“I’m sorry,” he whispered. Sincerely. He is usually the first to apologize. And this time, I was more to blame. I blew up over the most trivial thing. I’m mortified to put it in writing…
I couldn’t find my small container of coconut oil that I use to remove eye makeup. I know, it was so ridiculous. But we were leaving town and I needed it. After all, I couldn’t take a gallon jug on a 2300-mile trek to Texas and back, could I? Not in our jam-packed mini-van.
The hubs suggested that I fill another small plastic jar, but I didn’t want to. Why should I have to? It should be where I left it. In a family of seven, I’m always looking for things that aren’t where I left them.
“Just fill another jar!” his logical suggestion became quite stern.
He was right, of course. The car was packed and running. The kids were relieved and ready to go. Everyone was waiting on me. And I was hung up on the tiniest obstacle.
I made up something ridiculous about not having enough Tupperware containers and the oil making them permanently greasy. Was that really a thing?
Why, why was this miniscule snag holding up our vacation? Am I really that petty?
There was no question—I was being petty. So many of our tiffs start with me majoring on something unbelievably minor.
But, as it is with most tiny things, it wasn’t really about that thing. This was about a monster that often rears its ugly head in my life.
It was about…
I want to control this little piece of real estate called my home—and not because I’m some maniacal freak who has to have everything in its place. No, no-no-no-no. My home is often filled with clutter.
It’s because of all the things I can’t control. The big things.
The young boy we prayed for to be healed from brain cancer who is now with Jesus.
The dear friend who is still in a wheel chair from a tragic injury.
My hair that is breaking and shedding for no known reason.
I’ve done everything I know to control these other situations. I’ve researched, prayed, and fasted. I’ve tested and invested countless dollars in doctors and cures. And still, these stories have tragic chapters.
I cannot control these big things in my life, so surely I can find my jar of coconut oil. Surely, I can control a puny piece of plastic that fits in my hand!
But I can’t.
I can’t control the big things or the little things because I’m not in control of anything.
Except… my attitude.
How ironic—because clearly I’m not in control of that either.
It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
It’s amazing how many times this need for control comes up in my relationship with the man I’m closest to on earth. My flaws are so obvious. But thankfully, he senses the mass of ice beneath the surface of the burg and responds with gentleness and patience, and a tinge of frustration because he is human too.
“What’s really going on, Cathy?” he whispered.
I lost it. I broke down. “He wasn’t supposed to die! She shouldn’t be in that chair! My hair shouldn’t be in the drain!” I screamed to high heaven.
It felt good to yell even if it didn’t fix anything.
Then, calmly, I insisted, “I want my coconut oil. It should be where I left it.”
Can’t this little part of the universe be mine?
No. It can’t.
Because I’m not God. I’m not omnipotent or omniscient. I don’t own any part of the universe. I’m not perfect and I’m surrounded by exquisitely imperfect creatures who take things and don’t put them back. Our imperfections rub up against each other in all the places we can’t control. There is only one answer.
Grace for others, and grace for myself.
I can’t control who lives and dies. I can’t control who walks. I can’t control my hair. I can’t even control Tupperware. I can only respond with grace when all these other things are out of control.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, realizing yet again how different that extra x chromosome makes me… but a bit of grace bridges the divide.
I filled up a new plastic container, and we squished the seven of us into a Honda Odyssey that we outgrew two kids ago. My husband commanded the driver’s seat, and I sat by his side. I reached out my hand to touch his arm. His love language is touch, so this was the best apology I knew. He smiled as he watched the road.
And I said a prayer for grace to control the one thing in life that I can.
This year, there is no summer vacation. Because there is no job. School is a question mark. Church has changed. Friends must keep their distance while skin threatens to divide us all. The world is a terrifying place with disease, violence, injustice, and death.
We can’t control any of it.
We can only surrender to the One who can.
Give Him that thing you can’t control, and determine to control the one thing in life that you can.
Catherine Segars is an award-winning actress and playwright — turned stay-at-home-mother—turned author, podcaster, speaker and blogger. She is dedicated to helping parents be a godly example for their kids in an ungodly world.
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