I’m a recovering control freak. My mom taught me to be a very responsible person. Unfortunately, she taught me I was responsible for everyone else, but myself. Learning to be responsible for myself has been challenging.
When you are responsible for everyone else, you put their happiness above your own. That almost sounds noble, but it’s not. It means you deny who God has made you to be. It means you don’t use your gifts and talents. It means you are not a happy person, at least not most of the time.
When I was about 26, this started weighing on me. By then, I was a wife and a mother of 2 wonderful children, worked fulltime, and we had moved into our first home. I was miserable most of the time. The short version is that I had an epiphany one day sitting in a neighborhood Girl Scout leaders meeting. I really felt like the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear. I began to realize as much as I wanted the best for my children, God wanted the best for me, too. If God really wanted the best for me, why was I so miserable most of the time?
Fast forward a few years, I had started practicing being responsible for myself and trusting that others really knew how to be responsible for themselves. The people who had allowed me to be responsible for them didn’t like it so much. They really didn’t want to be responsible for themselves. It was a very difficult time in my life. Not all of my relationships survived this transition. That was painful. BUT I was becoming a healthy person both mentally, physically, psychologically, and emotionally.
Ahh, but that was only the beginning of the healing God was working in me.
The residual effect of all those years of being responsible for others had caused me to lock away my hopes and dreams. Until, my youngest daughter went off to college, I had not allowed myself to think about what it was I wanted to do. But then, both my parents were diagnosed with terminal cancers and I was the primary caregiver – actually, the advocate for them.
My father died in eight very short weeks, but my mom lived for another 3 ½ years. With caring for my mother, I really could not continue my career as a pension administrator and working 60 hour weeks plus mom’s care. BUT I had to work. We needed my income and my health insurance.
I went to work at my church. Low stress, shorter hours, and health insurance. Little did I know that I would be there 5 years. A position opened in the church bookstore for a new manager. And God let me see that I really wanted that job. Even though I had no retail experience, I loved books and sharing them with others. Reading books had saved my life as a child and helped me through a divorce and more. At first, I wouldn’t even consider the thought. Somewhere inside of me, I didn’t believe I deserved to have what I wanted. Or more than that, I was afraid to want anything. I had this idea that wanting something doomed me to not having it or losing it. But others started asking me if I might be interested in the position. I just couldn’t bring myself to feel how much I wanted to manage the bookstore. As more people came to me, I began to think I might actually have a chance of getting this position. And then, I let myself feel how much I wanted the job. I mean I really wanted the job and I thought God was going to give it to me. By this time, my mom was in an assisted living care facility. It was near the church and I was able to stop by going and coming to see how she was. There was space enough for me to actually have this thing I wanted. I applied. Went through the interviews, answered all the questions, took all the tests. And Sharon in human resources told me she thought I would be perfect for it. And , she gave the job to someone else.
I was devastated. I had waited almost 25 years to finally allow myself to speak out that I wanted something, it seemed within my grasp, and it was taken away. I was angry, sad, disappointed, frustrated, and mad at God for letting me want it when he knew I wasn’t going to get it. I told him that was it! I was never going to want anything again like that. It was just that the bookstore seemed like the perfect place for me, like it was designed for me. How could I not have gotten the job?
My anger and disappointment lasted about 2 months. I was tired of being miserable. And so, we talked. “You know God, I really do believe you want the best for me. AND if I really believe that then I also have to believe there is a reason that is beyond my ability to see that you didn’t allow me have this job. AND I realized I was grateful for the experience of dreaming again. I had so forgotten how to dream. It was a good feeling to dream and plan for something that I wanted. I am letting go. I am waiting to see what “you” have in store for me and what I am to learn from this or why you wanted that other person in the role. In the meantime, I will be content with where I am.”
Almost exactly, twelve months later, my associate pastor came to me and asked if he could talk to me. Because of changes they were making, the bookstore was going to need a new manager. He had heard that I had been interested in the position the year before and wondered if I was still interested. I told him I was surprised they were making a change, and I would need to get back to him.
That night I struggled with the question, did I even want the job anymore? I wasn’t sure. Was this where God wanted me now? Again, I wasn’t sure, but I did know that my position was being eliminated and if I didn’t take this job, I would need to go job hunting. And yet, I still wasn’t sure. I knew I could not continue working that the church in a support role. Coming from the corporate world, I had been used to having my own work to do. Working at the church had forced me regress to the kind of work I had done when I was young. I was working below my capabilities and capacity. It was time for me to move on or into a role of responsibility. Running the bookstore would give me the kind autonomy and responsibility I was used to having.
Still, I was not sure. Knowing that they were terminating the bookstore manager immediately, I agreed to give it a 90 days trial. This would allow us both to try it on for size. With no retail experience, could I really turn the bookstore around? At the end of 90 days, I knew. This was the place for me. At the end of that year, working with my team the bookstore increased sales by 50% and had its first profitable year in the 15 year history of the bookstore. We had a lot of fun together. Served and ministered to everyone who walked through our doors. It was a very powerful time for me and the team I worked with. It became my ministry.
I am grateful that I had those twelve months to let go and let God. If I had been in the bookstore when I wanted, I would not have worked with the Empower ministry – Mark, Kande, Matt, Nancy, and Jim. Working with that team shifted something for me and helped equip and prepare me to run the bookstore. It also gave me time to build a long term friendship.
Letting go of my fear, my anger, disappointment and letting God be in control was huge lesson. It increased my capacity to trust God in all things - to know that even when bad things and disappointment happen, He is standing with me.