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September 22, 2009

Control Freaky

Last spring, after I was asked to consider running for the board at my kids’ school, I prayed this: God, you know how much I’d love to do this. But I just don’t have time to be president of a school board…..

Go ahead and roll your eyes. I’m sure God did too. Because, of course, no one was asking me to be president. They were asking me to consider a nomination to be a member. Quite a different thing. And yet, I know myself well: Once I get involved in something, I get involved. I don’t like loose affiliations or peripheries. I don’t like to dip a toe; I like to dive in. I don’t want to stand by; I want to stand out. I don’t want to a part; I want to in charge. Hence, my prayer.

For the longest time I credited this drive to be the one to set agendas and cast visions to my leadership gifts, but this ridiculous prayer opened my eyes to something else that goes on in my “gifted” brain. And it’s nothing short of a control freak tendency.

I never realized that’s what it was because, honestly, I’m not a control freak in most areas of my life. I don’t micro-manage my kids. Or my husband. Or my home. I don’t try to run my friends’ lives. I don’t hassle my neighbors. I don’t butt into everyone else’s business.

The problem is with my own business.

Specifically (and ironically, I guess) I get most control freaky in those circumstances to which God has called me. I sense I’m not alone here. In fact, I know many leaders who are like me. Who believe that because we have in the past been called to lead or to be in charge and because we may hold some gifts to lead well, that being in charge (or in control) is something God will always expect from us. Or, to put more honestly: that we begin to expect that God wants us to be top-banana in everything he asks us to do.

But I’m realizing more and more that God often calls leaders (or specifically, me) to simply be in the show—not run it—and to lend a voice—not be the voice. When I prayed about not having time to be president of the board, I sensed God say through his merciful smirk, You don’t need to be. God was calling me to participate by bringing certain experiences to a certain place at a certain time. And to cool my personal ambition jets. So I did.

As I sat in my first board meeting earlier this summer, I looked across room at where the president of the board sat and then scanned the huge square of tables around which 21 of us sat. I felt peaceful and happy—totally grateful to be able to be a part of an amazing team of fellow leaders and to be able to offer what I could without the need to run anything. I’m hoping it doesn’t end up making me the laziest board member in history.

But it feels great to be free of my control freak—at least in this situation. Assuming, however, that I’m not alone in this, I’d love to hear about your experience with this. How do you balance a God-given desire to lead with our more human desire to control?


Love this post, Caryn. I think that when you've been in ambigious leader-less situations and always end up leading, you begin to think that is the only option. I know I've found that to be a suffocating reality--the pressure is ridiculous and the burnout potential so high.

How good it is to recognize that God doesn't call us to burnout. There is not a spiritual ladder, where every time we lead we must progress to the next step--more people, more pressure and more potential for sacrificing our own hearts in pursuit of the "godly thing". I'm thankful that I'm (slowly) learning the the "wind blows wherever it it is with the spirit..." There is freedom in seeing God's actions like the wind, not like the corporate ladder.

Love this post, too. It is TOTALLY me! And I am sometimes confused as to why I'm called to lead such a busy life when we're supposed to be at peace! What a control freak I am! =P Need to learn to let things go. Thanks for the great insight. It really helps. =)

I think sometimes God calls us to NOT be in control to show us how prideful (or "freaky") we really are. Also, sometimes not being in control means someone else can step up and discover their leadership gifts. When I think about it in this way, it's not about me anymore. It's a bigger picture of the kingdom. I'm a part of it. An important part, sure. But without us sacrificing control from time to time, others may not be empowered. Thanks, Caryn!

It is a pride issue--totally. And in every meeting I've been to since, I've been completely humbled. It's a darned good thing I went in not wanting to ever be president--because since I realized I'm probably the LEAST qualified person around those tables, I'll never be anyway! So it's easier this way. Also, I don't have to worry too much about playing politics, which means I can raise any old cain I want to. Man, I hope no other board members read this!

I have started many ministries and I do think that while leadership is in the blood of many of us, leadership can be exemplified by how we hand it off to others. Thank you for your reminder that being a part of a team can be the best example of leadership because most any born leader can "rule" but it takes leaning on the Holy Spirit to become unified with a group of people striving to achieve a common goal. Thanks for the verification that we do not have to lead to be leaders.

ONG!! As my girls would say Thank you Lord for revealing that conrol freak in me I just felt a great release in my Spirit as I read through this article I never could put my hand on it why couldn't I just be apart of the ministry not the head of the Ministry MY MY MY ok I got it!! Relax Angel!!! AHA!! Thanks again insight and the Holy Spirit is a wonderful thing!!!

As I read this article it truly blessed me. I am going through the same exact situation. Whenever I am ask to be apart of a ministry I go all out. I also dive right in and always end up taking over. Recently, I was ask to be one of the women ministry consultants. A Consultant not the leader, well as the story goes I got into the ministry and try to control the ministry and it was just a mess. I never thought that I had control issues, I had to come to the realization that I have serious control issues when it comes to ministries in the church. I praise God for this article because it woke me up!! Thank you for being so honest. I feel like I was set free and I now understand what and what not to do. Lately, I have been approached again to be apart of another ministry, I will pray and ask God for his leadership. I will pray to be attentive to the Holy Spirit, so I won't offend my sisters in Christ. Thank you again. God bless you and your Ministry.

I'm going to a women's min. meeting this morning to pray and plan for new women's Bible Studies. Thanks for the reminder that the Lord has a plan and I don't have to volunteer to be in charge...unless that's His will.

I would classify myself as a "recovering control freak". The Lord has humbled me and directed me right out of some situations I've jumped in "all the way" only to find He didn't want me there at all or only for a season with a specific and short term role. I try to pray and listen for the answer now more often before I jump. Waiting for the Lord and keeping His way is my motto. Thanks for the post...its good to know we're not alone! :)

I loved this post - I struggle all the time with committees and boards. It seems that I open my mouth once or twice and the next thing I know I'm volunteered for the lead or chair position. I have been working on gracefully saying no while struggling with the "guilt" involved with letting people down.

Great post, and this line in particular describes me well: "I get most control freaky in those circumstances to which God has called me."
I never thought about it that way before. Very helpful. Thanks!

Thanks for this reminder that whatever the case,we are called to serve. Sometimes as team leaders, other times as team members. The emphasis is on service. Thank you....

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