“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Jesus. Matthew 11:28 (Msg)
By Meghan Smith
When I was 27 years old my infant child was diagnosed with stage III neuro-blastoma. Cancer. In the throes of this battle and after, my eyes were opened to one really ugly part of myself: the soulstuck control freak.
I spent the better part of my life believing I could control things (finances, relationships, work) and as a result I sat in a prison of anxiety, people-pleasing, and perfectionism. Now, I recognize the lies the enemy was telling me. I was walking a dangerous path.
God is changing me.
As a recovering control freak and in the spirit of “A Christmas Carol”, I’d love to play the Ghost of Christmas Future, as weird as that sounds. If I could, I would visit myself, the Meghan Smith circa Christmas 2013.
I’d look at her with deep love and loads of grace, and praying that she would listen, this is what I’d tell her:
- I see you. I see you holding that bald baby girl. You’ve had to spend this Christmas season forcing gladness, all while facing this completely horrifying situation. It sucks, I know. But I am here to say, it’s not your fault. And it’s ok to feel sad, scared, and mad.
- I know you. I know that you like to control. This comes from deep roots of fear and a longing to feel safe. You have always falsely assumed the role of “controller”, a spot that only One holds and deserves. Now is the time to embrace your humanity and come to the realization that you are weak, by nature. BUT his “power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) As you embrace your humanity, you’ll free yourself to receive and then lavish in the beautiful grace of Jesus Christ. It’s safe there. It takes the pressure off of you. And realistically, it was never on you in the first place.
- I urge you. You want to “do”. So, what can you do? Take responsibility and do your part, ONLY. You can be Sadie’s mother and Jacob’s wife. Give Sadie the medicine she needs and take her to chemo. Stay in your Bible. Crawl to the throne of the One who knit Sadie together in your womb and ask Him to heal her body. Remember this: You are not her Healer. That responsibility lays solely in the hands of Jesus Christ. When you get the feeling that you haven’t “done” enough….take every thought captive. Remind yourself that He is in control and dedicate your daughter to the Lord. Do this again, and again, and again.
- I challenge your thinking. You’re thinking, ‘This terrible thing has happened and there HAS to be a reason.’ I’ve watched you bang your head against the wall trying to put this puzzle together. This situation is not cause and effect, so it’s time to stop asking ‘Why?’ I know that the world says “knowledge is power”…but that gets back into the control stuff again. You’re probably not going to like this but: sometimes crap just happens. This is not a mentally satisfying answer. It’s just not. But you are not God. And “his ways are higher than our ways.” (Isaiah 55:9). When Jesus brought incomprehensible subjects to the table, some followers walked away. So He asked the 12, “Are you also going to leave?” To that, Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go?” (John 6:60-68) What will your answer be? Is there any other way to “do” cancer than walking beside Jesus Christ, hard to understand or not?
- I remind you. When questions arise, shift your focus to the sure promises of God and the ONLY thing you can hang your hat on: Scripture. Is God sovereign, possessing supreme and ultimate power? He proved it when He calmed the storm. (“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:41) Does He love me, even if He chooses not to heal Sadie? He displayed His love for you on the cross. (“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” 1 John 3:16) From there, get honest before the Lord. ‘I don’t know that the cross is enough to make me feel loved by you right now.’ ‘I know that you have proved yourself trustworthy in the past but today, I don’t trust You.’ ‘I know Your Word says to taste and see that You are good but I’m just not sure.’ These are legitimate confessions. He gets it. And He gets you. He’s strong enough to hear whatever it is you have to say. Talk it out with Him DAILY and ask Him to reveal Himself. Ask Him to change you. Then, just listen and wait.
- I lead you to Jesus. Wherever all powerful Jesus is…that’s where you want to be…tough or not. And He is with you. So lay powerless in His arms. It’s the safest place there is.”
I can say this about myself: Outside of the power of the Holy Spirit in me, I will always try to regulate situations, circumstances, and people. I must make a conscious decision to relinquish control always. I still tend to be worst case scenario girl and that’s not good. I trust Him to change that in me too.
In the meantime, I’ll offer myself some grace and I’ll offer it to you too.
There are legitimately scary things that can happen and they’ve happened to me. They’ve happened to you. Things could spin out of control at any given moment. Sadie could relapse. She could be teased by other kids when she goes to school. My husband could wake up tomorrow morning and decide he doesn’t love me anymore. He could lose his job.
I CANNOT control any of these things.
But I am responsible for my reaction only from now on. When the time comes and I am looking for answers again, when I am trying to control again…like the song, I will say…
“So let go, my soul, and trust in Him…The waves and wind still know His name.”
At 10 months old, Sadie was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Sadie walked through 8 months of chemo and was declared to be in remission in February 2013. Now, almost 2 years later, Sadie is growing, thriving, hilarious, and smart. The Smith family gives all honor and glory to God for miraculously healing Sadie and carrying them during their most difficult of times.