking about. Our Susannah can't talk though she tries, but I do believe she understands us a lot. She is getting more and more open to hugs, but we always have to ask and about half the time she refuses them with a head turn and a look that is hard to watch. It breaks my heart to see what we refer to as Susannah's "look." We usually see after a nap, during the night when she can't sleep and we can't console her or when we "cross" that line. So I always ask to but sometimes when I am holding her I forget. Then sometimes she holds it against me all day long. Her "look" is so distant and I know she is longing for someone else in that moment. I just don't know who b/c we did not get any "real" information. I have a hunch. Take care and thanks for sharing.

Jeff said...


Thanks for your prayers. Yes, you are welcome to put a link on your blog. I'm never quite sure of the etiquette of what to ask permission for. Do you mind if I put your link on mine, as well? I am fairly new to reading yours, but I enjoy your insights. BTW, Nick's Lego lighthouse in the previous post was really cool!


Eve said...


There is a lady here who is a fantastic speaker who talks about truly feeling as if you are beloved in God's eyes. It is easy to say, harder to act on. I struggle with feeling beloved because I hang on to MY control---just like Abby. You did a beautiful job of writing feelings/questions I have on a daily basis...and pray for!