Boy, have the pastors' messages at church been hitting me squarely between the eyes. Today it really hit home that "love" and "control" are diametrically opposed.
You cannot love and control at the same time.
I grew up in a home where love was shown, but not in my love language at times. I knew my dad loved me, but I never heard the words, "I love you." I was determined that my children would always hear those words and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they were loved. I followed through on that promise.
I also tried to live out the words of Mark 10:42-45 by demonstrating the love of Jesus by serving:
I served alright. I ran to practices, games, competitions, tournaments, parent-teacher conferences, play dates, sleepovers,etc. I cooked family meals. I demonstrated a servant's heart, and I tried my best to raise my children to love the Lord and His Word. My children would even, jokingly, call me "Bible Lady" at times. I talked about "JOY" - Jesus first, Others second, and You last. I tried to model the phrase "I am third."
One big problem, however, was that my husband and I did not have a good marriage. One might even call it toxic. I had OCD (an anxiety disorder) and the perpetual stress in our marriage just poured gasoline on the OCD fire.
I thought, however, that a "good Christian" stayed in a marriage no matter what. I was committed to my vows. I felt like by trying to make the marriage work through counseling and every means possible, I was giving my children a stable and healthy home. What I didn't realize, however, was that subconsciously I was doing some things that were the very opposite of love.
1. Since I did not feel love from my husband, I mistakenly looked to my children for love, appreciation, and validation. Only Christ can fill this role. God's model in a family is God first, marriage second, children third.
2. Since I felt like I had greatly sacrificed for my children's sake there were inadvertent strings attached. Deep down, at a subconscious level, I expected something back from them. My love was not unconditional.
3. In my woundedness, I misused guilt. Looking back I see how I guilted them and tried to manipulate in order to get the love that I was looking for so desperately.
4. Guilt, manipulation, expecting something in return. These are all subtle forms of control. And, the antonym of love is not just hate, it's control. Love lets go. Control manipulates.
When we truly love, we make ourselves vulnerable. We give away expecting nothing in return.
These are very, very hard things to admit. Especially when I know I love my children so much, yet know that I have hurt them. My woundedness has caused them to be wounded. What mother wants to do that?
But, God...is the great Healer and Restorer. Recently, I almost lost my daughter to a case of rhabdomyolysis (I'll let you Google that). She could have died. We have had a strained relationship for over a year, but two days ago, after she got out of the hospital, I really, really listened (perhaps, for the first time in a really long time).
I obeyed Proverbs 17:28. Somehow the KJV really does this scripture justice:
Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
Listening much and speaking little is a form of love. I let my daughter verbalize the burden she felt from my OCD, the guilt I had dealt, and the expectations I had tried to exact from her. It's a hard thing to hear this from your adult child.
I won't try to wrap this up with a pretty bow like everything is perfectly solved, but I will say that, with God's enabling, I believe that I am taking baby steps toward truly loving my children in the way that God intended. I am also, trying to give myself the grace and forgiveness that God has given me through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the price. I do not add anything to the equation by continuing to beat myself up for my mistakes.
I am thankful that God is ALWAYS working to bring beauty from the ashes in our lives. In His power, relationships can be restored and healing can be completed.
Dear Heavenly Father, Forgive me for the times I have not shown love but have tried to control those I love. Please heal the guilt, maniuplation, and expectation that I have looked for to fill my own selfish needs. Help me to realize that your goal is to grow me into the reflection of your son Jesus....to model love like He did. Jesus made himself vulnerable unto death. He gave love when His people shouted, "Crucify Him." He asked you, Father, to forgive them for they knew not what they were doing. Restore and heal my brokenness, Oh Lord. And, please restore the woundedness I have caused. Enable me to love with a Christlike love. In Jesus precious name I pray, Amen.
What about you? Are there any people in your life whom you have tried to control? Have you ever attached guilt, or expectation, or tried to manipulate in order to receive love? If so, what is God speaking to your heart? Would you share answers or lessons you've learned?
"A MOMENT TO BREATHE" on sale now in bookstores and online. LifeWay price $12.99.
Pick up a copy today...