“Self Control – What an Oxymoron!”

Posted by on Feb 13, 2012 in A Story, Blog | 0 comments

Writing on the topic of self-control is a bit funny to me. It is a place of great need in our family! It is one of those “broken record” issues. You know the phrases you feel like you say over and over again, and hopefully, just one day, you will see the fruit from such excruciating consistency.

Unfortunately and honestly these “broken record” phrases are usually not said in a nice, calm voice full of patience and love, but, many times: “MAYA, ADA OR CARSON (depending on the day and I hope you can hear the tone in my words), you have lost it. Take a deep breath and find your center.” I don’t really know if they know what their center is. In the heat of the moment, I just want them to calm down and quit whatever they are doing. So, I had hoped to write about this issue of self-control, because we in Hagan household foul this one up even the big Hagan’s, Ron and Karla.

While pondering the word, self-control, I realized that it was a bit of an oxymoron – self and control, as though we can really do this. The results of controlling self do not come from my power or ingenuity. On my own, I want my way when I want it and in the midst of that self-filled focus, the last thing that I want to do is control my head and heart. So, I resonated with John 5:30a: “By myself I can do nothing.” I think we have to begin there when we are talking about this phrase. The achievement of self-control will come from Father. Like the rest of the fruits of the spirit, it is a gift (Galatians 5:22). In the heat of the moment, it is a “looking up and out” to his leadership to help me, accepting the hand of the Holy Spirit to guide me (Romans 8:6).

After accepting Father’s leadership, we need to understand what is really going on when we lose our self-control. I am so grateful for a dear friend and interpreter, Pres Gillham, who has helped shaped these ideas for me. The battleground is in our head and heart, a battle between spirit and flesh (1 Peter 2:11 and Ephesians 2:1-10). A situation happens – I don’t get my way. I see a sale. Something catches my eye. A conflict arises. Someone takes something that is mine. The stress of life is too much. I get hurt. I don’t want to. etc. Then the battle begins in our thought patterns. We react to this situation with possibly one of these statements. “I want my way. I will just get one. One look won’t be so bad. This is mine, and you can’t have it. I can’t do this anymore. I will get you back for making me hurt this way. This is on my shoulders.”

We have to recognize that this is not our voice. The enemy is giving us these lines as a means to lure us to immediate self-gratification. In the middle of this temptation, we have a choice to make – succumb to the temptation or walk away and refuse the impulse. Father says it this way in Deuteronomy, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. . . .” (30:19-20). Choosing life has to do with our response in the heat of the moment – not an easy task. There has got to be something in our mind and heart that can do battle with the lies. And here is the place for the spiritual disciplines. We were having lunch with a new friend, Jamie Lash, and he said the coolest thing about the disciplines. He said that they increase the size of your shield. I talked to the kids about this, and it really resonated with them. Memorizing a bible verse, journaling my issues, talking to Father about my day, listening to a song of worship, these activities increase my ability to win the war against the enemy. They increase the size of my shield. And from the fruit of these disciplines, you are then able to say: “Father, I really want this. But you know the better way. And I trust you. I walk with you in this. Lead me.” When we ask Father God to lead us, recognize the war in our thought patterns, call the enemy on his lies, and then choose life, we win the battle of self-control.

But why would we do such things? It is a belief that there is a better way, a belief in the life and blessings promised in Deuteronomy. If we believe the truth of the Bible, then it is full of wisdom on this topic like Proverbs 25:28 and 2 Timothy 3:3 that could lead us to better pastures. Our past experience can also be a good teacher. Years of buying those items when the budget says no, eating one more piece of chocolate cake, yelling like a crazy person, wallowing in your self-pity, worrying incessantly and realizing the mess it gets you in are just a few examples that come to mind. Losing my self-control never gets me what I want in the long run. It just increases the problem and separates me from Father.

So how do we transfer this to our children? They haven’t had years of foul-ups to realize the error of their ways, and their shields haven’t had much time to grow. First, pray. I pray a lot that Father God would rush in to their lives, that they would know what his voice sounds like in their head and heart and accept his leadership. I pray for their conversation with Father and recognition of the inner battle. Second we help them increase the size of their shields through engaging in the spiritual disciplines. They first see a mom and dad that pursue these disciplines and then a mom and dad that lead them to do it. And third, in the heat of the moment, we call it what it is, “You are in a fight right now. You want your way, and the enemy wants you to take it. Are you going to stand up to the enemy or invite him into this house? Take a deep breath and make a choice. I believe in you.” And for the times that we foul up, we circle back around and talk through it – “Did you get what you wanted when you blasted your brother for not waiting for you? How does it feel now that you have yelled at them, and they don’t want to play with you? What is your plan for next time? Any other ideas?”

In the midst of the contradiction, “self control,” I pray that you too will depend on our Father for his leading, celebrate the gift of His Holy Spirit, see the moments for what they are – a fight for your loyalty, increase the size of your shield and choose His “life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).

“But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”
1 Thessalonians 5:8

Some conversation for your table:
1. Why would self-control be considered an oxymoron? (I know this isn’t English class, but you can do it. You might have to call on Webster for help.)
2. As a family, read the verses found throughout the devotional and have some words about them. Maybe memorize one of them too! There is some great stuff to unpack!
3. Engage as a family on this topic of spiritual disciplines. List the different disciplines. Describe each one. Talk about your favorites, the challenging ones, places of growth, etc. Pray for a fresh perspective rooted in relationship and not responsibility! Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline or Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines are great resources too.
4. Everyone in the family, create a shield using construction paper, poster board or even your paper napkin from dinner. On the back side of the shield, write down some moments that you consistently struggle with self control – “when I . . . .” Then on the front side, write in the middle of the shield “Now choose life!” Deut. 30:19 Then write down the spiritual disciplines that could help you in the fight around the verse. Hang up the shields in your home somewhere.
5. Pray over your kids this week: “Father, thank you for your gift of the Holy Spirit. We need your leadership in this home. The battles are raging, and we trust your way. Help (your child’s name) to hear your voice and dismiss the enemy’s lies. We want to pursue you through reading your story, memorizing your word and engaging in a conversation through the other disciplines. Thank you for giving us this way to increase the size of our shield. Thank you for pursuing us and giving us a way to win!

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