Lessons from a {Reformed?} Control Freak

Currently, I am nursing my wounds from one of the most miserable dates ever. Ok, not to be totally negative… it was a perfect gorgeous fall day, I was with the love of my life, and we were exploring the mountain gorges and waterfalls of Northern Japan… So it seemed Insta-perfect… however, we did so on mountain bikes. I HATE mountain biking. Never could pinpoint the reason, but there’s always been this aversion to the activity.  It has nothing to do with not being adventurous, athletic, or outdoorsy, but has everything to do with control.


I grew up on motorcycles, exploring the deep woods of the Midwest and rocky trails of  Colorado with my dad. I even fearlessly drowned a dirt bike trying to race it through a puddle that happen to rise above the handlebars. But mountain biking, on those same type of trails tenses me up more than a parent teacher conference with a helicopter parent.

Maybe it’s the idea that with mountain biking, I’m in control, but really I’m not. Forcing yourself up the steep incline, you are fighting your body. You are exhausted, but if you allow yourself to stop and rest, all the momentum is gone and the hill becomes that much more daunting. Both on the way up and down, I am dodging boulders, fallen trees, and other mystery obstacles hidden under a blanket of leaves. The more unnerved I get, the tighter my grip becomes. Holding on for dear life (slight hyperbole, but it felt that way), stiff armed and tight gripped, I felt the pain and absorbed the shock of every bump resonate through my wrists all the way up my shoulders while slipping along the muddy “trail”. On one break, I released my white-knuckle grip to find the rubber handlebar design deeply and distinctly engraved in my palms.

Perhaps, my distain for this particular activity is that it reminds me too much of everyday life. Navigating around obstacles and uphill battles in our own power is EXHAUSTING. We feel that if we relent or slow down for one minute, we might miss out on something, or get so behind in the obligations jotted down in our pretty planners that it will make tomorrow that much tougher.  The more I will things to be a certain way or people to have a particular attitude, the more defeated I feel when I can’t do everything or make everyone happy.

The past few years had cured me of being a control freak, or so I thought. Because of my husband’s career, we will be moving around the world, making new friends, and (I) will be changing jobs every 2-3 years. As a girl who loves stability, this had been a journey and I really have made peace with it. Cognizant that I cannot in my own power control these circumstances, I was quick to label myself a “Reformed Control Freak”. However, this week has been enlightening into how my people pleasing is a form of control that needs to be remedied.

Facetiming across the ocean, a good friend and I were chatting before my students arrived for the day. She asked about a couple new positions I’ve taken over in the last couple months, inquiring what I do. “Disappoint people mostly,” flowed from my lips faster than it processed in my brain.

Nonetheless, that was probably the most honest answer I could have given. I was peddling so hard in both the classroom and our community, trying to make everyone feel loved and served well, that the slighted criticisms were resonating in my heart like a boulder through my handlebars. Though I put forth my best effort, I can’t control how others feel. (And it kills me).

In our Bible Study this week, we were reflecting on different aspects of control. The author broke down CONTROL as a symptom of both FEAR and PRIDE.


As I was barreling down the mountain, I was reflecting on those points. What was I afraid of? Falling? Hurting myself? Ok… How did pride play into my tight grip?  Would I be embarrassed if I fell? If I was the last one to the top? Wasn’t the athletic type? Truly I think that the control issue on that bike came down to me being embarrassed by my inability to complete a goal in my own strength and fear that I would get hurt in the process.

The thing is, it’s not just you going up and down the mountain…. That’s called walking. With the bike, the control is not simple you, but you working in harmony with the bike. When I loosened my grip, the bike guided me over the obstacles, absorbing the shock that I was previously taking solely upon my own shoulders. When I humbled myself, taking tips from the hubby, my balance improved. Trepidation subsided when I let the bike guide me straight through the things I had previously seen as insurmountable. Mountain biking is still not on my bucket list, but I know it will make me stronger (and will bring me to beautiful places).

Though I am a bit battered and bruised like a banana buried in the bottom of a 4th grader’s backpack, the date was a sweet reminder of God’s grace for me and that I cannot control things and people… and that’s okay!

Praying you all rest in confidence, knowing that God is in control, even when we feel we’ve lost our grip,


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