Last year, I forgot my name badge almost every day. I’d walk to my classroom, put my stuff down, and then realize I’d left it in my car. It was like a mental block, so the cold March morning that I remembered to turn back and get it before reaching our school’s outdoor flagpole felt like a victory.
As I approached my vehicle, I noticed two small busses zipping down from an upper lot as if they were racing, and I thought, “What jerks!” I grabbed my badge and watched the first bus, almost 100 yards away, zoom to a side parking lot where busses meet students going to off campus destinations.
The second bus should have followed.
It did not.
A split second later I was literally caught between speeding, oncoming headlights. I threw up my arm, but there was no escape. I was hurled violently to the ground and made myself as small as possible so the bus could drive over me.
I remember laying there thinking my skull would be squished beneath the massive rolling tire and my brains would splatter in a messy, squirty ooze through the parking lot.
To this day, I don’t remember whether the bus actually ran over me and backed up or if it knocked me far enough ahead that I was spared that. I believe I was run over, but trauma can cause confusion and oddly that one scene remains a mystery to me.
As freezing rain defeated sunshine, I lay on the wet, pebbly ground and let out a carnal scream I didn’t know I was capable of. Then a calm came over me. I’d gotten there early and realized the bus driver and I were alone, and I had to get my act together. The driver was panicked, not knowing who to call or what to do. I had to be calm if I wanted to get help. I could barely move and told him he needed to call 911. I watched as he misdialed and then spoke to other people instead. His fingers shook.
He finally reached help and asked what more he could do. I asked him to pray with me. He got up and walked several feet away. I’m hoping he was praying on his own. I lay shivering on the pavement and began mumbling The Lord’s Prayer. I heard him say something about losing his job and promised I would pray he did not. I spent my time in the ambulance praying the Rosary and asking God to watch over this man and his job.
I could not control his driving, the fear, or my pain, but I could control how I responded to it all.
When Life is Out of Control
Last summer, I began redesigning Strahlen Grace Coaching as a platform to help others overcome struggle. I wanted everything to be “perfect” before officially launching, but I never expected the quandary we are in now. I sure didn’t think my first post would be on the anniversary of that cold March day when, by any guess, I should have died in that parking lot. I sure didn’t think I’d have to put my concern about perfecting my website beneath needing to help a world facing sudden, intense economic devastation and its own thoughts of death.
But here we are.
Let’s deal with it.
We live in an age of instant control. Google controls temperature and lighting so we wake in comfort and familiarity. Alexa plays tunes to suit our mood of the moment. Siri quickly answers our dumbest questions. Amazon delivers almost anything almost instantly. GPS tracking prevents us from getting lost.
But now many feel, understandably, lost.
So what do we do when life is suddenly out of our control?
I lay in that parking lot screaming for a full minute. My reaction was primal, animalistic, understandable.
But you can only scream for so long; then you have to inhale.
Many are so concerned about breathing viral madness that they have forgotten to inhale.
Oddly enough, however, this is our time to inhale.
Today we collectively lay on a cold, dark, pavement, pounded by a barrage of freezing rain; only in this case, we sit in our dwellings feeling useless, powerless, alone, whiplashed by a barrage of social media opinions from those who know little more than we do.
The urge to act in primal, animalistic ways is understandable but not beneficial. If you want to get through this well, you need, to put it bluntly, to get your act together, which means embracing calm, executing a plan, and detaching from what you cannot control. Those who have been through intense struggle can help you learn how to do that. We train you to stop acting from fear and initial carnal instinct.
Training begins with your decision. When life seems out of control, you can still control how you respond. That is an important, empowering realization.
We will all emerge from this eventually, and stories of greatness will abound but they are not guaranteed. How you glorify God and emerge from your personal struggle depends on how you choose to respond in your struggle.
There is strength and beauty and peace in and on the other side of struggle that FAR exceeds imagination, but you have to trod through swirling waters to get to that other side. There are no detours, and it doesn’t take 10 pounds of flour or 36 rolls of toilet paper. It takes letting go. It takes commitment, endurance, faith, discipline, and a slew of intangibles that are all available within the four walls of your home.
These intangibles come from putting one foot in front of the other while keeping your eye on your end game. They are virtues you attain when you submit and choose to practice them. Contrary to what hysteria dictates, surrendering the uncontrollable frees you to grasp the valuable, which gives you greater command of your situation.
In every moment, you have the opportunity to choose whether to emit a ceaseless primal scream or to breath, reflect, and release in order to find the beauty and inner strength only your unique struggle reveals, and yes, even though we are in this together, each of us faces individual challenges designed just for us.
