The LORD is . . . my cup; you hold my lot. (Ps. 16:5)
When my daughter, Lindsay, was two, my Aunt Joy gave her a white porcelain tea set with little pink roses. Lindsay loved it intensely and had regular tea parties with herself. One day, Aunt Joy stopped over while Lindsay was having “tea.” She said, “Oh, how nice. May I have some tea?”
But Lindsay glared at Aunt Joy and quickly began pulling all the cups in closer, defensively fencing off her “tea party” with her chubby forearms. Aunt Joy feigned dramatic thirst, and said, “Oh, please? May I have some?” But Lindsay greedily began slurping down thimble-sized cups of water, saying, “No. (slurp) Cause dey are all (slurp) mines.” (slurp, slurp, slurp)
As moms, we can sometimes behave like selfish two-year-olds, planning tea parties for ourselves. We pull in our children like those tea cups—a beautiful, matching set. Rather than serving God with our families and offering up what He first gave us, we defensively fence them off, saying, “No. They’re all mine.”
A Thirsty Mom
In my new book Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, I studied the stories of women who lived thousands of years ago and yet struggled with control the same way that I do. These women were deeply invested in their families and were convinced that it was up to them to make everything turn out right. That’s why they tried to take control. And yet by controlling, they only made everyone in their families miserable—themselves included.
The “Control Girl” of the Bible who surprised me most was Rachel. Rachel was the favored younger sister of Leah and the beautiful girl whom Jacob worked fourteen years to have. She married into God’s chosen family, and therefore was destined for greatness. To me, Rachel seemed to have a charmed life. Yet it turns out that Rachel’s story isn’t very charming.
Wherever she shows up in Scripture, Rachel is entitled, demanding, and controlling. She’s bent on having one thing: sons. As many as possible.
Sons were the commodity of Rachel’s day. A woman’s worth and honor was based on how many sons she produced. And Rachel couldn’t seem to produce any. I picture Rachel with her hands around Jacob’s neck as she says, “Give me children, or I shall die!” (Gen. 30:1). But Jacob responded, saying, “Am I in the place of God?” And he was right. Babies come from God, not husbands.
After years of infertility, God did give Rachel a baby, whom she named Joseph, which meant “may he add.” She said, “May the LORD add to me another son!” (Gen. 30:24).
Do you hear the thirstiness in Rachel’s words? She finally has a son! But after looking into his sweet little face, she looks up to God, and says, “Yes, and another one too, please.” She reminds me of a two-year-old, slurping up what God gave her and reaching for the next one, always thirsty for more.
Grasping for control never brings the peaceful satisfaction we imagine it will. It only causes our hearts to chafe against the One who truly is in control: God.
God gave Rachel one more baby, but she died during Benjamin’s birth. Her life of perpetual thirst was unexpectedly cut short. I can’t help but wonder if Rachel would have lived differently had she known her days were numbered. Would she have worried less about building up her significance and security through her children? I wonder the same about me.
God never designed motherhood to be like a private tea party of self-service. He gave us our “tea sets” not that we might be served, but that we might serve the world with our children. We fill up our kids with love, training, and guidance, and then we extend them graciously so that others’ thirst might be quenched. Eventually we give our children away altogether.
It’s like giving away a beautiful, matching tea set, piece by piece. This can be terribly painful, yet there is freedom in yielding our children back to God.
A Surrendered Mom
Think of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, whose story is strikingly similar to Rachel’s. Hannah also was the favored wife who struggled with infertility while the other wife had baby after baby. Yet when Hannah eventually looked into the sweet face of her newborn son, she didn’t thirstily demand more. In fact, she did the opposite. She surrendered her son to God, saying, “As long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD” (1 Sam. 1:28).
I struggle to live this way as a mom. I want to fence off my kids and keep them close rather than surrendering them to God. I want to control what shoes they put on for church, what person they someday marry, and everything in between. But though I’ve lunged after control in hundreds of instances and ways, I’ve never been able to safeguard my children from heartache. And ironically, by clamping down on those I love, I create tension and stress—not the peace and security I imagine.
I’ve also noticed that the opposite is true. When I surrender my children to God, when I let go of everything from my child’s hairstyle to his career path, it is then I find the security and joy that I long for.
Friend, we cannot control the future. We could spend our whole lives fencing off what is “ours,” slurping up whatever we get our hands on, and still die like Rachel did—a thirsty Control Girl. But when we surrender our loved ones to God, saying, “The LORD is . . . my cup; you hold my lot” (Ps. 16:5), we find comfort, freedom, and peace.
What are you continually thirsty for? What do you want to control? Rather than fencing off what is “yours,” what’s one way you can relinquish control today of a situation or person you love?
This post is adapted from Shannon’s new book Control Girl, available to order on Amazon. Want to win your own copy? Log on to the giveaway widget below for your chance to win one of two copies.
And for more information on the book and other related resources, including a free Group Discussion Guide, visit ShannonPopkin.com.