Trust or Control: Part One
by Dorcas Stutzman
This article first appeared in the March/April 2015 edition of Daughters of Promise.
Years ago in a distant land lived a young family. This family was probably very similar in many ways to my family or yours, just a husband and a wife and several children living together in a cozy house. One day a visitor came to see them and shared with them the beautiful plan of salvation. Although it was the first time they had ever heard this message, both the husband and the wife received it and invited Christ into their hearts and lives.
This couple lived in a time and place where followers of Jesus were persecuted relentlessly. It was not long until there was a loud knock at the door and soldiers arrested the young father, taking him to prison for his faith. In prison he faced the most awful conditions and torture one could ever imagine. The soldiers were determined to make him renounce his faith! Day after day he was tortured. Day after day he stood firm in his faith. The soldiers could not make him budge an inch!
Then one morning he awoke to the harsh sound of his cell door swinging open. Into the room marched the commanding officer and his men. They yanked him to his feet roughly as the officer sneeringly told him, “Today is the day you will renounce your faith! Today you will beg for mercy!” As the soldiers dragged him out of prison and took him away, the young father wondered. What do they mean? Why is today any different?
But when they marched him to the edge of a quarry and he looked down to see his wife and children in a little huddle at the bottom, they didn’t have to tell him why today was different. He knew. They didn’t even have to point out the pile of huge rocks sitting on the edge of that deep pit, nor the soldiers standing by to push them over the edge and crush his precious family below. He knew. In that moment, this strong, courageous young father, who had not wavered in all the previous torture, began to waver. Down at the bottom of that gravel pit were the ones dearest to his heart. Surely God would understand if he wanted to save his family!
Then, like sweet notes of music, up from the bottom of the pit came the beautiful words of his wife. Words that rang with truth and courage! Words that inspired a weary heart! Words that made a soldier in God’s army straighten his shoulders and stand his ground to the very end. These are the words that she spoke, words that will ring throughout eternity! “Oh my husband, whatever you do, don’t give up! Don’t give in! Because tonight,” she said, “oh tonight, my husband, we will eat supper with the KING!”
I still weep when I tell that story. It touches something deep inside me that is hard for me to explain, but I know it has to do with destiny. That is the image in which you and I, as women, were created! In a moment of crisis, pain, or even death, we somehow do have what it takes to seize a piece of heaven and bring LIFE into our little world.
I believe with all my heart that one of the deadliest enemies of that destiny of greatness is the matriarchal spirit. That spirit, sometimes referred to as a Jezebel spirit, is first of all a spirit of rebellion, which uses manipulation and control to gain power by whatever means possible. Our society has painted this spirit white and made it so common that it has become difficult for us to recognize. Nevertheless, it has caused great havoc in our homes and in our lives. I have seen it in my own life and in the lives of countless others. Let me share with you how it wormed its way into my life and how much damage it caused.
I was adopted into a wonderful Christian home when I was six weeks old. I grew up smothered with love from my four siblings and my parents. My earliest memories involve the love of my family and the small community that I grew up in, as well as the love I felt for my dad. We called him “Pop” and I was his little girl. It never seemed strange to me that even though it was my mom who spent hours reading me stories, my mom who stopped her work and played dolls with me, my mom who let me run off to play or help on the farm while she did my work, that it was my father whom I really loved.
Now don’t get me wrong. Of course I loved my mom, and I knew that she loved me. But I was definitely Pop’s girl, and I basked in the sunshine of his love and attention. His love filled many of the corners of my little girl heart, and I blossomed and grew. I had no way of knowing then what I know now. I did not cognitively know that my birth mother had wanted to keep me, but since her mother had a new boyfriend, both my mother and I were kicked to the curb, forcing her to give me up for adoption. All I knew was that in my little girl heart, I felt rejected by my own mother. Try as I might, I just couldn’t feel my mom’s love even though I knew it was there. I just couldn’t get past that wall in my heart.
Maybe it was because I was raised in an adult household (I was eight years behind the rest) or maybe it’s just how I am, but I grew up watching people. I still like to watch people. Our family traveled a lot because my dad was a preacher who enjoyed traveling.
I remember loving those trips, and loving to watch people… lots and lots of people. By the time I was a teenager I had realized several things. The first of those was that I never, EVER, wanted to be one of the controlling, accusing women that I saw. They could cut their husbands down to size with just a few sharply pointed words. I saw the resulting pain in their husbands’ faces. No, I would never, EVER be that woman!
The second thing I was seeing at that time was an awful lot of strength and forcefulness coming from somewhere inside me. I was truly worried. What if I would one day become just like those women? Oh the horror! I vowed in my little girl heart to NEVER be like them.
Just to be safe, I devised a cunning plan. I decided that since I was a strong person, I simply would not get married unless I could find a man I couldn’t push over. Pure genius, right? I settled back to see how it would all work out. In the community where I grew up, eighteen was the approved age to begin dating. I remember how with mingled horror and relief I realized at age eighteen that there was no one I knew whom I couldn’t push over in one way or another. That is, until I met Steve! Incredibly, he not only didn’t fall over, he actually pushed back! Needless to say, I was very intrigued.
To make a long story short, we were married several years later, and I settled in to be the very best wife in the whole world. I’ve always believed that if it is something you care about, then either do it 100 percent or forget about it. Anything else seems like such a waste! And so I set out to be the best wife that I could be. I was going to be the most kind, respectful, and submissive wife in the whole wide world.
