31 Oct CONTROL – Letting Go of Something You Never Had.
Robyn Brown is a gregarious, beautiful woman of God. She never meets a stranger and is passionate about Jesus. She’s been married to Dan Brown for 25 years and has two beautiful daughters, Abby and Lexi. She’s also an avid dog lover of her three “babies”. Robyn has worn many hats in the business world, and has committed her life to serving in multiple positions in ministry for over 20 years.
But Robyn had a deep-rooted obsession. She, like many of us believed a lie. A lie that enslaved Robyn to relentlessly pursue an unattainable illusion known as “CONTROL.”
Everyone has a story. Here’s Robyn’s story.
Robyn, how did your relationship with Jesus begin?
I grew up in the church. I was there every time the doors opened. Dad was a deacon. Grandfather was the old Southern Baptist singing preacher kind of guy. I always knew about Jesus but I didn’t really come to know Jesus personally until November 2, 1987. I was in college at Hannibal Lagrange University and I went with some friends one night to a revival service. The preacher was talking about forgiveness and that all of us have choices that we regret-sin. He told us that Jesus loves us just the way we are and we need to learn to forgive ourselves and love ourselves because He does. So that night when they gave the invitation, I went running down the aisle. My heart was pounding. I knew that I had to ask Jesus to be the Lord of my life and I’ve never been the same since that day.
As her journey with Jesus began, God opened up Robyn’s eyes to a whole different world.
I was on a ministry team called “Praise Song” and we got to do a lot of mission trips, singing for Disciple Now weekends and Inner-city ministry. We had gone to Minnesota to do ministry and it was the most awesome experience. These kids did not look like us. They had holes in their clothes. These kids had no homes. They were pretty much abandoned but they loved Jesus. And to hear their stories of how God loved them and how God had brought them from all different backgrounds, really just changed my heart and let me see that not everybody has a “Mayberry” life. I have a mom and dad, a grandma and grandpa. I’ve got a million aunts and uncles, and cousins and I’ve lived a sheltered life. It opened my eyes to see that not everyone has that kind of life. And for the first time, I saw that I was blessed to have what I had, but these kids were just as blessed as I was. To see and hear their passion, I KNEW I wanted more. Right then and there I was like, “Lord I will live for You and I will live for You only and I will try to be joyous in how I do it and do it the best way I know how.”
It was that very experience that drew Robyn’s heart into ministry. Dan and Robyn knew that they wanted to help people and share with them that there is more than just what you see in this world. So much more. They felt like they had to share the truth.
What’s the hardest part about trusting? Jesus, spouse, anyone?
I’m a control freak! (Laughter erupts) I’m just going to go ahead and label myself because that’s the truth. And it’s so hard for me to let someone else make decisions for my life. I like to be in control. I like to be in charge. I like to know where point A & B are, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. And when you’re on a journey with Jesus, you don’t have any of that. Not any of it. I have a saying that I want on my tombstone. “Life’s all about plan BCD on down the road. Because “A” never happens. “A” is my plan and it never happens. I have learned during my years and during this journey with Jesus, that he’s going to change it so get ready!
So how did you and Dan meet?
I was a freshman in college. It was the weekend I moved in. I had tried out for the cheerleading squad and I made it.
I can’t help it. I let out a moan, a groan and a few snickers.
You were a CHEERLEADER? Oh my word, I think I’m going to throw up.
(Giggling) Oh, I was a dancer. Is that better?
Oh that’s way better. Oh my word, Robyn. This is hysterical.
(More laughing and cracking up from the both of us.) I went to a campus social, and my girlfriend who was the captain said, “Hey, I want to introduce you to someone. He’s a really cool guy and I think you two would hit it off.” So I met him but the thing was, I knew Dan’s story. I didn’t really want to meet Dan.
Wait. Dan has a story? What’s Dan’s story?
He’s the typical rebellious Pastor’s kid that went his own road. Unfortunately, my mom’s family knew his whole story because they all went to church together. Dan was a wild child and I didn’t want to be labeled like that. It was a new day! I had just started college. I wanted to get my education and there really wasn’t room for a dude in my life. I didn’t need him to mess up my plan because I had plans. So I blew him off and moved on.
So then my other cheerleader friend (cheerleaders…there’s the problem) wanted to date Dan’s brother. And she said, “Dan needs a date.” She blackmailed me into going on this date. (I can’t stop laughing) So the only reason I went on this date was for her and then they didn’t even talk the whole night. But Dan and I sat and talked and acted like two crazy teenagers. It was over.
