After 40 years of marriage, my mom has just recently divorced my dad. Through it all, my dad and I started talking like we never had before. It wasn’t that we had had any real problems in our relationship but my dad just wasn’t much of a communicator. As a child, I had somewhat limited interaction with my dad, but I always held the understanding that he loved me and cared, even though he didn’t say so. Now that he was going through this divorce, he started opening up to me like never before and our relationship has radically changed.
I started praying for my dad 15 years ago when I became a Christian. I had tried sharing my faith with him, but it always seemed to end in an argument. So, after awhile, I just stopped talking about it and started praying about it instead. A few months ago, when this divorce started to take shape, by dad showed an interest in my faith and I was able to share with him two sets of lessons I had written to lead people to Christ and to walk in Christ. He ate them up! He seriously made a commitment to Jesus and fell at His feet for strength through the divorce. It has been really amazing! How many sons get the opportunity to be a part of leading their fathers to Jesus!
Within the new dialogue came an opportunity that had gripped me with fear for many years. My mom had shared with me about 10 or so years ago that my dad had some secret sin (a sexual addiction) that he had been struggling with his whole life. She told me this secret because she felt it might help me understand why he was being so resistant to the gospel at the time. She was right–it finally made sense as to why I just couldn’t seem to get through to him. But, it also made me want to get through to him even more. I was praying for many years about “the talk” we needed to have about this sin. But, how would he respond? My mom had mentioned suicidal tendencies connected with it. Would he be open to talking about it? Would he shut down? Would the shame drive him to take unreasonable action? “The talk” was something I knew we had to have someday, but I was shaking in my boots to instigate it. Well, when the divorce began, a door opened for us to have “the talk”. I let him know that I’ve known about it for a long time and that I am completely understanding and only wish to support him. Instead of shutting down, he was repentant, open about it, and seemed to handle it as a new Christian should. It was one of the most exciting days of my life to be able to talk to my dad about his addiction and give him comfort and support.
Since then, we have had many deep discussions. Although my dad has chosen a different denomination than I have, it has not separated us in the least. We are able to talk about the gospel, about divorce, about struggles, etc. Jesus has become the center of our father/son relationship. I can hardly believe how everything has changed in just a few months. By the way, we are separated by a 20 hour drive so all of these talks have either been over the phone or e-mail but that has proven to work out very well for us.
So, we had a talk awhile back about CONTROL. My dad, for a long time, has had issues with control. I guess you could say he is a “control freak”. Throughout the divorce, he has struggled deeply with releasing control to God. He has tried to surrender over and over only to again try to take back control in some way. Every time, it pushes my mom further away. My dad has been led to believe that he should stand for his marriage. Although my mom has successfully received a divorce and has moved out and moved on with her life, my dad still believes that God is going to repair their marriage. Although this is a pretty unusual response to divorce, I believe my dad is doing the Biblically-correct thing. The Biblical grounds for divorce is adultery–sex outside of the marriage. That did not happen in their marriage, so he does not accept that there is proper reason for divorce. Perhaps for a time of separation, but not divorce. I support him in his convictions; however, because he is still pursuing his marriage, it has raised issues of control for him again. I don’t believe there will be any way that HE can fix the marriage–only GOD can! So, he needs to let go completely and let God take care of it. That’s been hard for him because he has the tendencies still to be a “control freak”.
This leads me to a new revelation about myself as well. The phrase “like father, like son” is relevant to this story. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is another one. I am also a “control freak”. Through my addiction recovery, it has become much more clear. I’m not sure I even recognized it before.
The first three steps of 12 step or Celebrate Recovery help you understand that you are completely powerless (over everything including your addiction). I thought I knew that already, but now I’m not sure I did. They also help you understand that only God is powerful and that my only hope is to let go and let Him. The serenity prayer says, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This has become huge for me! There are so many things that still bring me anxiety because I still think I can somehow control them!
IF YOU TAKE ONE THING AWAY FROM THIS POST, THE FOLLOWING IS WHAT I WANT TO COMMUNICATE…
I have been learning something powerful. Whenever I am faced with a situation that brings me any kind of stress, anxiety, hurt, anger, fear, etc. I am learning that I must STOP and talk to God about it otherwise my tendency to have control with devour me. I must sort through it by asking myself, “is there anything that I can do about this right now?” Often there may be something I can do and by God’s grace I should do it. That is all He would expect of me. But, often there are parts, or all of it, that I cannot do right now or ever. If it involves changing someone else, or changing a situation that I have no influence over, or changing the entire world (which is a fairly frequent struggle I have) I must accept that I cannot change it! I MUST ACCEPT THAT I CANNOT CHANGE IT! That is a huge struggle for someone who is a “control freak” because they think they have to change everything and can do it! As a result, I have found myself carrying the entire world on my shoulders which is a pretty heavy load. That’s a whole lot of anxiety and frustration and anger and WHAT A MESS!
So, while I was pointing out to my dad his tendencies to control and the need to put that weight into the capable hands of God, it has also been helping me realize that I need to do the same.
Do you have anxiety? Do you fear the future? Do you fear financial ruin or loss? Do you have people you are trying to change? Do you have situations you are stressing about that you have no control over? Do you look at the problems of the world as an overwhelmingly impossible task that you must solve?
Lay it all down! You are not God! In fact, you are powerless! Stop denying that fact! That is the real problem of “control freaks”–they are in denial that they are not God.
“Yes, but am I just supposed to bury my head in the sand and do nothing?” some might ask. Of course not! Like I said, take care of the things you can change (by God’s grace alone). Have the conversations you should be having, solve the problems you can solve, be powerful in your sphere of influence! But, don’t stress about any of it. The things YOU CAN DO, God will give you power to do. So, we don’t have to stress about any of it. In fact, it is fun to watch God work through us. The things YOU CAN’T DO don’t even try to do. Put it in prayer and let God work it out. After several unsuccessful attempts at trying to change my dad early on, I stopped and put it in God’s hands. For the next 15 years (God’s timing can sometimes be different than we would want, but it’s better) God worked it out as only He can. As my dad softened and had a crisis, the opportunity came for me to again participate in the process. I think that’s an illustration of how all of this is supposed to work.