Comfort & Control

In an effort to keep up with the ever-changing Jen, I’m adding a new category called Comfort & Control. Having passed through seasons of depression (with more to come, I’m sure) and Rage (ditto), I find myself thinking through new struggles that don’t fit in either category (thankfully).

While at a conference this weekend (based on this textbook I just finished) I was reminded of a few foundational things that have helped me better understand my anger over the last year. First, I was reminded of the book I read awhile ago that revealed how my anger comes from a place of desiring control – how my need to control others and/or my situation results in fits of rage when things do not go my way. This was revolutionary to me when I first read it, and was the tipping point for me in embracing my need to be changed.

Secondly, I was reminded of my obsession with comfort, and how it results in fits of rage when I don’t get what I want. Seeking rest and comfort is not a bad thing – we all need rest and comfort to recharge – but I had been frequently crossing the line into selfish territory, expecting comfort at levels way beyond what I needed to stay healthy and sane as a mother.

It occurred to me as I listened to the teaching that this is the new phase I am in – one that surrenders not just her anger, but her need to be in control. So far I have experienced significant behavioral modification, but I believe the heart of anger – control and selfishness (comfort) – still holds me.

Two events in the last week illustrated for me how significant my need is to be in control. The first was when we visited friends in Ellensburg. My friend, Heather, has a four year old daughter who is a bit cantankerous like Ruthie. After making a plate loaded with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, her daughter instisted on carrying the plate to the table.

Me? I would have been exasperated at such a request, and snapped something rude back to Ruthie about doing it myself. Heather? She said, “That’s fine, but you need to hold out both arms.” And she proceeded to place the very large plate of sandwiches in this child’s care for the looong walk to the table.

I turned to my friend, Jenny, and said, “That would have never happened in my house.”

But it really got me thinking of all the reasons why I would have needed to control that situation, and they all boiled down to my own selfishness. Because what if the plate had been dropped? In my mind there would have been a great mess with crumbs and smear and sticky, and all my time and resources would have been wasted. I would have to clean up the mess and do it all over.

But in all likelihood, if the plate had been dropped we could have just pick it all back up again and proceed as before. After all, PB&J’s are pretty hearty and don’t fall apart all that easily. And even if it would have made a mess that I had to clean up and do over, WHO THE FUCK CARES as long as my daughter feels a sense of independence and pride for being a part of the process?

I learn from my mistakes (usually), why shouldn’t she be given the same opportunity?

The second event that glaringly illustrated my need to be in control was the conference I was attending. Here I was, at a conference sponsored by a church that trained various leaders within that church to effectively support and lead others through personal growth and change because the elders recognized that they are not capable of helping every person within our large congregation (literally thousands). So they have entrusted small group leaders, band leaders, community group leaders, etc. – people who interact with and have relationship with other people – in good faith, by spending thousands of dollars on top notch biblical training, to see that these leaders are properly equipped to minister to others, essentially giving up control of that role for themselves.

Once I realized this, my mind was reeling with all the implications: the elders’ ability to recognize what they are and are not gifted and/or able to do; their trust in the people they have placed in key positions within the church, and their faith that God will use the resources they’ve provided to accomplish the intended goal.

Suddenly, the minutia of my peanut butter and jelly scenario seemed insignificant.

All this to say (and I recognize this is a very long post) I am encouraged. Creating this new category somehow categorizes in my mind what is happening in me spiritually. I am not laboring through the same old shit – I am evolving and overcoming new things.

I am moving forward.

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