The love that Dan and Robyn have for each other is obvious when you meet them. They are a couple that is deeply committed to each other, great friends and push each other towards all things Jesus. As we continue, Robyn gives a humorous but honest view of the ebb and flow of marriage, intimacy and the decision that changed it all.
Tell me what your thoughts are about marriage?
You know when you’re first married, Sonya, we all think that it’s going to be pie in the sky. You get to keep the house, have children and of course, they just love and adore you and blah blah blah blah blah and everyone treats you like the queen. (laughing) And…it’s the farthest thing from the truth.
Dan and I look at marriage probably different than most people. We look at it as a partnership because there are times in your marriage where one of you requires so much more than the other. Everybody says that you should give 100% and your spouse should give 100%. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Dan and I have always had an agreement that we never go to bed mad at each other. We may not like each other but we cannot be mad. We have to talk it out before we put our heads on the pillow. If you don’t, it’s like cancer. It just eats away at your marriage. And there are times that we did not obey that rule and boy, it was not a good plan.
We also do a lot of talking. Whatever we do when we’re making decisions we always call each other and ask the other’s opinion before that decision is made. He is my best friend. I am his best friend. He knows that I’m his rock and he is my rock. At the end of the day, Jesus is the King and that is the one thing that holds us together.
The thing that we probably struggle with the most (deep sigh)…is sex.
Tell me about that.
I grew up in a household where you did not talk about it. Apparently, I had this notion that they had “it” one time and that’s when they had me. (Laughter erupts.) And that is the end of the story. We didn’t talk about it. Ever! And then when I got my period and everything else, I got enrolled in the “sex friggin’ education class”. We didn’t talk about that stuff in my house. (I’m laughing so hard at the way she’s saying this I think I’m going to spew snot.) I thought storks dropped you off on the doorstep. I’m telling you…we didn’t talk about it! The night before I got married my dad came to me and asked, “Do we need to have a conversation?” I said, “Um, I think I figured it out by now, dad. I’m almost 23 years old.”
I struggle the most with “that” because I’m just tired at the end of the day. You have pressures from work and you have pressures with your children. And my kids had their issues very differently from each other and it really kind of drains you. Dan and I just honestly have had to learn in the last year it’s time to date again. Without the kiddos (laughing) and then they get mad at us. “You didn’t take us.” “Well you weren’t invited. Dad and I just need some mom and dad time, without y’all, okay?” (Laughing) When our kids were little they’d come running into our room and jump into bed with us. And I was like, “What the heck is this? Get out! You’ve got your own bed.” You know? We’ve really had to redefine the lines because for so long, we made kids number one and left “us” on the back seat.
So as I’m listening to Robyn explain her reasons of why she struggled with sex, I am feeling an unrest within my spirit. I knew that what she was saying certainly contributed to a lack of mental, physical and emotional energy. But there was something more to this.
So as far as sex, what was holding you back?
(Taking a deep breath)…I really didn’t feel pretty enough.
And FINALLY we get to the crud.
My whole life I’ve always felt like I’ve had to live up to someone’s standard. I don’t know who’s stinkin’ standards I thought I had to live up to, but apparently I thought I had to live up to somebody’s standards. Whether it was Cosmo or the church, or my girlfriends or my parents…I don’t know. I never really felt like I measured up. The reality is we all gain weight. We don’t look the same. (Unanimous groans from both of us.) You don’t look like you once did in your hot little teenage body and your hair falls out and things go south. You don’t feel gorgeous and beautiful. And Dan would tell me that, and I’m going ‘Ya, right.’ I look in the mirror, and I going ‘Ya, right’.
So, it’s not really about Dan, is it? It’s how you feel about yourself, right? Tell me about that.
(Long pause) I had an eating disorder. I had to battle that one. My whole life I’ve always been told “you’re just a big girl. You really need to watch what you eat and watch what you do.” And I just got tired of hearing that over and over so I thought ‘I’m going to fix it this way.’ It was hard. I really struggled.
How old were you when your eating disorder started?
I was probably 17 or 18. I was a little later than most because I finally got really fed up about hearing how big I was. I thought most girls were a size 5 and I was a size 11 or 13. I would love to be in an 11 or 13 now. I’m not even remotely close to that. So the real struggle is and continues to be…with yourself.
How did your feelings about yourself impact your marriage?
It really almost tore our marriage apart. I’m a fixer. I can’t handle flaws. But this was a hard thing for me to fix. I’m also a very independent person and I got to the point where I told myself, ‘I don’t need you. I can do this on my own. I can be a mom and I can work and I can provide for the family and I just don’t need you.’
