It is a rainy 2 o’clock appointment, when the counselor and I crash against the concept of control. I am speaking of one thing and then – bam – a connection is made, and suddenly I slide down into another thought all together. She listens, waits through my silence for the emotion to settle, and then asks, “So what happens if you just let go of control?”
The question hits its mark. I laugh thinly because at the beginning of my session I’d broken the ice with a quick vent about my “toddler who just won’t stop whining”. The counselor, perceiving my laugh, moves her question from the painful subject at hand.
“Let’s take it away from such a loaded scenario,” she says, “and jump over to the two year old. What happens if he is whining, incessantly whining, what do you feel you need to do?”
“I need to make him stop. Stop. Just stop!”
I loop. He should stop because he shouldn’t whine. He shouldn’t whine because whining is bad. Whining is bad because…
Oh, Lord. Do I actually think whining is evil solely because of how it reflects on me? Because if he should stop, and he won’t stop, then I’m doing something wrong? And if I’m doing something wrong, then I am wrong?
Awesome. My value is rising and falling on the mood of a toddler.
“So what happens if you just admit you are not in control?” the counselor asks again, this time striking at the trunk of both trees.
I don’t know, I think ironically:
Okay, so it’s tricky in parenting. Authority, control, all that. But it’s a good analogy for these other, more painful things in my life. I’m muddle through the questions:
How am I going to show up to a situation? What motives are driving my responses (or my reactions)?
If I pare these questions down to the simple situation of a toddler who whines and a mama who wants him to just, please, for the love of all that is sane, stop whining, then it becomes obvious where the boundaries should be and -worse- where I frequently trespass.
What will happen if I let go of my need to control the person or the situation? It would require untangling my sense of personal worth as gleaned from my perception of how others perceive. What will happen if I let my toddler be human and let myself be human as well? Could I parent well with the stress of perfection set aside?
Of course yes, because this would be grace applied.
Grace applied is like this: we let go of our need to control, and grace rushes in like a river that’s been all stopped up. There’s grace for ourselves, grace for the toddlers, grace for whatever the Thing is at this time. Things can be imperfect, even hard. That’s life.
Grace applied toward ourselves is accepting that God knows (and loves) who we actually are, and trusting that he’s at work in our lives. We don’t have time for judgement, or condemnation – we’ve been set free to walk in freedom, and we must.
Grace applied toward others means knowing and loving who they actually are, and trusting God to be at work in their lives. (Maybe we don’t know or love, but even then, we know they are persons made in the image of God, and we respect them as such.) They’ve been set free to walk in freedom, and we won’t trespass on their right.
Grace applied in my relationships means there’s room for things to be messy, room for things to be imperfect, room for misunderstandings, room, even, for hurt. You are your own person, and so am I, and we are choosing vulnerability and trust over control and holed-up-hearts. The hurt is lessened this way, somehow. The freedom deepens, the heart grows strong, there’s greater chance for love.
Well, anyway, as for the toddler, because of my role in his life I will listen, understand, teach and train – but I’m pretty sure I want to do so without the subconcious lie that either one of us has to be perfect for the sake of the other person.
Because, obviously, ugh.
Stick with me through this series! If you’re not already receiving these blog posts via email, you can enter your address here and receive all future posts in your inbox.
(Check your email once you do, because you’ll have to click “confirm” on the first email that comes your way in order to receive any more!)