The Illusion of Control


When we were dating, my hubby-to-be said that no child of his would pick their nose.

How this conversation came about, I don’t remember. Maybe we were talking about pet peeves, or maybe we were stopped at a stoplight and there in the next car was a picker. Or maybe there was a small child nearby with his finger up his nose, grossing out my hubby-to-be.

I remember saying, “Really?” After all, I felt I had a bit more experience on this topic. I had a brother and sister 16 and 13 years younger than me and I had babysat little ones. In my mind my experience stacked up pretty high, compared to his lack of experience

“Yes. No picking,” he said with authority.

I remember just laughing a little and saying, “What are you going to do? Put corks up their nostrils?”

I was wise enough at that time to realize that you could no more stop a child from finding his nose hole, than you could keep water from leaking out a cracked cup. But I was not wise enough to realize how little control I had over the rest of life.

I was young and believed that with my daytimer and careful planning I could control my life. Certainly, my day and week. This is what I had been led to believe and what I thought was true.

While I was single, I did feel I had more control over my life. My direction and choices.

Then I got married and had kids, and, well, you know what happened. My sense of control ebbed from my hands. Plans were changed. Schedules changed. Surprises popped up time and time again.

Controlling the day or the Week was all an illusion. An elaborate magic act that never turned out the way I thought it would.


Examples of illusion of control.


Murphy’s law is alive and kicking sat my house. If it can, it will. And if it doesn’t, I may just jinx the results myself. I have come to realize that if I write it down on the calendar or in my daytimer, it does not mean it will happen, get accomplished, or abide by the time rules I was expecting.

My doctor’s appointment may be at 2:00, but the doctor often comes sliding in at 2:45. (Sitting there wishing he would appear earlier has never worked.)

I plan to do A, B, and C tomorrow, and then in the middle of the night a child comes down with some stomach bug that involves purging one’s stomach most of the night.

I plan to rake leaves, and then it rains. I think about sitting down and relaxing and the phone rings with someone needing a listening ear. I plan to go to bed early, and a child needs mom time. I schedule 5 hours to sew a toddler’s dress, and 11 hours later it is done.

Now this doesn’t mean that chaos reigns at our house. No, I control enough things just enough of the time, or maybe I should say that I get enough things done on my to-do list and abide to or fulfill enough things from the calendar, that I sometimes feel I can control my day. Maybe even parts of my life.

And then something happens. I burn dinner. I have one of those days where I seem to accomplish nothing. The calendar falls apart. More interruptions abound in my day than dust settling on a sun splashed table. Emergencies poke their annoying head into my plans. I have to laugh once again at how little I can control my life.

How the illusion of control is a lie.  


I have this silly little notion that it is MY time. MY life. MY plans. When in fact it is God’s time. The time he gives me is a gift. And it is no longer my life, but I am bought and paid for and serving a new master. One who is a better planner and scheduler than I am. And as for my plans, well that sounds like I am the only person living in this family. Maybe this neighborhood. Yes, when I say my plans, it sounds a bit selfish and as if I am not taking others into consideration.

We live in a society where we are told we can plan and organize and control our life. Our future. Buy this daytimer. Use this organization system. Set these goals. I am not saying any of these things are wrong or bad. I use these things. But I need to be careful that I don’t really buy into the idea that I can really control my life and future. Because if I do, I may end up frustrated when my plans get thwarted. My day re-arranged. My goals changed or delayed.

I need to be open to new plans. New goals. New directions. I need to trust that God has got this under control. That his ways are far better than mine.

Because the idea that I control anything is an illusion. An amusing joke. I can’t even control myself, more a less my day, my future, my children or hubby or anyone else.


The only thing I can really control.


But I am not called to control anything . . . but myself. 

Paul talks about self-control. Not controlling our day. Our years.

Controlling myself is a far harder task than trying to control my week. Maybe that is why I would rather try and control my day and time. It seems easier and more manageable than trying to develop self-control or trying to control myself. Self-control involves controlling my tongue, emotions, words, thoughts, and deeds.

Self-control is hard. It is not a goal I can accomplish in a month or two and cross off my to-do list. It is not even something I will ever master in my life time.

It is a day by day, hour by hour task. One that seems almost an impossible task at times. One we can not do on our own. We need help to develop self-control. God gives us help in the form of the helper, or the Holy Spirit.

No, I am not called to control anything . . . but myself.

I am called to develop self-control. I am called to place the reigns of control I have in my creator’s hands. I am called to see my time as his time. I am called to change my plans to his plans. I am called to enjoy my days and weeks, not control them.  I am called to love others, not control others.


Remember these 4 things when it comes to control.


1. Strive for self-control, not control of your life or days. The first you really do have complete control of.

2. Strive for God’s timing, not your own. His is always better.

3. Make plans and goals and set items on the calendar, but hold them loosely and be open to them being changed.

4. Develop a sense of humor so you can laugh back at the illusion of control and when it falls into pieces. You will be less frustrated when Murphy’s Laws or surprises show up to poke holes in your calendar and toss your afternoon plans out the window. Or when your future looks different than how you planned.

Or when your plans for having children who don’t pick their noses . . . goes astray.

You can guess the ending, can’t you? 


I think you know what happened. Well, you do if you have any experience with children and trying to get them to do or not do something.

They are as hard to control as ourselves.

