I am so excited to have Shannon write a guest post today as we celebrate her new book releasing this month! I hope you will check it out – it has been such a blessing to me. If you tend to struggle with wanting control, this is the book for you, my precious sister!
This post was taken in part from Shannon Popkin’s book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible, published by Kregel Publications, 2017.
I often use the word “providence” when I tell about the day I first heard my husband’s name.
I was moving into my new apartment, and my only two friends in town—Chris and Jamie—had brought a meal over to welcome me to Milwaukee. As we ate, Chris shared a story from his day.
Chris was a Christian education pastor and had received a call informing him that the fourth grade boys’ teacher had quit. But after the call ended, immediately the phone rang again. This time it was Ken Popkin calling to say, “I’d like to teach Sunday school. Maybe fourth grade boys?” Chris said he just happened to have an opening.
We all laughed about the providential timing of the calls. Then my new roommate, who also went to the church, mentioned, “I know Ken Popkin from the singles group. He’s really good-looking.”
As I lay in bed that night recalling the events of the day, I whispered into the darkness, “Well, at least there’s one good-looking single guy in Milwaukee. And if he’s willing to teach fourth-grade boys, he’s got to be a good guy!”
I think God was listening to my thoughts with a big grin on his face that night. Because two years later, I wore my white dress and walked down the aisle into the arms of the Sunday school teacher of my dreams. (And yes, he is quite handsome.)
My heart swells every time I consider all the details God arranged to create that bit of foreshadowing. He prompted the back-to-back phone calls on that very day, arranged the dinner guests, and inspired the conversation—all as a teaser for the new girl in town.
Five years later, I didn’t doubt my decision to marry Ken, but I did doubt the extent of God’s control over the details of my marriage (among other things). I wouldn’t have said it that way, but my behavior and attitudes sure did.
My new husband, who had first brought me such joy, was now causing me deep frustration.
We had just moved to a new town, and I was feeling so lonely and anxious to get connected. Then one night, a young couple from down the street invited us over for dinner! I was almost giddy, sure that they were going to be our new best friends.
Ken was less than giddy. Not only was he less social than I, he was also exhausted. Ken is a driven, self-motivated kind of guy who gets up at four thirty in the morning, leaving him little leftover energy for Friday nights.
After a lovely dinner with our neighbors, they led us to the living room. Our conversation progressed nicely, but I noticed Ken wasn’t saying much. I glanced down to where he was sitting, petting the dog on the floor, and I noticed his hand, limp on the dog’s back. And his head was drooping at a strange angle.
Oh no, I thought. He’s asleep!
From where the neighbors were sitting, they couldn’t see Ken’s face, so I crossed my fingers and hoped they would think he was just oddly staring at their dog. I tried to hold their attention by talking faster and with more animation. But then someone asked Ken a question.
I nudged him with my foot, and his head yanked upward. He made some unintelligible remark with slightly slurred speech. I was mortified.
The neighbors laughed good-heartedly and said, “You must be exhausted.” So this beautiful evening, with these people who were now not going to be our new best friends, came to a screeching halt. They showed us to the door, and we walked down the sidewalk toward home.
In that space of about five driveways, I packed a lot in.
“Unbelievable! You humiliated me! From now on, mister, you are guzzling coffee before we go anywhere!” I spat the words into the darkness, pumping my arms with disgust. My husband lagged behind, saying nothing.
As I lay in bed on that night, recounting the events of the day and listening to the soft breathing of a man who was working so hard to provide for our family and lead us well, I was filled with regret and sorrow. This is not the sort of wife I wanted to be. I felt ugly and ashamed.
God’s Perspective on Control
In the heat of the moment, control always beckons to me with logic, clear and strong. It says, “You’ve got to do something! It’s all up to you! What if he falls asleep every time you’re invited somewhere? You’ll never make friends! Everyone will shun you! If this is ever going to turn out right, you’ve got to take control!”
But lunging for the control—which always seems to slip from my grasp—never brings the peace and security I’m hoping for. In fact, it just makes everyone (me included) miserable.
Do you ever wonder what God thinks of our frustration, our anger, and our disrespect toward the husbands He has given us? Do you ever consider His perspective on our fretting, fearful, control-craving hearts?
I do. I picture God’s grin fading that night, as He listened to my sharp words, echoing off the sidewalk. And I picture His heart longing for me to find the peace that comes only from surrender. Though I wouldn’t have heard it, I imagine God whispering something like this:
Shannon, Shannon… These neighbor friends, whose opinions you’re stressing over? They’re going to move away soon, and in time you won’t even remember their names.
But that man you just emasculated? He’s building his career. He’s tired. So sure, he fell asleep. Does it really matter that much? He is a good, faithful husband. He is a kind, dedicated daddy. He is my gift to you. A life partner. Sure, he has weaknesses. But why don’t you let me handle those?
And this habit that you have of trying to control him? That’s what I’m working on in YOU! Do you think that this evening in your neighbors’ living room was out of my hands? I keep adding situations to your life that you can’t control, hoping that one day you invite Me to take that burden of controlling everything off you back. It’s a burden I never wanted you to carry.
We usually only use “providence” to describe the moments God causes details to fall into place the way we’d like. It’s heartwarming to remember the way God brought our marriages together. But has control slipped from God’s hand when marriage is hard?
No, not at all. When I think back to my early marriage struggles (like the one I described), I’m actually thankful. What if God had allowed me to persist with the illusion that I could control everything? I would have gone stomping through life as a Control Girl! Instead, God used the strain of marriage—two people trying to merge their lives—to confront me with the ugliness of my controlling heart.
Trying to control my husband is disrespectful and creates tension. It makes things worse, not better. But when I lay down the burden of trying to make everything turn out right, I find peace. When I surrender the outcomes to God, I find security. And when I turn to God with the things that seem to threaten my happiness (even a husband who falls asleep on neighbors) I find hope, comfort, and joy.
Friends, God is in control and we aren’t. If we convince ourselves that the reverse is true, we only make everyone (ourselves included) miserable. Won’t you lay down your burden of control today? Whether it’s a husband, child, situation, or outcome that you’re trying to control, God invites you to surrender that burden to Him.
He’s in control, so you don’t have to be.
Comment below for a chance to win one of three copies of Shannon’s book!
Author and speaker Shannon Popkin loves to blend her gifts for storytelling and humor with her passion for God’s Word. Shannon is the author of Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible. Go to ControlGirl.com for free downloadable resources.
Shannon is happy to be sharing life with Ken, who makes her laugh every single day. Together, they live the fast-paced life of parenting three teens. For more from Shannon, please go to shannonpopkin.com, or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.