Dan was gone a lot. Half of our marriage he was never around. So you get this independent thing and you tend to push them away which is not a good thing in a relationship. I didn’t want to rely on Dan. Then I got to where I expected him to fix the problems and to make it all better.
I realized he was never the problem. It was me. I was the problem. Dan was never the problem. I didn’t love me. And I honestly didn’t believe Jesus could love me the way that I looked. And then it kind of came out in emotional anger and hatred. And it also came out towards my children in some ways.
And I realized, “This bus needs to backup! Something’s wrong. I can’t blame anybody else for this. This is me.” It was one of those things where I really had to ask God to change my attitude and help me to be okay. I still don’t like the way I look. But, I’m moving on. And now I’m menopausal. (Laughing)
Looking back, what is the biggest mistake you made?
The biggest mistake was not COMMUNICATING how I felt. You just hide it. It’s easier to hide it.
So Dan didn’t know how you felt about yourself?
He does now but he didn’t then.
So why did you hide it? You didn’t communicate it because you didn’t want to be vulnerable?
The thing is…you don’t want your husband to know that you don’t have your crap together. You don’t want ANYONE to know.
What did you think he would do if he knew you didn’t?
(long pause) I didn’t want to hear him say ‘I’m disappointed in you’. I grew up never wanting to hear those words…from my parents or from my spouse. The words “I’m disappointed’ or ‘you could be so much more than you are but…” would have destroyed me.
And then I realized that I am punishing the one man who loves me the most on this earth. That’s not fair to him. So we had a heart-to-heart. And finally I just laid it all out there. I said to Dan, “I know you look at me and go ‘Her hair is falling out. She’s 60 pounds overweight and you know she has a hot temper when she gets angry.’ And why am I getting angry? Because I just don’t want you to know all my faults and all my flaws. I see my faults daily and I don’t like it. But just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean I have the right to take it out on you.”
We’ve all heard this verse, “You will know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” There were years of self loathing, fear of rejection and wrong thinking that had built up inside Robyn’s heart. Once Robyn opened her heart and dealt truthfully with her crud, sharing it with God and her most beloved-Dan, then Jesus began to change everything.
Dan’s exact words were, “I don’t care if you’re a 5 or a size 20…I just love you for you.” He’s always said it but this was the first time I actually heard it.
Why do you think you actually heard it this time?
I was ready! I was ready to say, “I’m done with this war that YOU created, Robyn.” I created it and it was eating me alive. And the only person, besides my family, that it was destroying, was me.
What has been the hardest struggle in your life?
I have always been a person who wants perfection. No matter if it’s in my work or my looks. I didn’t want any flaws. I wanted to perform well because that’s the way I grew up.
Why? Why did it matter to you? How did it make you feel if you had everything perfect?
I felt good, like I did a good job. I always wanted to hear the praises, ”O, good job, Robyn I’m so proud of you.” Disappointment was something I could not handle. I didn’t want to be rejected.
With my children, same thing. I wanted kids that people would say “you’re kids have it all together and they’re so sweet and they make good grades and they make such great choices and they have their lives together.” You want that Mayberry thing. But that’s NOT real. And that’s the thing I had a hard time with because I love my parents and they are godly people and yes, they’ve made some mistakes. But they never showed me the mistakes or their struggles. I never saw that with them. I never saw that and so I didn’t know how to deal with it when a struggle would come. That would eat at me on the inside. ‘O my gosh, I’ve failed and now I’m not going to live up to my parents expectations.’ Well, it really wasn’t their expectations. It was my expectation of me. But I labeled it that way.
So with my children, I wanted to see them make good choices and be the perfect little kiddos, doing all the right things, than everybody would adore them and me. And guess what? It didn’t happen.
Through a series of events, Robyn’s daughter began a relationship that was unhealthy and had dramatic ramifications on her life and those around her.
Abby was dating a young man who was not a Christian, who also had a lot of anger issues, and a messed up life at home. We kept telling her, “You need to date someone equally yoked” and then at the end, he was physical. Abby went her own way and did her own thing and made some really poor choices. She still struggles at times with it now. There are days she has dealt with it and then there are other days it crops back up like an ugly cancer. But as painful as it is as a mother, it was her choice and that was hard for me to sit there because I just wanted to fix it.
Did you feel at any time that what she was doing was a reflection of you? That you had a part of this?
