Control Freaky

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Last spring, after I was asked to consider running for the board at my kids' school, I prayed this: God, you know how much I'd love to do this. But I just don't have time to be president of a school board…..

Go ahead and roll your eyes. I'm sure God did too. Because, of course, no one was asking me to be president. They were asking me to consider a nomination to be a member. Quite a different thing. And yet, I know myself well: Once I get involved in something, I get involved. I don't like loose affiliations or peripheries. I don't like to dip a toe; I like to dive in. I don't want to stand by; I want to stand out. I don't want to a part; I want to in charge. Hence, my prayer.

For the longest time I credited this drive to be the one to set agendas and cast visions to my leadership gifts, but this ridiculous prayer opened my eyes to something else that goes on in my "gifted" brain. And it's nothing short of a control freak tendency.

I never realized that's what it was because, honestly, I'm not a control freak in most areas of my life. I don't micro-manage my kids. Or my husband. Or my home. I don't try to run my friends' lives. I don't hassle my neighbors. I don't butt into everyone else's business.

The problem is with my own business.

Specifically (and ironically, I guess) I get most control freaky in those circumstances to which God has called me. I sense I'm not alone here. In fact, I know many leaders who are like me. Who believe that because we have in the past been called to lead or to be in charge and because we may hold some gifts to lead well, that being in charge (or in control) is something God will always expect from us. Or, to put more honestly: that we begin to expect that God wants us to be top-banana in everything he asks us to do.

But I'm realizing more and more that God often calls leaders (or specifically, me) to simply be in the show—not run it—and to lend a voice—not be the voice. When I prayed about not having time to be president of the board, I sensed God say through his merciful smirk, You don't need to be. God was calling me to participate by bringing certain experiences to a certain place at a certain time. And to cool my personal ambition jets. So I did.

As I sat in my first board meeting earlier this summer, I looked across room at where the president of the board sat and then scanned the huge square of tables around which 21 of us sat. I felt peaceful and happy—totally grateful to be able to be a part of an amazing team of fellow leaders and to be able to offer what I could without the need to run anything. I'm hoping it doesn't end up making me the laziest board member in history.

But it feels great to be free of my control freak—at least in this situation. Assuming, however, that I'm not alone in this, I'd love to hear about your experience with this. How do you balance a God-given desire to lead with our more human desire to control?

September 22, 2009 at 9:22 PM

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