Christian Living Stories: The Day I Fired Myself

I’m a control freak. I’ve known this for a long time, but when my patient and longsuffering husband pointed out to me that there is only a one-letter difference between “Nan” and “nag,” I finally realized that something had to be done.

So I fired myself.

I fired myself as the manager of the universe. For as long as I can remember, I have confessed Jesus as Lord and Ruler, but I really didn’t live as if I believed it. I was quick to say, “God is in control,” but I acted as if I was the one responsible for everyone else’s happiness, health, welfare, and safety. That’s a heavy and exhausting load to bear, but one we control freaks can’t seem to resist.

I didn’t take the firing gently. I needed to feel needed. At least I thought I did. It took a while for me to realize that what I really needed was to let others have the freedom of choice. I never wanted to see them suffer from their mistakes, so I did everything I could to prevent them from making any.

And what did I do to keep them on the straight and narrow? Nag, of course. Nag, and nag, and nag, and nag. But children don’t need nagging, they need to learn how to take responsibility for and accept the consequences of their own actions. They need to feel the pain that comes from small bad choices as a natural deterrent from making bigger ones. And as much as it might seem otherwise, husbands don’t need nagging either. A husband needs a wife, not a second mother.

Respect and freedom

After I fired myself from being my husband’s keeper, I thought about the way God gives me freedom to make the bad choices and unwise decisions I make every day—even though it pains him to see me make them. God isn’t a control freak. He made humans able to participate in and enjoy the same kind of mutual respect and freedom that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit share.

When we start thinking, “He might make a mistake: I have to change him,” God wants us to think, “Trust me. Pray for him. He’s not your project; he belongs to me.”

It’s hard to show respect for another person’s freedom to choose when we’re constantly trying to change them. When we try to absorb them into our own vision of what we think they should be or do, we settle for a façade of control, and miss out on the joy of fellowship that God intended. When I fired myself as manager of my world, I was better able to see what God truly expects of me and holds me responsible for. I could stop taking too much on myself and start resting in him, knowing that the Father, Son and Spirit have everything under control.

If only it were that easy. Don’t get me wrong, when I fired myself, I acknowledged that my efforts at doing God’s job were resulting in more pain and relationship strain than they were in changing anyone. But old habits die hard. I still have to remind myself often that “it’s not my problem,” and that I’d been fired as universe manager.

Richard Swenson gave a good summary about letting God be God in his book, The Overload Syndrome. He wrote, “Since God is the author and creator of my limits, then it is probably OK with Him that I have limits. He probably does not expect me to be infinite and is a little surprised when I try. It is OK with Him if I am not all things to all people all the time, all by myself…. God is not pacing the throne room anxious and depressed because of the condition of the world. He knows, He is not surprised, and He is sovereign. It is OK if we have limits. He is able” (page 37).

If there’s any comfort in this for us control freaks, it’s that God has to watch us as we stumble through life, crying with us and helping us pick up the pieces at every wrong turn, yet he doesn’t sweat it. He’s willing to endure the good, the bad, and the ugly so
that we can have the freedom to choose him without nagging or coercion. As the saying goes, “Love is like a butterfly. Let it go, and if it comes back to you, it’s yours to keep. If it doesn’t, it never was.”

So now I’m officially out of a job. I’m thinking about running an ad in the classifieds, something like this: “Ex-nagger, 40-plus years experience. Looking for people to love, respect, and encourage. Expect slight relapses.”

Author: Nan Kuhlman


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