I keep stubbornly fighting this ancient battle between my own will and God’s good and perfect plan for my life.
I want to have my own way. I want to be “in charge” – even while I’m hopelessly overwhelmed.
But I have good news (for me and for you):
If we can let go of our stubbornness, if we can surrender our will and trust that God’s plans are good and perfect, we will find peace and freedom in surrender.
How do I know?
Because I’ve fought this battle of wills many times (and you can be sure I will again); and by the grace of God, I keep losing them. Every time I lose, I come out on the other side of my struggle with absolute surety that God’s way is perfect.
Surrender isn’t easy.
Keep reading. This is my true story of a long and painful journey of surrender that – you guessed it! – ends with God’s perfect gift…
The Perfect Four (A True Story of Surrender to Christ)
Engaged and Making Plans
We were snuggled together on his parent’s couch at the end of a date night, and I was feeling dreamy about our future family.
“I want four kids,” I said. “I’ve always wanted four. What about you?”
Justin thought for a moment, then answered: “I think, two.”
I shook my head. “Two is too few.”
Justin pulled me closer to his chest. “I want two, you want four. Guess we’ll just have to meet in the middle,” he said with a lopsided grin.
“Three? Three’s no good,” I countered, sitting up slightly. “There’s always someone stuck in the middle. Nope. Four’s perfect.”
When Justin didn’t answer, I took his silence as assent and relaxed into his hold, breathing in his familiar scent, while absentmindedly twirling my engagement ring with my left thumb.
Anyway, he’ll change his mind, I thought. He has to.
The Perfect Family
I knew – I’d always known – that the road to happiness was only two steps long:
- Step one, get married;
- step two, have four babies.
Why four? Because I was born the youngest of seven children, and although seven was, perhaps, too large a number for a modern woman like myself, I was certain that a large family was the stuff of a happy life. By the time I was engaged, my oldest siblings had already married and had four children each.
Yes, four seemed reasonable.
No – four seemed perfect, and I planned to follow suit.
My Plan in Action
Justin and I were married two months later amidst lush greenery and autumn-colored flowers. I was thrilled to become Mrs. Kehler.
Step one, done.
After three years of marriage, we had our first baby. Justin excitedly bought a onesie for our firstborn that read, “The Poopsmith.” We were proud parents.
About a year-and-a-half later, our second child was born. Life with a toddler and a newborn tired me, but I was happy.
Step two was well underway.
Soon I was eager for baby number three, at which point I ran smack into an obstacle that, if I hadn’t been so blinded by my own plans, I should have know would arise.
A Not-So-Surprising Surprise
“What do you mean, you might not want another one?” I gaped. “How can you not want another one?”
“I’m just not sure if we should have more. At least not right now,” Justin said.
My husband explained his reasons but I didn’t listen. I was young and immature. I argued tenaciously, relentlessly. When crying and arguing with Justin proved fruitless, I took my complaints to God.
Why won’t you change his mind? Please, open his eyes to see that having more children is a good thing. Aren’t children a blessing? Why won’t you give me the desires of my heart?
God heard my cries. Kindly, gently, he comforted me. Yet, even as he comforted, God also showed me my willful heart and how I needed to surrender my plans to him.
The journey of letting go was like crossing the ocean on a splintered raft:
- At times, I wept bitterly against the raging sea, gasping for hope and clinging for dear life to my fractured dream.
- Other times, I floated smoothly, sure of God’s good plans and trusting fully in his sovereignty.
- And just when I felt sure that I’d reached a place of inner peace, another oceanic storm would engulf me and send me into an emotional whirlwind…
Ripping Open Old Wounds
One wintry morning, when the boys were ages two and four, I packed a diaper bag and headed to church. I was exhausted. I plunked down next to my parents just as the singing began.
As usual, my boys only lasted through the worship session and then about two minutes of sitting quietly in the pews before they began squirming and chattering and whining. I picked them up and we moved to the nursery for the remainder of the message.
In the nursery, while the boys played happily with toys, I settled in beside the other moms to chat. It was nice to visit with other moms who understood what toddler life was like.
When church was nearly over, one of the moms (who was clearly nearing her due date) turned to the woman next to her and asked:
“How many kids do you think you’ll have?”
“I think four,” the other woman said, nestling a newborn. “I’ve always wanted four.”
“I know,” the first mom said, picking up the fussing baby at her feet – her third child. “Me too. I can’t even imagine our family without four kids. It just wouldn’t feel right.”
As I listened to their plans, plans that mirrored my own dashed dreams, tears filled my eyes.
I had to get out of there.
Grieving Lost Dreams
Shielding myself behind a curtain of hair, I packed up the diaper bag, scooped up my boys, and snuck out of the room.
Shoot. People were already spilling out of the sanctuary and into the foyer. Avoiding eye-contact, I weaved my way through the crowd, then burst through the front doors.
When I was halfway across the parking lot, someone touched my arm. I stopped and turned. It was my mom. She must’ve seen me hurrying through the building.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
Before I could answer, my four-year-old broke free and started running circles around the church lawn. I growled with frustration and gripped my squirming toddler tighter so he wouldn’t get away, too.
“They don’t know how much it hurts listening to them,” I said, after I’d explained what had happened. I swiped my tears with the sleeve of my jacket. “I thought I was okay. Why do they get their dreams but I don’t?”
