Out of Control

Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done. ~ Luke 22:42

Betty and Nodie were pillars of faith in our church year after year. When I walked through the front doors of our sanctuary on Sunday morning, Betty always sat in the last pew on the right, and Nodie sat alongside her in his electric wheelchair. “Hey,” Nodie would say as he reached out to shake my hand. “Hey,” I would reply. Betty was a tad more formal. Heaven’s light would shine from her visage, and she would say, “Good morning, Craig.” “Good morning, Betty.”

I marveled at how Betty, in her mid-eighties and probably well under one-hundred pounds, would transfer Nodie, well over two-hundred pounds, from the front car seat to his electric wheelchair. I’d ask Betty, “Do you need some help?” “No, I’m alright,” she’d say. Samson had nothing on Betty.

I would visit Nodie and Betty at their old ranch house where the walls held over a century’s worth of life stories. In his prime, Nodie was the quintessential picture of the American cowboy—strong, handsome, and hard working. As age crept up on him and his back gave away, Nodie leaned on Betty more and more. The two of them learned to work in tandem with one another over the years in small acts of selfless love.

Before I left Betty and Nodie’s home, I would offer a prayer. Nodie’s health was declining, and his pain was increasing. “What would you like me to pray for?” I would ask. Betty would say, “Just pray that we can accept what is and trust God. Pray that we can accept God’s will and pray for our peace.”

“What does that mean Betty? How do we know God’s will?” I asked. “I don’t need to know,” Betty said. “I just trust what happens because I’m not in control of life.”

How much control do we have over our lives? How much control do we have over our children? Our parents? Our jobs? Our peace and our joy? We pray, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Betty kept a clean house, but she was not obsessed with it. Everything had a place, and she would hide her kids’ Christmas presents and sometimes forget where she hid them. Her garden was impeccable, amazing. When Betty was passing on and could not plant her garden, she made sure that Gwen and her friends planted it for her. Betty supervised. She controlled some things.

“Betty, how do you decide what you can control and what you can’t control?” I asked her. “Oh, I pray a lot.” “And what does God say to you?”

“When I was in my late twenties, Craig, my older sister Mary got deathly sick. I started praying for her. I put her on our church’s prayer chain. Mary got sicker. I called everyone I knew and asked them to pray for Mary’s recovery. I was praying all day long. I was a wreck. I thought I wasn’t doing enough. I called all the churches in town and put Mary on their prayer chains. I thought, ‘If we just pray enough, God will perform a miracle.’”

“I was making myself sick. I was worried and full of fear. I thought Mary’s life was in my hands.”

Father Richard Rohr writes, “To be in control of one’s destiny, health, career, or finances seems to be an unquestionable cultural value. On a practical level it may be partially true, but not on the bigger level. Our bodies, our souls, and especially our failures, teach us this as we get older. We are clearly not in control.”

“So, what happened Betty?” “I was frazzled and exhausted. I was a wreck, Craig. I couldn’t keep up the prayers, so I changed my prayers.”  “What was your new prayer?”  Betty said, “I prayed, ‘Not my will be done but your will be done God.’”

“And what happened Betty?” “A deep peace just came over me. I can’t explain it. I felt a beautiful peace, and I knew it was God. I was free to love my sister.”

Ronald Rolheiser says, “The entire gospels can be put into one word: Surrender. Emotionally and psychologically the deepest imperative inside of us is simply: Surrender. We need to surrender, to trust, to let ourselves fall into stronger and safer hands than our own. This is a journey that takes a lifetime.”

“Thank you, Betty,” I said. “And what happened with your sister?” “She died, and it was so hard, but I had peace.” “Was that God’s will Betty?” Betty’s voice got firm. “Craig, we don’t need to know or understand everything. We just need to trust.”

“Surrendering to the divine Flow is not about giving up, giving in, or being irresponsible. Surrender is about a peaceful inner opening that keeps the conduit of living water flowing,” says Rohr.

Betty’s prayer evolved over the years. Her daughter Gwen shared her mom’s latest prayer with me. “Lord, help me to remember that nothing can happen to me (us) today that you and I together can’t handle.” Gwen told me that her mom crossed out the “me” and replaced it with “us.”

May we let go and let God, and may we trust the divine flow moving through our complex lives and world. May we have an inner peace that surpasses our understanding. Amen.

Blessings and peace,


Posted in Meditations.