Control is the power to influence other people’s behaviors or the course of events. Everyone loves to have a sense of control over their lives. They want to do what they want to do. I’ve found control to be an illusion in the grand scheme of things. Each and every time I lost control, my perspective of life was completely warped.
The first time I realized I had no control over my life occurred when my mother was unjustly arrested. I had just gotten home from a full day, going to both school and work. I already knew that this trip home was going to be different in some shape or form because my mother asked me when I was going to be home before I left my job, as if she already didn’t know. I did not realize what would happen next would remove stability and confidence from my life for years.
When your mother texts you to get home as quick as you can, you do just that. It could be something; it could be nothing. Either way, you get home as fast as you can. I did just that. I entered into a home peaceful and quiet. I had no idea what was going on, but my little brother’s face hinted that something was off.
My mother and my step father had some type of argument again. The silence tried to convince me everything was the same as it had always been. He liked to yell and my mother would put up with it, but it never went beyond that. But again, when your little brother says, “It’s different this time,” you pay attention.
If I had any control, the whole thing would’ve boiled over and after a long conversation, life would’ve returned to normalcy, and I would’ve done my homework. But I didn’t have control. Instead, of being able to do my homework, I had to listen to, “You gotta go. I’ll call the cops,” and, “Do what you gotta do.”
You obviously can’t control what other people will do. You can only control how you will respond. That in itself is a loss of control in the grand scheme of things. You can’t stop someone from calling the cops on you. You can’t stop the cops from answering. Regardless, the loss of control scares you, as I was scared when the cops entered this once peaceful and quiet home.
What do you do when your control is lost? Do you panic? What if someone’s life depends on you remaining calm? Do you stay calm although you’ve just been robbed of control? Do you become selfish, or selfless? As my pastor said this Sunday, your maturity is revealed in adversity. In church, our maturity is based upon how little of flesh we rely on versus the Holy Spirit. The flesh tends to put self-preservation as the top priority while the Spirit tends to persevere for everyone’s sake. The flesh tends to throw tantrums while the Spirit seeks understanding and remains calm. This was one of the hardest moments of my life. This was how I responded:
The officers came into the house and immediately went after my mother. It is not my place to say what happened, as I was not there when it happened, but my mother had a breaking point, and the police found it reason enough to take her to jail, although no one was hurt. Imagine being a 5’11” former high school football player, who could lift and tackle a man twice his size, being unable to use any of his strength to save his mother. Imagine being a young, Christian man witnessing your spiritual mentor being handcuffed in her own home. Imagine being a 19/20 year-old man watching the woman who raised you all of those years being taken away against your will. You feel powerless. It was a feeling I wasn’t accustomed to.
The officers made me go into her closet to get her tennis shoes so she would have comfortable footwear for her time in jail. One officer blocked the doorway as I listened to them handcuff her, still remembering the sounds of the teeth rubbing against the pins for the first time even now. I did not grow up around people who got arrested. The only time I witnessed an arrest was on Law & Order, a TV show about detectives. We didn’t live in a house where police had to be called. The entire experience was new, emasculating, and dismantling.
With my mother no longer in the house, my first instinct was to get out of the house also. My little brother and I packed enough clothes for a week. The officers had my mother in their patrol car, with the lights shining and the neighbors looking from their windows and front doors. I remember watching the cops drive away from my bedroom. The very second the blue and red lights were gone, so were my brother and I. Unsure of where to go or who to call, we left.
My first thought was for my mother. I had no idea where they would take her, what they would charge her for, how to get her out, or any valuable information for a situation like this. My second thought was for my brother. My brother was an intellect. If anyone needed to remain stable and in school, it was him. I had only been off of work for an hour and half and I was already contemplating moving into an apartment, researching jail, quitting school, working at a plant, and other things I had no idea how to do or fix. Needless to say, my life was out of my control.
I contemplated who would I stay with? Where would my brother and I go? How would I pay for a place to stay? How would we continue to eat? How could I make sure my brother was good going forward? How could I afford housing? All of these questions and about a hundred more went through my head. I couldn’t even control my emotions, as I wept in the car after witnessing that life-changing event.
How much control do we really have? We say we will do this and accomplish that, but so much has to line up for it to happen, and most of us rarely even think about that. What happens if America goes to war just before your next big life accomplishment? What if you lose limbs, finances, or your life? The fact that we are able to do anything in life is a blessing we take for granted.
What happens if Earth decides to stop turning? What happens if our sun, the star in our system, decides to fade away, implode, or explode? What happens if you just happen to get caught in an accident on your way to a very important interview? How much control to we really have?
I am very blessed to say my mother did not spend much time in jail nor were her charges permanent. Someway, somehow, we made it through that dark time. It took many months, many transitions, and many prayers, but we made it. However, what also made it was a hidden discomfort.
When my mother was released, I didn’t have any moves officially set up to make her return less stressful. It hadn’t been 24 hours, but I couldn’t help but be relieved that so many decisions were no longer on my shoulders. Where we would stay, how we would afford it, or how to deal with the man who put us here were no longer on my shoulders. I was exposed in my lack of knowledge and it lingered long after she had returned.