My mom stepped close and hugged me.
“I feel like I’m grieving for babies I’ll never have.”
“It’s okay,” Mom said, squeezing me tight. “It’s good to recognize your grief.”
The Final Let-Go
My journey of surrender continued for several more months – rough, smooth, rough, smooth – until one day, I finally experienced a breakthrough.
I was standing in our tiny kitchen. It was almost supper time. The boys played at my feet, banging pots and pans, while I stirred spaghetti sauce on the stove.
Suddenly, I stopped the wooden spoon and looked heavenward: “Okay, fine!” I burst. “I give up. We’ll just have the two.”
Vigorously stirring again, I thought, There. It’s settled. I won’t beg anymore.
But after another minute, my fiery resolve melted, and a tear slipped down my cheek. “But you’ll have to heal my heart, ’cause it’s broken.”
This was my breakthrough moment. With this final release and total trust that God would have to help me through my pain, I sensed God’s voice nudging me:
Ask Justin one more time. But do it my way.
I rolled my eyes. How ridiculous. I’d tried every which way to ask him, to convince him. Justin wasn’t going to budge.
No, God said. Don’t talk.
Don’t talk? Now God had my attention. What other way was there?
Take two papers. Write on each paper: “What are my goals and dreams?” Take two more papers. Write: “What am I willing to sacrifice to support my spouse’s dreams?”
Doubtful, I prepared the papers and set them aside for later, knowing that this would be the last time I’d ever bring up the subject.
The Reward of Obedience
That evening, after I tucked the boys in, and my husband and I were settled on the couch, I explained about the papers. Justin agreed to fill them out.
We sat in silence together, writing down our answers. Then, we swapped. Still without talking, we read each other’s hopes and dreams, then answered the second question by writing down what we’d be willing to sacrifice to help each other realize those dreams. Finally, it was time to share our answers with each other.
When Justin reached the point on my list about my dream of “the perfect four”, I held my breath – and my tongue, miraculously.
“What would I be willing to do?” he asked. “I’d say ‘yes’ to baby number three.”
My jaw dropped. “Really?”
He shrugged. “I figured I’d eventually say yes.”
“You what?!” Eyes bulging, I whapped him with my paper. “Why did you make me suffer for so long?”
“Because I know you,” he said with a gentle smile. “I knew that once I said yes, you’d push and push and want to have another one right away and then I’d give in, and it was too soon. We needed a break.”
I growled under my breath, but I knew he was right.
God’s Good and Perfect Gift
Our baby girl was born the following spring. This time, I knew we were done having babies, and I didn’t try to convince Justin otherwise. Even so, I didn’t feel peaceful about booking surgery and making the decision final.
For two more years, I prayed for peace.
Then, after supper dishes one evening, something happened:
I was walking across the dining room to give the kids a five-minute bedtime warning. They were in the living room watching TV. When I reached the archway between the dining and living rooms, I stopped short.
There they were, three little munchkins – my three little munchkins – giggling side-by-side.
I couldn’t move. A deep knowing stirred inside me, causing me to suck my breath in from the sudden revelation.
At that exact moment, Justin came up beside me and rested his warm hand on my shoulder.
I turned my head to look at my wonderful husband. “They’re really great, aren’t they?”
“Yup.” He smiled. “Pretty awesome.”
Peace washed over me, and my heart ached with gratitude, because I finally knew with absolute certainty that our family was complete.
Just as God had known all along, I didn’t need four children. Those three munchkins on the couch were our perfect three.
“This God – his way is perfect”Psalm 18:30a (ESV)
God’s Plans Are Best
Can you see how my own stubborn will was getting in the way of finding peace and contentedness?
This huge weight was always sitting on me, this feeling that I couldn’t be truly happy unless my family life went according to plan – my plan.
I’ve fought this battle of wills many times (and you can be sure I will again); and by the grace of God, I keep losing them.Tweet
Years after we had our third child, I received an even greater revelation from God about surrendering my will to him:
Not only had he given me peace and the ability to treasure the perfect three children he’d blessed me with, but God also showed me that having the four I’d originally planned on wouldn’t have been good for our family.
I won’t get into specifics, but I can attest to the fact that I now agree with God, and I’m so very thankful that I listened to him and followed his plan instead of doggedly demanding my own.
What plans do you need to surrender?
How about you? What plans or dreams are you clinging to that may have an unhealthy grip on you? Is there something you know you need to give to God so that He can work his will in your situation?
Take a moment today to confess to God that you have been stubborn and unwilling to ask whether your plan is in line with his plan.
In fact, why don’t we confess together? Because I constantly need to check my own heart, too.
You have been so, so good to us. We love you, Lord; and we’re truly trying to love your ways, too.
We confess that our own plans seem better, but your Word says that your plans are the perfect plans for us.
Please change our hearts. Help us to recognize where we’re being stubborn. Help us to trust that you will never disappoint us.
Lord, we want to find freedom in surrender to you. We want to experience your good and perfect gifts in our lives.
Thank you for your forgiveness, for your mercy toward us, and for your grace to change our hearts.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Freedom in Surrender
There is freedom in surrender! People all over the world can testify that surrendering our struggles to God leads to further freedom in Christ.
Find out more by reading My Struggle With Addiction and the Freedom I Found in Surrender.