My Need for Control Was Killing My Marriage
I’m sitting in a room of about a hundred women, wiping tears that have gone from a light misting to a straight-up downpour in a matter of seconds. My head is pounding from the effort it’s taking to keep this scene within the “socially acceptable” category. I can feel sobs expanding within my chest like balloons, waiting impatiently to be released, a sound similar to an obese dog’s moans, which I know will force all eyes on me. Or at least the eyes that aren’t already on me.
I have no idea what the speaker is saying. The topic might have something to do with the argument my husband and I got into the night before, but I’m honestly not sure it does. But also, I know I am just hitting a wall.
The seventh move in seven years wall.
The my husband got another new job wall.
The it doesn’t pay as well as his current job wall.
The we just bought a fixer upper wall.
The I’m going to have to live by myself with three
kids for a month wall.
The our savings account is gone wall.
Okay, so I am hitting a lot of walls.
The class ends and the two mentors assigned to my table scoot their chairs over to me and appear to roll up their sleeves. It’s go time. These are two of the wisest women on the planet, which I know is why God has forced me to show my hand this morning. He needs me to hear what they have to say.
I try to gather myself. They wait a few beats for me collect the most sane of all the words bouncing like lottery balls around my brain so I can form a coherent sentence.
I’m just overwhelmed, I finally squeak out. Clark and I got into a fight last night. About floors. I don’t think we can afford new floors in the new house, but he thinks we can. And watching our savings account disappear makes me feel all kinds of out of control. I like having a cushion. I think it’s an irresponsible decision, and all I want right now is to feel stable. In case you haven’t noticed, I am feeling unstable.
I laugh, but it comes out more like a bark. I make a mental note to google “How to Cry Adorably” when I get home.
We talk for a while. They ask questions and hold my hand. They pray over me. And then they give me the best marriage advice I’ve ever received.
“If those floors aren’t going to put you into a financial hole, let it go. Let him lead and make this decision. It sounds like he wants those floors because he loves you, because he wants you to love your new house and because he knows he’s the reason y’all are moving again.
“And if it ends up being the wrong decision, which it might be, maybe the Lord is trying to teach him something here. Don’t stand in the way. He will learn from a mistake a lot better than from a preaching wife.”
“And if you do end up struggling financially because of it, don’t say, ‘I told you so.’ Figure it out together; trust that God is working for your good. In marriage, there is no such thing as sides. When you make a decision, you decide together and support one another.”
I let out a breath. My body relaxes. My load feels lighter. I no longer feel as if our very livelihood depends on me convincing my husband to “LISTEN TO ME BECAUSE I AM RIGHT AND YOU ARE WRONG.” My fists unclench and I realize just how little I trust my husband, and how little I trust God.
I recently read a book (one I can’t recommend enough) called More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated. So much of Erin Odom’s story parallels ours. The book, which also offers oodles of practical tips on saving and making money, is Erin’s story of financial struggle, surprise babies, marital strife, God’s faithfulness to provide, and the way he uses their journey to chip away at her pride and entitlement. I immediately felt like we were kindred spirits.
In one of her chapters, Persimmons and Provisions, Erin describes a morning she shows up at someone’s house after seeing an advertisement for free persimmons. The homeowner lets her fill up a big box with free fruit, a gift that seems small, but she recognizes it as just one more way God is providing for her family during a time of hardship.
“On paper we were poor, yet I can look back now and see how I richly experienced God’s presence during that time,” she writes, “With a burgeoning belly, one toddler on my hip, and another wrapped around my knees, it wasn’t uncommon for me to open my near-empty refrigerator and whisper prayers of petition wrapped in thanksgiving: God, you will meet our every need. You have never failed us. You are in control. It was a ‘this is it’ season. This, I would tell myself, is when our faith is proven real.”
That evening, after my epic meltdown, Clark brought up the floors again. “If you really don’t feel comfortable getting the floors, we don’t have to get them.”
“No, I trust you. If you think we will be okay and it’s financially feasible, I’m good with getting them.” And I could say it with full confidence, thanks to the best post-Bible-study counseling session ever.
A week later, a letter came in the mail. It was a document I’d been waiting on for several weeks to finish our taxes. I pulled out the laptop and a file of papers and receipts and began filling in all the blanks.
An hour or so later, I stared at the number on the screen. Then stared at it some more. Then teared up. Surely not. The amount we would receive on our return was the exact amount we were quoted a couple days before on those new floors.
Which totally might have been a coincidence.
Or it might have been God saying,
I love that your husband is moving your family so he can spend more time with your children. I love that he is choosing relationships over a more prominent position and a higher paying salary. I love that you honored him in that by letting him lead. And I love that you loosened your grip and trusted me to take care of you when you felt like you needed control.
I like to micromanage my life. I like to handle it. To take care of it. To have cushions and back-up plans. But where does that leave God? Where does that leave faith?
Nothing grows faith like being confronted with your own weakness. I hate feeling weak and out of control.
I’m learning to pray quicker than I act, to stop assuming I can lead better and learn to follow well, to let go. I’m learning I’ll believe deeper if I practice believing more – believing that He will follow through, that He has me in the palm of his hand, that He is there and also right here.
It turns out God was trying to teach someone a valuable lesson that day. And much to my surprise, it wasn’t my husband.
Surely he’ll be next, though. Right?
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10