I made it through that time and many others. Through all those periods, for nine years, I didn’t realize I had developed, or rather had been exposed on, a fear of losing control. I had made it through humbling times like being unable to pay rent, being unable to be married by the age I thought I’d be, being unable to get published as fast as I wanted, and so many others. I made calculated decisions throughout the struggles, but it wasn’t until this past 2018-2019 winter that I realized I had too much desire to be in control.
I was at my lowest this past winter. I was unemployed, again. I was single, still. I was living at someone else’s house, again. I was not where I wanted to be at all. Everyday, for weeks, I woke up in a position I didn’t want to be in. The stress, evidenced by the pins and needles in my body every morning, was at an all time high. I tried to keep that part of me from my brother’s family, but that resulted in many days locked away in my room. I didn’t feel like a man. I felt like a simpleton losing so very easily at the game of life.
I watched so many friends succeeding while I felt like I was rotting away in my nephew’s room at my brother’s house. It was humiliating no matter how understanding my sister, brother, and friends were, I hated having to rely on them all to help me pay my bills. It didn’t matter how educated I was, how faithful to God I was, or how good of a man I was. I felt like a failure in all aspects.
It was a continuous pain that seeped into how I defined myself. Maybe I wasn’t as smart as I thought. Maybe I wasn’t as good of a worker as I thought. Maybe my resume exposed how unprepared I was for a big job. Maybe my hopes and dreams were just that, and not actually goals I was ever supposed to accomplish. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a leader, husband, boyfriend, homeowner, worker, or anything. Maybe I was meant to be exactly who I was in this moment. It tore me apart and brought me to tears often.
Eventually, I gave up. I took my hands off the wheel, and asked God to forgive me if the car crashed and my life ended. If I couldn’t pay another bill and my credit tanked, so be it. If I had to declare bankruptcy, so be it. If I had to work my way up from a job I didn’t want, so be it. If I had to return my car to the bank, so be it. If I had to sell all my possessions and sleep on carpet, so be it. It was obvious I had no control over my life anyway, so why try?
I gave everything to God and applied for whatever job I could get, with the exception of valet, because I was done parking other people’s cars. It didn’t help me get out of my current position and the last valet job I took brought me to tears after the first day of work. I wouldn’t be humiliated in that way ever again. I had to take on a new humiliation.
I applied to jobs anywhere and everywhere that I could get to. I let go of my pride and asked for more help, hoping God would show up and rescue me. I watched the timer to my next bill countdown to the very day. Then, I had two job interviews. The job I’m currently at is the job that called me after the interview.
Who would’ve imagined I’d be working in a jail facility? Who would’ve imagined I’d be working for the very place that housed my mother all those years ago? I didn’t. God did. I took my restrictions off. I stopped saying what I wouldn’t do, and told God whatever you have for me is what I will take.
It took stripping me of everything I held onto to realize it’s okay to not be in control. Life has taught me: you don’t get to decide how long you will stay employed, you don’t get to decide what you can afford, you don’t get to always pay your bills on time or have enough money to pay your bills at all, you don’t get to choose when you get married, when you get your dream job, when you become “successful”, or what trials you’ll go through to become the person you were destined to be. You only get to live through it and make the decisions that’ll either increase or decrease you.
If I had a choice to go through all the things I went through, I would’ve told God no several times. I’m so glad life doesn’t work that way. I wouldn’t be able to endure a cold if I had the choice to go through it or not. Romans 8:28 is so true. All things, good and evil, have worked to the benefit of me because I love God. The next struggle will be no different. I will suffer, cry out, endure, and be blessed, because it is meant to increase me to be more like Christ.
I am grateful that I do not have control. I am more grateful now that I realize that. I enjoy things more easily because I know I didn’t have to receive any of this. We are entitled to nothing but death. Death is the only guarantee in this life because of sin. However, for the believer, there is a guarantee of salvation. Keep the faith. You may not have control, but the One who does loves you. Give Him the wheel, as they say, and let Him take you further than you thought you could go. I did, and life has been exponentially better since the beginning of this year.
My coworkers are great, my writing is going great (thanks for reading!), my love life is still single but that’s okay because I love myself enough for everyone, and I am about to be back on my own again. It’s amazing how things can turn around within a year. It’s also amazing how things can come crashing down in a year. Everyone will receive highs and lows. Cherish them both. The highs because you never deserved them and the lows because you are becoming stronger and are learning to be better.
Control is the power to influence other people’s behaviors or the course of events. No one on this earth has control over everything. The tighter you cling to it, the faster God will strongarm it away from you. I could not control a woman to make her make me her husband. I could not control my emotions when I was hurting. I could not even control my faith turning into doubt when all seemed lost. Just when we think we’re in control, life shifts ever so slightly to show us we don’t control anything.
Be at peace with not being in control. If you trust in the Lord, I guarantee you’ll appreciate God taking over rather than yourself. Trust me. If control is a struggle of yours, I encourage you to let go of the thing you have to have control over. Surrender it and yourself to God and see how He’ll twist it into something far greater than it was in your hands. I did not get to where I am today by controlling my emotions and making calculated decisions. Don’t delude yourself. If God is the King who reigns, as He says He is, then control is better left to Him. Surrender that pride. Enjoy what you have whether good or bad. Keep growing. I love you all.
Peace be with you,