I was recently inspired by a story of vulnerability shared by Jennifer Dukes Lee in her new book, It’s All Under Control. She describes letting go of the things she was desperately clinging to, all of the things she was trying to control, as if she was letting go of balloons. Each thing was a different balloon and as she released them to God in prayer, she felt herself letting go. She was frightened but free.
I wanted this for myself in three key areas, but I’m a more visual, hands-on kind of learner. So I drove 45 minutes until I found a Safeway close to the property where we are hoping to build a home. I purchased three latex balloons and had them inflated with helium. I also got some metallic Sharpies (Jennifer Dukes Lee was right, the gold ones don’t work very well!) and a couple of mini Mylar character balloons to help ease the emotions when my littles realized I was releasing balloons to be lost forever.
I wrote my control-holds on the balloons and began to pray over each one before releasing them “to God.”
The first one was my husband’s name. If there is one person on this planet to whom I cling more than any other, it’s him (I know what you’re thinking because I think the same thing: God bless him, poor man!). In some ways, that’s good. We’re meant to leave our families and cleave to our spouse. The Bible spells that out pretty clearly in Matthew 19:4-6. But after a few rough relationships in college and some difficulties in our own marriage, I have struggled to let go and trust God to work in my husband’s heart and our marriage.
I can only control my efforts to draw closer to God and try to use my marriage as a means to glorify God. I need to cover my husband in prayer and yield my marriage to God daily, but I haven’t been doing that as faithfully as I should. I’ve been holding back, afraid to face the possible pain and growth of the future. I’ve been distancing myself and protecting my heart, which is not fair and not my role in my marriage. So, I wrote my husband’s name on the first purple balloon, prayed over it, and released my marriage to God.
On the second green balloon I wrote, “home.” In this season of our lives, I’m quickly learning to completely redefine my definition of home. In May, we left a cozy home in a suburban neighborhood in a lovely little town in Kansas to come live in a 40-foot motor home on my in-laws driveway in a big city in Washington. All of our furniture and throw pillows and dishes and all the other trappings that transform a house into a home are currently in boxes in a garage. We don’t have a traditional home right now. My heart yearns to create a lovely home for my family and for ministry to others through hospitality. I want it so badly I even sewed throw pillows for our motor home and considered making curtains.
That form of home – the cozy little suburban house filled with things – is not what God has for us right now. I have to let go and learn how to minister to our family and friends with the life I’ve been given right now. And I have to learn to humbly accept help from others until we get established in a physical home again. I’m choosing to reflect on the fact that Jesus didn’t have a physical home per se either. He relied on the generosity of others as he wandered the hills of Israel ministering to everyone he encountered. Home is where my family is, and home is where Jesus dwells with us as we endeavor to grow closer to Him every day. I prayed that God would help me feel at home in the life He’s given me so that I can see and minister to the needs of others, especially my family. And I released the green balloon, and my desperate attempts to control “home,” to God.
Lastly, on the third balloon I wrote, “future.” We have no idea where our income will come from, no idea where we’re going to live this time next year, no idea how long we’re going to be in this season. All we know is that God is working. We’ve had little signs along the way, but it’s agonizing not knowing the bigger picture. I’ve learned that part of giving up my desire to control my life and everything in it is being willing to be at peace with never seeing the big picture. God knows the plan for my life. He sees the bigger picture. But there are myriad reasons He doesn’t allow me the same view.
I got through the first two before my 19 month-old son began crying and begging for my last balloon. He had already popped his Toy Story Mylar balloon and wanted mine as a replacement. As I instantly grew frustrated and began to react to him, I felt God tugging on my heart and telling me to pause.
I realized that things weren’t going the way I wanted and planned in that moment, and so I was trying to control the situation as I was praying about giving up control! As I looked at the adorably grubby face of my 19 month-old with his hands outstretched and his gorgeous brown eyes pleading, I caved. I didn’t get to release the third balloon because I chose instead to give it to him in love. Once again, I learned more than I thought I would and the chaos of life served to emphasize the need to trust God and LET GO.
I released those balloons, prayed over each one, and physically felt a weight lifted. This does not mean that I didn’t continue to battle my need to control these areas – in fact, I did. Regularly. But I could fall back on the visual of these moments and know that I had given it to God. God was and is in control.
Surrender isn’t always a one-time thing. Sometimes we have to come back to God with the same issue over and over again. This doesn’t mean we don’t have faith. It simply means that this is something that has a special place in our heart or mind and we need a reminder that God knows that, and He loves us enough to take care of it. But it will be in His own, perfect time and in His own way – which invariably better than our way!
I’m not saying everyone should go out and buy balloons and release them into the atmosphere. For one thing, I don’t think the FAA would appreciate it. Or the EPA. I share this simply to share how God has been working in my life, with the hope of encouraging someone who may be struggling similarly.
Make no mistake friends – God is in control. He always has been. He always will be.
What do you need to surrender to Him today? You can start with that huge thing that’s staring you in the face, or you can start with something small that you think is insignificant. Just start.
And then sit back and see Him work wonders in your life.