I couldn’t move. I lay strapped to the hospital bed, connected to the world only through a set of tubes that led to blipping machines and bags of fluid. I couldn’t actually see the tubes or the machines, but somehow I knew they were there.
Muffled shouts and screams were coming from the corridor. I couldn’t smell smoke, but I knew there was a fire because the sound of a fire bell swelled and ebbed in rhythm with my level of consciousness. I struggled to wake up and heard a door open. That let in the full fury of the fire bell, and I was startled into a greater state of wakefulness.
Suddenly I was fully awake. I wasn’t in a hospital at all; I’d fallen asleep in the recliner while saying a prayer. I guess that’s why you’re supposed to kneel when you pray. That way the pain in your knees keeps you focused so you don’t dream about tubes and hospital fires.
The fire bell rang again–it was the phone. My tongue and my brain behaved as if they weren’t acquainted. The planned bright response– “Hello, this is the Davis residence”–came out as “ Low, Ooo-izit-n-wachawant.”
On the other end of the line was Scott Fowler. We’d shared the platform many times in years past. As of that moment I considered him to be my friend. Yet he seemed unusually nervous as we exchanged small talk. Then suddenly he took a deep breath and blurted, “Ken, I want to be honest with you and tell you I’m interested in your daughter.”
Instantly I was fully awake. “Just what kind of interest are you talking about?” I demanded.
His voice cracked like a mid-pubescent teenager. “Ken, I’m fascinated by your daughter, Taryn, and I’d like your permission to come and visit her.”
I was silent. Maybe if I could be quiet for awhile, he would go away. Then the whole thing would go away. Perhaps I could pack quickly and find a remote place in the mountains where . . . No such luck. He spoke again. “I’d like to get to know your daughter better and explore the possibility of a relationship.”
I cut him off. I had no interest in his interest. He was older than Taryn.
And he was a musician.
An old musician was after my baby girl! What could be worse? “Thank you, Scott,” I said in my best Ward Cleaver. “I want you to know you did the right thing by seeking my approval, but under no circumstances will I allow you to do any exploring anywhere in the vicinity of my daughter.”
I had exercised my authority. I had put my foot down.
They both stepped over my foot and got married that same year. Thanks to the level-headed intervention of my wife, Diane, and to the impeccable character and determination of Taryn’s suitor, I was won over. Taryn was only 19 when she married. I’m sure you’re clicking your tongue and shaking your head in disbelief that I would allow my daughter to marry so young. Get over it. It happened and here is why.
- Taryn possessed a maturity far beyond her 19 years.
- Scott was a man of strong faith and a genuine love for Taryn.
- Taryn was a strong willed young women.
- My wife, Diane, thought Scott was a gift from God.
- Ken does whatever Diane wants.
- Taryn does whatever she wants.
I can read your mind. You’re thinking, “Hey big boy, take control, what a wimpy father and weak husband.” You’re right! Honesty demands that I admit a couple of truths that may help us realize who is in control.
1. When it comes to the influence we have over the behavior of others, we are not in control. In the final analysis, people do what they want to do, and not what we want them to do. Parents who struggle with strong-willed or rebellious children will tell you we’re only one emphatic “NO!” from discovering this truth. Apart from physical restraint, the compliance of our children, our spouses and our co-workers to our wishes is pretty much voluntary.
2. Sometimes it is the smarter, calmer minds that prevail. After telling Scott he was not welcome exploring near our home, I could hear Diane in the adjoining room, clearing her throat with those special little noises that always mean, “I think you’ve made a mistake.” She reminded me that Taryn was 18. In a few months she would be making all her own decisions. Diane reminded me that my over-protectiveness might just drive her into the cradle-robber’s arms.
She suggested we invite Scott to come to our home, where we could observe the way he treated Taryn. She had a point. This way, I could quickly get my hands on his throat if he acted improperly. The rest is history. We all fell in love with the cradle-robber. Today they’re happily married and the parents of two of our grandchildren. Taryn could have searched the rest of her life and not found a more wonderful mate.
3. But the truth remains. Even if we had not approved of her choice, the final decision would have been hers.
Not all stories have such happy endings. Your child or spouse or co-worker may well be standing on the edge of a wrong decision. You know as well as I: All the well intended advice, all the veiled threats, and all the tearful pleading–all of these still leave the final decision with your loved one. As much as we may feel called to direct the lives of others, in the end we’re not holding those keys.
If we are powerless to force others to make wise choices, then where’s the hope for wayward loved ones? Where’s the hope for continued wisdom in the lives of mature children? The hope is found in the second truth.
4. God loves the people you care about even more than you do. Here’s the good part: He is in control. As we watch helplessly, God is watching, too. But unlike us, he’s not helpless. He’s at work in their lives with a power transcending our efforts.
The changes may not come as fast as we’d like, as neatly, or in the way we might expect. And the decision to respond to his love is still in their hands. But the fact remains that God’s persuasive Spirit can reach into the deep places where all our efforts fail.
5. Finally, A shift in our attitude can make a difference in the life of someone we love. Recognizing the limitations of our control is a strength, not a weakness. Recognizing the unconditional love of God for those you love, is wisdom. Trust Him to do his work. This allows you to tone down the barrage of advice, threats and manipulation.
Not one of us can guarantee the outcome of even the next hour. It may be time to relax, look past our furrowed brow and trust.
Knowing who is in control gives you the freedom to simply love.
Have you ever felt out of control?
Have you ever had to trust that God was in control?
Have you ever thought you were in control only to discover you are not?