At times, yes. Like the weight thing. Yes. That was a reflection of what I struggle with. Those sins of the mom go down to the sins of the daughter. I would remind her that she was only “5’2 and look at your mother, you don’t want to end up like your mother.” And then I realized when she went to college ‘You’ve got to stop saying that. It’s her life. She’s not you. You’re not her. She’s going to have to figure things out on her own.’ I was always trying to fix it for her. When things would go wrong, I’d try to be the mother and comfort her and make it all better. The Lord was telling me ‘Let her fall.’
How does one who has fought so hard to achieve and maintain control, handle that?
It was horrible. I mean I just literally wanted to scream and yell, ‘You’re crazy! You’re crazy.’ But I also remember in my quiet time, the Lord gently reminding me, “Hey, Robyn. She’s mine. She’s on loan to you. I’m in charge.” And that’s when I finally said “You know what? She IS yours. Yes, you did loan her to me and I’ve raised her with the knowledge and the love of you and knowing you.” And I’m like “Lord, you go after her and fix her. I’m out. I’ll commit to pray.”
When this was all going on, how was that impacting the rest of the family? Were you all walking on eggshells? Were you biting each other’s heads off? Were you in denial?
We were walking on eggshells. You have Lexi, the little one, sitting there watching big sis make these poor choices. We were trying to protect her and she just wasn’t gonna have it. The harder we would try to save her, the harder she rebelled and pulled away. She was very much ‘in your face’ which was just rebellion and then you have the little one going “you’re an idiot” but also feeling helpless too, because she could hear her sister crying at night through the wall between their bedrooms.
Then you had Dan who was trying to hold everybody together and then there was me. I’m fighting for my kid. Because when you’re messing with my kid, mama bear is coming out. I had to realize that mama bear needs to let it go and let Jesus handle it. I was making a mess of it and it was tearing my family apart to the point where Dan and I were not speaking. He was like, “She’ll grow out of this one day and realize enough is enough. We just have to wait and pray.” And I was like ‘No, I’m not waiting and praying. I want my kid back.’ I was fighting and pushing forward, which I shouldn’t have been. And then you have little sis saying, “These are choices I don’t want in my life.” So she withdrew and stayed in her room.
You had four broken people living in the same house with four very different ideas. That was extremely hard. It came to a point where I just wanted to walk out the door and say, ‘I don’t feel appreciated and I don’t feel loved and I’m stinking done!’ Dan would defend Abby and Lexi would defend me. I mean it was a mess! And I’m going ‘Oh Lord, what have we done?’ In the middle of all of that, we couldn’t see what we had done. Everybody just dug in.
A miraculous intervention happened. Two friends showed up at the door.
One day, two friends appeared on my doorstep. Their words were, “Get your clothes on. We are going out, NOW.” I was like “okay”. I knew I didn’t have a choice. This precious insight was given to me that day, “Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made, Robyn. I’m speaking from experience. You need to back off. She’s going to make some really bad choices and you just need to learn to love your child just the way they are. Screwed up and messed up. That’s just where they are right now.” And I thought to myself, ‘But that’s not acceptable.’ I still wanted the Mayberry life. You know what I mean?
I do get it. You didn’t want to give up the dream. You still wanted to “will it” to happen the way you wanted. You wanted CONTROL. Ya, I get it.
Then my friend said, “You need to duct tape your mouth…shut, Robyn. You are going to learn to duct tape your mouth shut, spiritually. ” And I thought at that moment, “Oh my God, she’s here to have an intervention with ME!” And she said, “If you want to save your relationship with your daughter, shut it and pray and just let the Lord deal with her.” And then she said, “And just realize it won’t be the choices you’ve made for her or that you want her to live. They’re her choices. It’s her journey.” And I couldn’t deny it – it made sense in my heart.
Robyn resolved to allow Jesus to break a yoke that had grown intolerable, and had choked the life out of her for way too long. She chose to let go of the control that she NEVER had to begin with.
But oh my, Sonya, learning to love them when they don’t fit into what you want or what you expect, is hard. You do love them and you want them to live their life, but most of the time we want them to live it the way we want. You have to realize they have to live their lives the way they’re going to live it. It may not be the way you want it. This is her journey. I’m on my own journey. That was really hard for me and a horrible internal struggle that I fought. I finally just let go and said, “God I give up. I will pray. She’s yours. Now you can deal with her however you see fit. I’m letting go.”
Good Friday, 2014 – Dan and Robyn got the devastating news that Dan had Chronic Lymphocytes Leukemia and Small Lymphocytes Lymphoma. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a type of cancer that starts from white blood cells (called lymphocytes) in the bone marrow. It then invades the blood. Leukemia cells tend to build up over time, and many people don’t have any symptoms for at least a few years. In time, it can also invade other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen. Dan is currently undergoing his second round of chemotherapy.
When Dan was diagnosed with leukemia, that one just took the wind out of my sails. We walked out of a movie and got the phone call. Dan was in tears and I was like “Okay Lord, you didn’t bring me down here to watch me just sink under so, where do we go from here?” That was hard. I have surprised myself because I really thought I’d be angry and bitter and I had the exact opposite reaction. And I took a beating for my reaction. A lot of people were angry with me because I wasn’t crying and I wasn’t, “oh my life’s gonna end if he leaves.” Ya okay, my life would end if he left – that’s how I feel inside sometimes, but I just keep thinking the Lord didn’t bring us this far to let us go and watch us go under. He didn’t!
The same God who saved Dan and Robyn, continues to meet their needs and hold them up as they walk TOGETHER through this new journey. They have not turned their back on God, but have amazingly poured themselves out on their family, each other and their community as they continue to share the love of Jesus Christ with everyone they meet, always giving God the glory for all things. Amazing.
What are you most afraid of?
Losing my family. I love them. I’m not afraid of being alone because I grew up as an only child so I was alone a lot of the time. But not having my family here with me is probably the scariest thing for me. Abby going 16 hours away to school in Missouri and I’m here and if something were to happen to her and you know the Leukemia thing…what happens if he doesn’t make it? And then I have to go just enjoy today for today. Robyn just gets in the way and I am my biggest enemy. I create my fears. I create a lot of things. It’s Jesus who gives the peace.
I’ve just had to learn to really let go of everything that Robin is, and just let Jesus be.
Control. Such a powerful word.
To be the ‘boss’. In charge. Call the shots. From the beginning of time, man has tried to attain it. We’ve killed for it. We’ve hurt ourselves for it. We’ve even turned our back on heaven for it. And it is the single greatest LIE that we ALL choose to believe. It’s even got the word “con” in it. The lie is we never had it. Control belongs to God alone. When we try to control our world and/or somebody else’s, we are saying that we know best. That WE are the boss worthy of calling the shots. So…how’s that working out for you?
We are such creatures of the “KNOWN”. Getting out of your own “MAYBERRY” is life changing. If you do not step out of your comfort zone, in faith, and go ‘out in to the world’ you may miss out on the life and the growth that God has for you.
We all have expectations as we enter into marriage. It’s those expectations that can prove to be lethal if we do not “take every thought captive” and learn what God’s expectation is of marriage, our spouse, but most importantly, ourselves. Most of us come from messed up, dysfunctional, conditional homes. So we bring that into our marriages. Over time the lines get so smashed up that you can’t tell who’s line is who’s. It’s NEVER too late to redefine the lines in your marriage…heck, go ahead and erase those lines. Jesus is all about “do overs”.
When there’s very little happening sexually in a marriage relationship, there is ALWAYS something else going on. Something deeper. Always. In my years of talking with people about sex, poor body image is one of the most common issues I’ve heard from women – and men over the years. As a “big” girl, I can understand wanting to be thinner, prettier. But here’s the thing. I have listened to many women who are thin, physically fit and beautiful according to the world’s standards say things like, “I hate sex!” Or “I can’t stand to be touched.” Or “I hate the way I look.” God made sex for man AND woman. “The two shall become one..” PLEASE, DEAL with your crud. For the sake of your marriage, your husband, your kids, your self and the God that created you…HE HAS SO MUCH MORE if you will trust Him with your heart and get to the REAL issue. It’s NOT okay to hate. Right? So why do we secretly HATE ourselves or something about us? It’s not okay. The bible says that we are to love God and love our neighbor as ourself. We have said that verse a million times. Right? But HOW are we to love others like ourselves when we don’t LOVE OURSELVES? No wonder nobody loves others. We don’t even love ourselves. If you have something about your body that you don’t like (and don’t we all), ask Jesus to help you DO SOMETHING about that. Ask Jesus for the courage to deal with the truth. Do NOT punish the one GOD gave you because you refuse to DEAL with your crud. Sex is a gift. Use it.
We all MUST learn to deal with our crud. The nasty, gritty, uncomfortable, ‘I don’t want to look at that again’ crud that we believe will take us out completely if we have to deal and feel that again. But just look at Robyn. Once she admitted that she had crud and then began to deal with it truthfully, Jesus opened up her heart and broke down walls so that true healing and freedom could begin.
Nothing can change until we admit it, confess it and then DEAL with it!