Being called a control freak doesn’t hurt so much if you’re not one.
Oh, but if you know your heart has struggled there for so stinking long, that label can mangle you. It becomes a second heartbeat, one with palpitations. Oh no! I’ve been found out! Red alert! And what does a control freak do when she feels threatened? We typically grasp for more control. If things can be just so, we’re safe. The world will spin on. Is this a foreign concept to you? Stop and consider the crushing weight it might add to your daily life, believing that everything depends on your. getting. it. all. right. It really is a brutal cycle that bullies self just as much as it bullies others.
I obviously know nothing about control issues.
The gospel is the truest answer for the need to be in charge. God has been moving me into a fresh awareness of how much I think of my own capacity to do life without Him. It’s frankly embarrassing. Let me just admit that it’s not a fun lesson. Deep down, I don’t want to need Jesus. I hate the feeling of reliance, dependence, this raw vulnerability that leaves me so exposed. Experience has taught me that safety looks like control, but experience has lied.
The heart that clutches for control is actually clutched by control. You don’t have it. It has you. It’s a cruel, hard master. And this is not the life of abundant freedom our Savior wants for His girls.
Does some of this sound familiar? Cool. Let’s take a different turn then.
Control isn’t an outcome of the fall. It’s part of our creation design. Check out Genesis 1:26.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
And Genesis 2:15.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
I’m not a legit Bible scholar, but it seems like a big portion of our reason for existence is to have dominion, to work the earth and keep it, to exert influence over our surroundings, bringing forth beauty and rhythm and purpose. (Think of “working and keeping the earth” as less gardening and more deeply inhabiting our daily living. In today’s terms, this might look like maintaining a social media account that smells like grace or relentlessly advocating for the weak or paying off your student loans so you can be generous toward the mission of God. It’s establishing order where chaos has reigned.) In its original and redeemed form, humanity’s ability to control is not a reason to be ashamed but an expression of worship.
We serve a God of order, and we’re made in His image. While dictating every aspect of the lives around us reveals pride, refusing to exert any creative strength into our surroundings shows unbelief. Let’s be humble enough to not control everything and brave enough to control the right things.
If you’re a recovering control freak, the gospel doesn’t look like uncaring abdication. You’re not expected to rebel so much against your attention to detail that you drown in dirty laundry or let your work responsibilities go unfulfilled. No, that’s not kingdom living for you. Kingdom living for you is being a gentle influence over yourself and your environment, cultivating truth and beauty, giving God the space to be God and others the space to be themselves.
Redeeming control is making a careful exploration of who you are and the work you’ve been given, and then sinking yourself into that (Galatians 6:4a, MSG). No more micromanaging or manipulating or requiring—just joy and freedom. Jesus will laugh with you as you sing light back into the cobwebbed corners, as you revel in restoring order with Him. (See the difference? Rather than trying to be God, we’re cooperating with God. This is what we were made for!) You no longer have to demand of others because tending yourself is a big enough job. It’s an inside out process.
After you’ve looked well to the ways of your own heart, you’re then liberated to love the employees who work for you, to shepherd them toward excellence without digging away their souls. Your kids can rest in the assurance that they’re secure in your attention while not being needlessly dominated. When you serve your community not with driven judgmentalism but with intent compassion, you’re living out your design as God hoped you would.
Let’s reclaim control for Jesus, shall we? It’s languished much too long in the dark.
Where might God be inviting you to exert your own brand of gentle influence?