HomePoetryI Must Release Control

I Must Release Control

open hands evoking trust

I must release control.

These four words are some of the most challenging words for me to consider. Control is, after all, what has always kept me sane. I know that if I control my diet and exercise plan, my body feels better, and my mind is clearer. I know that if I control my wake-up time (two hours before my children), I will treat my boys’ morning antics with far more grace. I know that if I can control the steady completion of my weekly checklist, our house is more peaceful overall.

I like…OK…I maybe even love control. It makes me feel like I have a say in what happens in my life.

But what about when, despite my best efforts, I cannot control the outcome after all? What do I hold onto then?

Almost a year ago, I was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease, a disease in which my body decided to take control out of my hands and essentially wage war on itself for no reason. I couldn’t have stopped it from happening. No amount of eating better, working out more, waking up earlier, or making better lists could have changed the outcome. I was forced to release control, whether I liked it or not.

This is my story, but I know that many others have similar ones in which “I must release control” became more than just a good mental practice. Perhaps it’s a diagnosis of cancer, a sudden death of a loved one, or unforeseen violence that hits a little too close to home. Whatever it is, each of us has a moment when we can no longer resist the demand of those four words.

We must release control.

Why do we wait until those moments happen to do so? Why are we not willing to release control until it is all but demanded of us? What do we fear? I think I was always afraid of what, if anything, would remain when I did release control.

A few weeks ago, I wrote the following poem as I was wrestling with a random bad day in my Addison’s journey. It’s about not only the demand of those four simple words but the larger demand God has for us: to trust in what remains.

There is a part of me
that my body one day
just attacked.

It was a powerful ally,
and then…
     it wasn’t.

There is a part of me
that my body one day
just rejected.

It was intimately connected,
and then…
     it wasn’t.

There is a part of me
that now wonders constantly
about belonging.

It was something innate,
and then…
     it wasn’t.

So, what do I do, Lord, 
while my own body 
plays a game, 
deciding what belongs in me 
and what does not?

There is a part of me
that knows Your answer
quite deeply.

I must release control
of what is temporary 
in this body and in this life 
and hold on a bit tighter 
to what remains. 

I am Yours
and You are mine, 
and that…
     always will be.
Gretchen Crowder
Gretchen Crowderhttps://gretchencrowder.com/
Gretchen Crowder has served as a campus minister and Ignatian educator for the Jesuit Dallas community for the last 15 years. She is also a freelance writer and speaker and is the host of Loved As You Are: An Ignatian Podcast. She has a B.S. in mathematics and a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. She resides in Dallas, TX, with her husband, three boys, and an ever-growing number of pets.


  1. Gretchen: I found this article quite by accident. As a child I suffered abandonment, physical and sexual abuse. I had no control then. As an older adult I try to control most things in my life. Your story has started me on a pathway to healing and peace. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  2. Gretchen,

    Prayers for your healing.

    I love your poem.
    The essence of control:

    Communion with our Creator

    As you say so beautifully.

    Let the healing
    of the new you begin
    deep from within.

    (P.S. My diabetes has been my sherpa to the new “me.” Joy is still ever-present. The life-journey is different but still beautiful.)

  3. Gretchen, thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful poem. It touched my heart and I can imagine how our loving God was touched and moved by your words. I’ll remember you when I complain about pain or some disappointment. It will remind me to bring all to God, the good bits of my day as well as the hard bits. Stay strong. You’re an inspiration.

  4. Gretchen, I will include you in my prayers. I’m 85 years old, and have been learning to give up control over the past two years. It’s not easy at any age, and I doubt I could have done it gracefully earlier in my life. I struggle with it now. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  5. Gretchen – your writings are ALWAYS so insightful and full of grace. All schools would love to have one so capable as you to lead their campus ministry program. Your boys are in such great hands. Keeping you and your family in my prayers. God bless you and the many lives you touch with your amazing gifts.

    • Dale, That is gentler than “I must”, which has an edge to it. All or nothing thinking, which is not good for us. It’s so trite, but “what you resist, persists” comes to mind.


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