“I promise, I’m not changing the channel … I just want to hold the remote.”
My then 5-year-old daughter’s eyes were big and her voice was a high-pitched whine as she grabbed for the remote.
As I was thinking about how to sustain hope when circumstances are beyond our control, her words from what was a quickly resolved incident echoed in my head. After all, there is comfort in holding the remote, isn’t there? There is comfort in having a situation under your control. So, what happens when we lose that control and find the TV of our lives switching wildly to content we did not choose and did not approve? What happens when we find ourselves thinking, “How did I even get to this channel? I just want to hold the remote?!”
In these moments, I tend to take one of two paths. The first is similar to my daughter’s death grip on the remote, “I want to hold the remote!”. When situations are completely out of control, I can find myself grasping for control and balance. I might obsess over the small things I can control, like a work project or keeping a space immaculate. At times, this grasping has looked like disordered eating, as the food I consumed was one thing I could control in times when everything else was out of my hands. At those times, this felt something like empowerment in my head. Look at me, I am not a hot mess. I have this one piece figured out and controlled. I can do this all by myself. As you might imagine, this path of control is dangerous, isolating, and leaves a lot of space for the false spirit to reside. If this resonates with you as where you currently find yourself, please reach out for help [additional resources listed in the go deeper section]. You are not alone.
The second path is one of acknowledgement and surrender. “I can’t change the channel.” Frankly, this acknowledgement is often uttered out of resignation and exasperation. But if I can turn to God in that moment, and complete the sentence with – “I can’t change the channel, but God, I know you’re with me.” – then there is a crack of light shining in the chaos. When I look at the times in my life I’ve been able to finish the sentence in this way, I have noticed a few things that helped me do just that. These are three things that helped me loosen my death grip on the remote and let myself be embraced by God in times when I am certainly not in control. At all. Not even a little bit.
- Talk. At times journaling felt like a great way to get all the things out of my head, but I’ve found that writing my thoughts on paper is a first step. I then need to talk them out with someone I trust. Often, multiple people I trust. Speaking with both a therapist and an Ignatian-trained spiritual director has helped me to regain balance in a way that is healthy for me and to sustain hope when life spirals beyond my control.
- Pray. Let’s be honest, this is not a time of pretty, composed prayer. It has looked like me sobbing on my knees, searching for answers as to how this could be my reality. This is praying through the ugly crying and honestly bringing all I am carrying to God, and then pausing to listen and feel God’s love.
- Ask. When all the hard things seemed to be happening at one time, the only thing I could do was ask for others to help carry the load. Small actions like, putting myself on the parish prayer list or saying yes to a friend who volunteered to make a meal train for me, bring tremendous comfort. In my experience, if I can get the courage to ask for what I need, people will show up. The Holy Spirit will put the people in place to point me to hope. Small actions can also embolden bigger actions, like being honest with your struggles and situation, and asking for professional help.
I’m learning how to relinquish control and hold the remote with God. Whatever channel I find my life on, God is with me until the channel changes again.
- To read more about spiritual direction and to find a list of directors, check out our Spiritual Direction Resource Page.
- If you find yourself needing more help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. If you have mental health coverage through your insurance provider or Employee Assistance Program benefits through your employer, that’s a good place to start. You can also reach out to the Catholic Charities office near you as many offer counseling services.
- Pray with the Triple Colloquy. You can find an audio guided version here.
- Consider praying Kathy’s Prayer for My Village.
- Listen to Kate Bowler’s podcast and pray with her final blessing on when we are scared about having to face hard things alone.
- Our team is hiring a Marketing & Communications Manager. Please help us spread the word!
- Join our new community journey through Ignatian discernment starting June 20th! Learn more about our online retreat Overwhelmed No More here.
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