Throwing Away the Remote: A Lesson in Courage

Flipping the page on my Alaska Wildlife calendar to a new month I’m reminded of an encroaching anniversary. 

I’ve lost track of how many years passed since my home break-in but even without a calendar on the wall I internally sense its date.  My first clue?  Something in my spirit hungers for more control.  From serving eight years as a volunteer for women’s crisis centers I learned that need to control is a common denominator among survivors of violence.  Not surprising when you consider that during the commission of many violent episodes/crimes, victims are generally at the mercy of the perpetrator. 

During my home break-in, I didn’t know for hours if I would live or die.  Wickedness taking the form of a human held me prisoner at gunpoint, my only recourse to endure his abuse or perish.  In those dark hours, control stripped from me, helplessness assailed me.  Even for weeks following I was not in control.  Fear gripped me, preventing me from living my life.  Every noise startled me.  I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep without nightmares, couldn’t step outside the shelter of a friend’s home without trembling, couldn’t look people in the eye without crying, couldn’t watch tv newscasts without feeling sick.  Aftermath of violence rendered me helplesss in nearly every aspect of life.

A lie took root:  Absence of Control equals Helplessness.   The remedy appeared obvious.  The more I control my world the less helplessness I experience.   In a misdirected attempt to avoid soul agony of helplessness & vulnerability, I convinced myself I must always be in control.  Some control proved helpful like planning where I ventured out to and for how long, making sure to return home before dark.  Other decisions seem random.  I controlled the length of my hair, lopping it boy short for the first time in my life.  I wore unattractive colors & frumpy clothing.  I isolated myself from everyone, including friends.  Many nights when insomnia owned me, I took refuge in television, not for my viewing pleasure but mechanically pressing a remote control every few minutes for hours until I drifted off exhausted.  It seems so ridiculous now but at the time, I felt powerful with control literally at my fingertips.

Problem is my controlling spiraled out of control, ruining relationships, isolating me from people who love me.  Control cost opportunities, rendered me a slave to lists and self-imposed rules of how life must be structured for my protection.   Need to control narrowed my world, prohibiting me from venturing too far beyond the familiar and manageable.  It chained me to routines, limited my circle of support, prevented me from trusting, robbed me of freedom, cheated me of JOY in living and loving.  Ultimately, control consumed me.

What I needed wasn’t control but courage.  Friends told me how brave I was for living through a violent attack.  There’s nothing courageous about being a victim. Courage can only be found in choosing to move from victim to survivor, choosing to FULLY LIVE as a Survivor.  Control is the antithesis of courage.  Despite my best efforts to appear brave, I realized bravery cannot emerge as long as I control everything because control roots and thrives in fear. 

As long as I knew exact outcomes, hid behind routines, averted vulnerability by limiting my friendships, as long as I buried my heart and surfed through meaningless relationships like channel surfing with a remote control, true courage evaded me.  I was, in fact, cowardly hiding behind a thin veil of false bravado destined to unravel in ugly ways.

True bravery emanates from staring down our fears, especially the fear of losing control.  Courage emerges when everything in me shouts “RUN! HIDE!” but I chose not to, when outcomes are shaky & threatening and I risk anyway, moving forward even in uncertainty but with resolve to conquer.  “Courage”, as my dear friend Marshele Carter Waddell puts it, “is running up to the dark and taking one more step.” 

The truth is, the more I tried to control the more I became controlled.  If I honestly believed in the Sovereignty of God, I had to surrender control to Him.  Surely the God who numbers the hairs on my head and watches over lowly sparrows cares about my struggles, right? {Matthew 10:29-30}  But surrender seemed like giving up, admitting defeat, weakness.  I fought until I nearly destroyed myself.  The longer I avoided raising the white flag, the deeper fears bored into my soul and the emptier I became.  No 12-step program delivered me, no magic formula to follow…just a simple prayer of relinquishment, a commitment to reach out to others for love & support and a long journey of intentionality to trust my Creator with details of my life every moment, every breath, every heartbeat.

As I glance again at the calendar on my wall I commit the date August 3rd to the Lord.  I won’t be controlled by fears in this season.  My heart beats a little faster when I think of that night but I recognize fear sooner when it attempts to slip through cracks of my brokenness.   I’m quicker to declare I will not let fear rule, not let it constrain me anew to channel-surfing-type control.  Instead I choose to throw away the remote.  I risk more.  I forgive quicker.  I laugh louder.  I love deeper.  I live freer… I live courageously

{A woman’s magazine invited me to contribute an article about my recovery from violent crime.  I submitted this & it’s now under review by the editor.  I’ll let my readers know if it they accept for publication.  At the risk of sounding self-serving, it probably wouldn’t hurt to get a lot of clicks on this link so please FEEL FREE to share.  Thanks!}

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11 responses to “Throwing Away the Remote: A Lesson in Courage

  1. You have come so far, my sweet friend! I admire your courage. Courage to write this article for all the world to see; courage to support 2 sons as a single mother; courage to love, and so much more. YOU ARE A VICTOR! NO LONGER A VICTIM!

  2. How do you do that? How do you spill your heart so freely and let us peer into your pain? I feel like a voyuer in a way but also really grateful to step into your survival and cheer your courage. You are amazing.

  3. “but I recognize fear sooner when it attempts to slip through cracks of my brokenness.” Wonderful Di, it reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s words “For me to live is Christ.”

  4. Courtney good questions. I have a question for Di too. How do you keep from hating the man who did that to you? I was abducted from a parking lot many years ago & sexually assaulted for days then left for dead. I’m still afraid to go out alone after dark. They never found the guy but still I lay awake sometimes at night thinking about what I would do to him if they did.

  5. Yes Di, I”m with Beverly W. How has God our Father reconciled your understanding of His past with you, to the present, for the future in Christ Jesus our Lord?
    I remember reading a quote by George MacDonald years ago who stated “A beast doesn’t know its a beast and the more a man becomes a beast the less he knows it.” