Setting Up My Year in Christ – Noticing Control and Responding in Surrender

February 5, 2023

I’ve always loved new beginnings: the blank slates they offer to me, the invitations to reflect on where I’ve come from and where I hope my path will take me next, the chances to express gratitude for what has shaped me and let go of what has weighed me down. Of course, at times, the excitement I feel with a fresh start coexists with varying levels of nervousness, apprehension, or even fear about the unknowns, but generally, I like getting to begin again, to see with new eyes, to cultivate a new perspective for how I look at my life and world. Starting 2023 is no different.

Late last year, my spouse and I welcomed our third child to our family. As we dream of who he might become while also witnessing his two older brothers’ constant growth and evolution, we’ve been having a lot of conversations about the role of control–or, rather, the lack thereof–in our parenting journey. Four and a half years into this blessed, beautiful, and trying thing called parenting, I feel like I still experience at least one daily internal conflict between thinking I can make my children act in a particular way or do something I think they should (health and safety considerations aside), and letting go of that so as to let them become, little by little, the fullest manifestations of who God created them to be. Being a parent continues to humble me and show me that I am a steward, not the designer, of these amazing little humans God has entrusted to my spouse and me. Not only do they have their own minds, wants, and passions, but so, too, does God have those things for them, far greater than I could ever imagine.

It’s hard to undo ingrained ways of thinking and being. Aware of the privileges and opportunities I’ve had throughout my life, largely due to my identities and the family and socioeconomic status into which I was born, I’ve lived most of my life with the illusion that, with some mix of carefully-discerned decisions, hard work, and enough determination, I can make things turn out as I’d like. But parenting (among other more recent parts of my life, like serving as a hospital chaplain) has undone that certainty and revealed to me how little power and control I actually have–not in a disempowering way, but rather in a way that opens a greater fullness of life to me. I fight this truth all the time, yet God keeps showing me in ways big and small that it’s God at the helm, not me. God’s currents are stronger than the metaphorical rudder on the sailboat of my life; I can choose to go with the flow or exhaust myself trying to resist.

This year, I feel more deeply than ever that I’m being drawn into a place of letting go and surrendering to God at work in the world and in my little corner of it. Yes, indeed, it is hard for me–and, I imagine, for many of you reading this–to relinquish control. It’s scary. It’s uncertain. Yet it’s also humbling in that it has the potential to root me deeper in my relationship with God and my reliance on God’s love and steadfastness. I’ve often turned to St. Ignatius’s Suscipe prayer in times of discernment and decision making, but his words are so very apt as I think about noticing and responding to this surrender.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

As this year begins, I feel deeply God’s invitation to examine my life in light of the theme of control and consider where I am being called to surrender to God’s love, mercy, and call. I’m being invited to notice when my very human desire and need for control overshadow my awareness of God’s presence and beckoning. Whether it’s something similar that speaks to you or something altogether different, I encourage you to take some time to consider what God is inviting you to notice and how you might answer. How can you be more aware of and responsive to God’s call? When the end of the year comes around and it’s time for another new beginning, may you sense deeply the fruits of this noticing and carry those into your next chapter.

Going Deeper

  • Read and reflect on Matthew 14:22-36, where Jesus invites Peter to walk on water and then calms the wind. Where has your trust in God faltered, and what was it that helped to restore that trust?
  • Spend some time with St. Ignatius’s words in the Suscipe prayer, found here, or listen to a musical adaptation by the St. Louis Jesuits.
  • Use this audio rendition of the Suscipe prayer, read by Into the Deep contributor Vinita Hampton Wright, in your own prayer.
  • Consider Thomas Merton’s words in the prayer below and how they invite you to deeper surrender and trust through the various experiences of your life.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

Kristen has been deeply shaped by Ignatian spirituality during her time as an undergrad at St. Louis University, a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize City, and a graduate student at the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago. She has worked in Catholic parish ministry, community organizing, spiritual direction, volunteer support and formation with Jesuits Volunteer Corps, and ministry with people with developmental/intellectual disabilities. She spent her most recent professional chapter as a pediatric hospital chaplain and now works in chaplain research. Kristen is passionate about accompanying others through the highs and lows of their lives and spiritual journeys and about joining with others to co-create a Church and world with greater justice, equity, and inclusion for all. She lives in Chicago with her spouse Patrick and their three young sons.

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