Control Freak


But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. –Galatians 5:22–23 NLT

Growing up as the youngest in a poor family wasn’t all that great.

I rarely got new clothes. Hand-me-downs from my older sister had to do, whether I liked them or not—and just about everything needed hemmed or taken in.

Then there was the keep-her-close-to-home syndrome my parents seemed to suffer from. Neither my brother nor my sister were rebellious in the sixties way, but, for some reason, my parents kept me close to home—and that included not wanting me to get a part-time job. A little pocket money would have improved my practically nonexistent social life, but my parents told me my job was “to be a good student” and “help your mother around the house.”

I obeyed on both counts. I made the honor roll every grading period and cleaned the house every week during the summer months. One time, wanting something different, I rearranged my bedroom furniture, now that I had the room all to myself, then spent the evening at a friend’s house. When I returned, the room was back the way it had been.

Then there was the financial situation. I’d been selected to be a band majorette for my junior year, and that meant money for boots, tassels, a new baton, band jacket, and a brand new uniform—and occasionally a soft drink after practice. My parents were still struggling from my father’s layoff years earlier. Knowing it was hard for them to come up with the extra cash, I got a part-time job at the school library for the summer months. It was one of those underprivileged student jobs through the local government.

My first day was heaven. I loved the work—I mean, here I was, an avid reader, working in a library. And I loved feeling useful, doing something to contribute to the family finances.

But when I got home, my mother told me that I wouldn’t be going to work the next day—or any day.

“There was a mistake,” she said.

Once again, I obeyed, but when I landed my first teaching job years later, I seized the reins of my life. And have struggled with relinquishing them ever since—even to God. Even though I know His way is best and He’s not a control freak like my mother was.

The kind of control my mother exerted led to frustration, disappointment, heartache, and rebellion.

But the kind of control that God, through His Holy Spirit, exerts leads to only good things—such as joy, peace, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

Isn’t that what we all hunger for?

Dear God, when I fight You for my way, remind me that Your way leads to all I’m searching for, all I desire. Break the control freak in me. Amen.

Read and reflect on John 15:1–8; 14:16–17, 26; 16:13

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Getting to the Bottom of It

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

The rash developed last month. It flared on the inside of both my wrists and itched like hives.

I smeared hydrocortisone cream on it several times a day, but it blistered, seeped, scabbed over—and spread. Assuming it was eczema, I bought a tube of eczema relief cream—not the cheap stuff, either. It didn’t help.

Could it be an allergic reaction?

I’d had a persistent rash last year, too, that disappeared when I stopped eating foods containing gluten, a substance in wheat, barley, and rye.

I’d recently been eating a lot of bread, pasta, sweets—not a good thing. I discovered 20 years ago the ill effects of those foods on my body—the fatigue, the weight gain, the inbreadability to lose it, the brain fog. All those foods contain gluten. When I eliminated them from my diet, I felt better.

But like the author of Proverbs wrote, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).

Over the years, I yoyoed between eating refined carbs and avoiding them. I felt good when I didn’t eat them, but then I’d convince myself just a little taste wouldn’t hurt. And the little taste became a bigger taste—until I went hog wild eating bread and pasta and overwhelming my body with what’s essentially bad for it. Which is what I did last month.

I researched online, typing “rash on the inside of wrists” in my browser. I really didn’t expect the long list of web pages relating to gluten-causing rashes.

So, once again, I eliminated gluten from my diet and began scrutinizing labels to make sure there was no cross-contamination at the manufacturing plant.

In a week the rash calmed down and faded.

You’d think I’d know better.

Isn’t sin the same way?

We know, in our heart of hearts, it’s bad for us. But we dabble in it because we’ve convinced ourselves “just a little won’t hurt” or “it won’t affect me.”

But we’re dead wrong.

There’s no difference between sinning a little and sinning a lot. Sin is sin, and its effects are the same: it separates us from a loving, holy God; it corrupts and contaminates that which was good and pure; it entangles us (Paul often uses the analogy of slavery when he refers to sin); it brings sorrow; and it affects not only the sinner, but also those who are innocent.

There is no salve we can put on to make it go away; no medicine we can take will cure it.2000px-ProhibitionSign2

To get rid of the rash, I first had to admit gluten was causing it. Then I had to eliminate all gluten from my diet. I must be vigilant to make sure it doesn’t sneak in by the back door of a seemingly innocent food.

So it is with sin. We must admit we’ve sinned (Romans 3:23), confess it to God (1 John 1:9), and, with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit, recognize it when it tries to sneak back in (John 16:13).

My rash has almost disappeared. I have more energy, I’m thinking more clearly, and I’m sleeping better.

Remind me, Lord, when temptation comes, that nothing sin can give me is worth what it takes from me. Provide me with the way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on James 1:13–18