God's Sovereignty Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means

My husband, Caleb, and I met in college and the rest, as they say, is history.

Except that’s not what happened.

After college graduation and before the engagement, we decided to take one of those “breaks.”

And by we, I mean Caleb. Caleb decided we needed a break for a while.

And by a while, I mean seven agonizing months during which I was devastated and pitiful and, well, I won’t go into the gruesome details of it all because that’s not the point of the story.

The point of the story is what I learned about the character of God. Any experience like that—good or bad—is a blessing.

The hardest thing about our time apart was my lack of control. I wanted Caleb to snap out of it already. Didn’t he know this was not the plan? Didn’t he know we were supposed to be together? I wanted power to change my circumstances. I wanted to manipulate the outcome by whatever conceivable means necessary, contemplating everything from slashing his tires, because he deserved it, to baking him a cake because the way to Caleb’s heart is through his stomach. I knew I was right about us, so I wanted to just go ahead and speed through this little break up, thank you very much.

Spoiler alert: Caleb and I were married a year later. But it’s not because of anything I did. In fact, I’m convinced the only reason we ended up together is because of what I didn’t do. I did nothing at all, except mourn. That, I did entirely and frequently and outwardly. Let’s just say I fully wore out my people.

This took all the self control I could muster.

And when that didn’t work, I tapped into God’s all-sufficient grace. Rather than force, coerce, or manipulate, I did the completely opposite, counter-intuitive thing: I surrendered. I bore the heartache. I submitted to the reality of the situation. I accepted each painful moment as grace. I put all my faith in God seeing me through. I’m not saying I did any of it gracefully; I’m just saying I did it.

Rather than try to control Caleb, I controlled myself.

I learned the hard way why self control is a fruit of the spirit—because it’s who God is.

The relationship between God’s love and God’s power is mysterious. So often, the two seem to be dissonant at best and complete opposites at worst.

Perhaps we could broaden our understanding of the word power, and that would help us a bit.

It’s easy to understand God’s power as decisive and proactive, an outward exertion of might, and it is. But, have we ever considered how much power it takes to contain all of that? That God is also able to restrain his own power is revealing of just how powerful God is.

And that God is willing to restrain his own power is revealing of just how loving God is.

God’s self control is where his love and power become synonymous. They are not competing enemies, but complimentary friends. This is how John Wesley could maintain that God’s “reigning attribute” is love. Now I get it.

It turns out I was right about Caleb and me. But God has always known (and now so do I) that the ends do not justify the means where human hearts are concerned. Not even being right. After all, God is always right about us. The best control can do is the appearance of devotion, the worst is immediate and permanent back-fire. But, self control is our best shot at authentic, lasting relationship.

While we are not sad our little hiatus is long over, we are grateful for how we grew because of it. If nothing else, we don’t ever wonder if life would be better alone. Been there, done that, and it’s not better. Most of all, we saw deeper into God’s character. Rest assured that He’s exactly who He says He is, and He’s as good as can be.

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Leah (Rankin) Hartman lives in Geuda Springs, KS with her husband, Caleb, and their two children, Claire and Wesley. Life at home is her main gig, but she also serves part-time as the Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry at First United Methodist Church in Winfield, KS and the Director of the BeADisciple Academy. Leah loves Jesus and people, reading and writing, learning and laughing, coffee and pastries. (And she thinks they come best in those pairs!) Leah blogs at HartShapedLife.com

9 COMMENTS

  1. Good article. As Roger Olson says, “God is sovereign over his sovereignty”. I like how you directed it back to “God is love”.

  2. I remember those days, and they weren’t easy. I love what you said here:

    “I put all my faith in God seeing me through. I’m not saying I did any of it gracefully; I’m just saying I did it. Rather than try to control Caleb, I controlled myself. I learned the hard way why self control is a fruit of the spirit—because it’s who God is.”

    Thanks for being open about what you’ve learned and sharing it with others. Good stuff!

    • Yes, Ashlee. You were one of my people that I “fully wore out.” Thanks for being with me then and for so many other times (even now)!

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