Finding Grace & Hope in Times of Uncertainty
I’d be wrong to take credit for being, as a friend said, “a good person” because I prayed for the bus driver. It was not something I did because of goodness in me. It was Grace I didn’t know I had that was only given to me when I needed it most.
That Grace is available to all, especially in the hour of need.
Grace was easily gifted to me because I had already been practicing accepting it. I had already been conditioning myself through a conscious effort to release to the Lord what was beyond my control much like an athlete who comes through in the clutch knows he can do so only because of years of training prior to his final shot.
Most of all though, Grace was gifted to me when I most needed it because God is Merciful and present.
His Grace is available to you too.
And it is most apparent in times of uncertainty and great need.
Which means God’s Grace is present and available to the entire world now more than at almost any time in modern memory.
But Grace, especially in times of crisis, does not happen by chance or because one has a better constitution than another (although that may play into it a bit). It comes through training your heart, mind, body, and soul to go to the Lord through sacrifice and God-allowed hardships rather than run from them and Him. Grace is recognizable when you know the Shepherd’s voice and relinquish the desire to control in order to gain command.
3 Ways to Relinquish a Desire to Control
I’ll post training tips to help you find peace and emerge from this struggle stronger and more beautifully in my next post. For now, here are three simple ways to begin relinquishing your desire to control and find freedom and fearlessness in whatever life throws at you.
- Find quiet and solitude twice a day – Begin your day with Christian meditation. Waking early helps maintain body rhythm and gives you 15-20 minutes of uninterrupted time for silent reflection each morning. Begin by thanking Jesus for all the good and the bad He will allow into your day. Then open your Bible or inspired text, read a small portion, and sit in silence letting the Holy Spirit work the Word into every fiber of your being. Breath it in. Repeat, “Jesus I trust in You.” Find silence and stillness later in the day too. Teach your family to do this as well, but do not sacrifice your own peace to do so.
- Determine what you can control – Things you once controlled have to be set aside temporarily, but you are still powerful. “Choose your battles,” as Grandma would say. You might not control your kids’ fighting, but you can remember that they are stressed and scared. You can plan activities to stave off their next dispute. You may have been laid off and unable to control income, but you can set up a budget to help control spending (I have Dave Ramsey Financial Master Coach certification if you would like help).
- Hide electronics – You cannot control the spread of the virus, the sudden economic downturn, or loss of Constitutionally guaranteed liberties by endlessly checking updates, but you can control how pathways in your brain are impacted by limiting your exposure to information that is changing too rapidly to be useful for most of us. Set specific times to check the news, social media, texts from well-meaning friends and family, etc. Put your devices in another room and on silent unless you are in one of those pre-set times.
Find the Good in All Things
On the year anniversary of my accident, my life has changed forever. I still have back and hip pain. I have nerve damage in my neck causing pain and weird, annoying sensations on my right calf and forearm. I had hoped to do a 5k for Wounded Warriors or Semper Fi Fund or some Veterans’ Group, but doctor’s orders prevent me from doing so.
I still get intense flashbacks. At my most difficult moments, I have felt the impact of the bus hit me like it was actually happening again.
My life has forever changed.
But good has come of it too.
I’ve learned I can rise to challenge, uncertainty, pain, and fear.
I have learned I am capable of things I never would have thought possible.
I have learned I *will* push through.
I can look back and know I was protected by our Savior. After decades of thinking Him silent or even absent and a 10 year long reversion, I feel His presence in a more tangible way now. I can confidently hand Him things others have a burning desire to control.
I understand that the same Love that would not override the free will of the bus driver allowed me to accept the Grace to handle difficult situations.
I know The Lord performed a Miracle because I live and also a Blessing because I have scars reminding me of the Grace we all have when we surrender to our King and train to live as His Warriors in this life so we can be His Saints in the next.
Yes, life forever changes.
The bus accident was one dividing point. A before. An after.
And this too is a dividing point.
Our before was months ago.
We will see our after.
What that after looks like is more in your command than you may now realize. You will not escape unscarred, but you will escape. Whether you choose to escape with Blessings or fear depends on how you train and relinquish control now.
In this time when the entire world is facing massive uncertainty, your desire for control can feel like a death grip. Instead of following carnal instincts or jumping on the bandwagon, this is your time to inhale. This is when you do what you keep telling yourself you’ll do.
This is when you train yourself to let go, trust God, live fearless.
We cannot lasso darkness, but we can reign in fear.