GROWING IN: SELF CONTROL
‘Stop right there, that’s exactly where I lost it. See that line, I never should’ve crossed it. Stop right there, I NEVER should’ve said that. It’s the very moment that I wish that I could take back.’ I can remember the first time I heard those words blaring across the speaker. I was with my old youth pastor turned co-worker. I was in college and he had left being in ministry, and I recruited him to come work with me at the Sprint Nextel kiosk in the mall selling wireless devices and cellular service. We used to have to go to these trainings in Greentree, Pennsylvania to learn how to be better sales associates and about new products and services.
Since he was the “dad” of the group, we always made him drive us in his minivan while he played the K-Love radio station and taught us life lessons. So this one particular day, we had to stop for gas and the usual Mercy Me “I Can Only Imagine” was replaced with a punk rock song that I couldn’t help but dance to; “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” by Relient K. And in that moment, I was never more convicted. The second verse was when I knew, it was written for people just like me. 18 year old me who had been holding it all in for so long. All the good, the bad, the frightening, the hurt, the pain came flooding in like a dam that just broke.
But there was no time for that. I was not doing that in front of these people who look to me for strength and comfort and hope. I was the master of self control; or so I thought. It led me down a long and lonely road of “every times” so that I could always be in control masked in the dripping denial that I was allowing God to lead my life. Every time I wanted to be good enough so I did whatever I thought was going to gain that person’s acceptance. Every time I would decide to desperately cling to God’s word and NEVER make a mistake and just be SUPER holy church girl, then I would feel good enough. Every time I wanted to look like all the pretty girls who I admired, so skipping a meal here or there would get me into those cute jeans and even on my most bloated days, my cheerleading uniform would fit like a glove. Every time one of my church friends was acting out or “falling into sin” and I would give them a holy tongue lashing of accountability to help get them back on track when all I really did was make them feel guilt and shame. Every time I never dealt with how I really felt, what I really wanted or accepted who my savior actually was and I put on a happy face of perfection and good old self control.
I was using my feeble understanding of this fruit of the spirit to quench my thirst to control so that no one could make me feel bad about my self. I use that in two words here because the “self” that I had created was not the one that God had envisioned me to be. Self control had become a measuring stick of my life in comparison to everyone else around me and what I wanted them to see and know. 1 Corinthians 6:12 says “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.” I had a choice to make. I could keep living in the bondage of self and control, or I could understand God’s redeeming power. It says towards the end of the song, ‘...who I am will take the second chance you gave me’.
2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” When we recognize that keeping ourselves in the bondage of control gives power to our guilt; but, when we lean into love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and goodness, we exercise self control, which leads us to God’s grace. So let’s be vulnerable and allow Him to expose our weaknesses. It’s in those moments when His power is perfect and He takes control of our self.