In the first years it was pretty easy. It was just Steve and me and the babies. When he made a decision I didn’t like, it was relatively easy to paste a smile on my face as I said, “Yes dear!” But oh, inside I would feel this churning turmoil, and my mind would race with ways to convince him to my way of thinking.
As our girls began to grow, their need for discipline became a huge problem and a point of conflict. Steve rightly saw that they needed to learn obedience and required occasional discipline, but all I could see was that I had to protect my girlies! I even remember that he once told me with his corny grin to, “Take a number and step in line!” for my own dose of discipline.
Luckily for me, Steve actually was an amazing father. After my instinctive panic died down, I really did trust him. He had proved himself over and over, and I knew he would lay down his life for us if necessary. When the girls were small they couldn’t wait until he came home in the evenings. They even called for him when they needed a parent at night. It was wonderful! But even after all that, I would still have that ugly feeling boiling in the pit of my stomach whenever there was conflict. No matter how many times I did what was right on the outside, I could not get away from that “thing.”
When the girls were still very small, God did an amazing work in my life. I had been rebelliously involved in some very dark things as a teenager, and that darkness had continued to haunt me until the day I fell to my knees in repentance. It is a long story, but suffice it to say, I was a brand new woman after experiencing God’s deliverance! It was at this point that the Holy Spirit became an active part of my life.
God patiently gave us about four weeks to get back on our feet, and then He began bringing to our door people with some of the same bondages I had been delivered from. Since it was dark, occultic practices that had put me in bondage, it was people in similar situations whom God brought our way.
One by one, as best we could, learning as we went, we endeavored to help people get free from their baggage and connected to JESUS! Slowly but surely, we began to see a pattern evolve. We were seeing individuals, couples, and whole families with all the symptoms of having been involved in some kind of occultic practice or witchcraft, but we couldn’t find the witchcraft. We spent time crying out to God for answers and reminding Him that we had not sought out the people who showed up at our door.
One week Steve and I were privileged to attend a seminar that focused on finding healing in our own lives. I will never forget the day when I was sitting there in a large crowd of people, listening to someone share a personal testimony. Suddenly God, by His Holy Spirit, began to reveal truth that would set me free! I remember writing and taking notes as fast as I could so I wouldn’t forget anything. It was so real to me that it was several years before I realized that it was not the lady sharing her testimony who was sharing all this truth with me! My husband gently corrected me after hearing me share this story for the first time. I was shocked to discover that the lady was speaking about something else entirely!
I remember when the download stopped and I was left staring at what I had written: three or four pages of my own willful self. It was so painful and overwhelming to see that in spite of how hard I had tried all that time to not be a controlling woman, I still was. I remember saying to God, “Now what? What do I DO with this?”
He gently replied, “Do with it what you would with any other sin. Take each thing, one at a time, to the foot of the cross and repent of it.” I have no idea how long I sat there. I only know that I did as He asked. I would love to tell you that when I finished, bells began to chime, birds began to sing, and fireworks went off in the sky. Not so. I just had a deep, settled rest in knowing that I had been obedient.
We went home from that conference and had a few days before our family was scheduled to travel to a church where my husband would be speaking for a week of meetings. The very first morning back home, we were just finishing up family devotions when the phone rang. Seeing that it was Mom calling, I quickly answered it. I was very excited to find out that they were stopping in for a visit. That was a rare occurrence since they lived 2,000 miles from us on the West Coast. I remember planning with her that I would invite over some friends from our neighborhood whom my parents wanted to see while traveling through.
When I hung up the phone I became aware of a strained silence. Now for those of you who know my family, you understand that that in itself is a modern day miracle! Sitting across from me was my husband with a very guarded what’s-she-gonna-do-next look on his face. On the other side of the room, my girls were poised for flight with a caught-in-the-headlights glaze in their eyes. I knew I was missing something, but what?
Steve finally came to my rescue by cautiously asking if my parents were coming, and then followed up with a very strange question. “Honey, how would you have responded to that phone call say…a whole week ago?” Again I was puzzled. What was he trying to say? And that was when the light dawned, and I began to see what God had done in my life earlier that week.
You see, control can come out of our life in so many different ways! One of the ways it came out in mine was in how clean my house had to be if my family came. I would bark orders like a drill sergeant! I had my girls well trained. They were poised for flight and ready to rush wherever I ordered. I was operating out of a need to control my little world.
That need went all the way back to when I was a little girl who could not understand why anyone would choose to stay inside and clean the house when they had a chance to drive a tractor. I well remember my family’s expressions of pity for my future husband who would not like a sloppy wife who didn’t keep the house clean. I know they were meant for my good, but for some reason those words went painfully deep, and when anyone from my family showed up to visit, I would be worn out from cleaning every corner before they arrived.
That day when Steve helped me to see that something had dramatically changed, I realized that life was never going to be the same. Something that had been a part of my life as long as I could remember was finally gone. That awful, dark feeling I would get in the pit of my stomach was gone! And with it gone, a whole new world opened up to me....
TO BE CONTINUED... In Part II, Dorcas will take a deeper look at the matriarchal spirit, helping women identify its damaging patterns in their lives, and break free through the power of Jesus Christ.