Back then I was laughing at his comment that no child of his would pick their nose. But now with the passage of time, I am laughing with him. Because I have said so many things with authority and conviction that were about as silly as what he said.

When it comes to ordering your future kids, you need a sense of humor, because we really have no control over that.

You know what kind of kids we had, don’t you?

Of course, you do.

The same as most everyone else. Pickers.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important. 


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Join the discussion: What are your thought on controlling life? How successful have you been?

May link up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope),  Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).

30 Replies to “The Illusion of Control”

  1. “I have this silly little notion that it is MY time. MY life. MY plans. When in fact it is God’s time.” Love this reminder! The life verse that my husband and I adopted when we were first married almost 30 years ago is Prov 16:9 – In his heart, a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” we can plan and order (and should), but ultimately we need to release the reigns and let God direct us… esp. when things begin to turn out completely different than we expected. Thanks!

  2. Love, love, love this, Theresa. A much-needed reminder of the flat-out truth for me. So many good quotes too. Especially this: “Self-control is hard. It is not a goal I can accomplish in a month or two and cross off my to-do list.” I’m saving this post for future revisiting! Thanks for humbly sharing this wisdom!

  3. This is life for most of us. We are trying to control. I’ll take God over Murphy. And absolutely, self control is a daily exercise. The fruit starts with love and ends with self control.We have to be sure it’s God’s love, and not our natural self or life will be chaotic.

  4. This posting has so many applications. Even Christians try to control how others around them believe. (Children, spouses, siblings, friends). If you do not see God the way that I do, well then, I will not have anything to do with you. God VALUES and loves our diversity. He has the most control. But insists on it the least. He only sets the rules where it really matters.

    • Right on Colleen. We as Christians are often trying to control our life, situations, and others. God does have the most control and insists on it the least. Great point. He gives us freedom and doesn’t control us. Love it.

  5. Words of truth, Theresa: “Controlling myself is a far harder task than trying to control my week.” I laughed at the costume making. How often I have started a project and am still working on it long past when I thought I’d be done. Reminding myself that God’s timing and time are always better than my own helps me trust Him when things don’t go according to my plan.

    • I think one of the reasons we are so prone to control others and situations and our days is because it is easier to try and control these things as opposed to our self. Also it takes the focus off of what we should be doing, which is focusing on our self. Grateful for the laugh. Blessings, Crystal.

  6. Yes I keep trying to control my life. I have been trying to be more intentional in my choices, choosing the best “yes”, and selecting my top priorities. I will probably continue trying to do this until I die. Hopefully along the way I will laugh more than I cry at changed plans. I am a cancer survivor, and I certainly did not plan the 8 year sidetrack to my plans… but God is still using me, my plans have just been adjusted. Thanks for your thoughtful post on a timely subject!

    • I like you Janet, will be struggling with trying to control my life until I die. And I can so relate to your 8 year detour. We were involved in an accident that detoured our life for a good 7 years. But the beauty is, that time wasn’t wasted, like I thought at the time. God used that detour to teach us and those around us. Adjusted plans may not be pleasant, but they often teach us so much. Blessings, Janet, and Praise God you are a survivor.

  7. This is a great post on a subject we ALL deal with on a daily bases and will till Jesus calls us home. I am so a Martha who love to control, be in control, was frustrated by a lack of control. Thank God He loves Martha’s, and wants them to be the best He can make them. I mean, how many women could be rebuked by the Lord Himself in front of others and still keep serving and close enough to hear His words. God taught me how deep my desire to control was when we served in our first third world country…you control so little and must at all cost learn to have self control. Again, great post.

  8. Love this, Theresa. You are so right. It’s easier to control our week than it is to control ourselves. But it’s is the fruit God wants us to bear. And with His help, we can! (right? a work in progress …)

  9. Thank you for sharing these encouraging words today Theresa. I needed to hear this as my plans seemed to have fallen by the wayside this morning. Your words are so true and I am grateful for the reminder! “I am called to develop self-control. I am called to place the reigns of control I have in my creator’s hands. I am called to see my time as his time. I am called to change my plans to his plans. I am called to enjoy my days and weeks, not control them. I am called to love others, not control others.” Thank you for sharing!

  10. I love this, Theresa! Your example of children and nose-picking made me smile and I definitely relate to struggling with the desire for control. It used to really frustrate me when things didn’t go to plan but I am slowly learning to accept that I am not in control as much as I might like sometimes. This is a great reminder that what we are meant to control is ourselves- and that is certainly enough to keep me busy!

    • Yes, Lesley. Learning to control myself is quite the challenge and certainly will keep me busy the rest of my life. : – )

      I know the feeling of life falling apart and my plans disintegrating like wet toilet tissue. Not that it doesn’t frustrate me, but I am trying to laugh at myself and life when that happens. For me, it really helps, while gently reminding me that I have very little control. Well, except over myself.

  11. This is great, Theresa. It makes me laugh to hear my daughter say things like, “When I have kids, they’re never going to … ” She’s so sure about it all, just like your husband was about the nose picking! Over the last year, I’ve had to learn over and over the importance holding my plans and my schedule loosely and trusting that God will give me what I need in each new day. As the great theologian John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans!” 🙂

  12. Hi Theresa,

    Yes! It’s important to get that order right with our kiddos! lol! I love what you share here. That control just isn’t ours. Yet, we try to make it ours in the beat of a heart! Thank you for the great reminder! And thank you for the HOPE!

    Blessings and smiles,

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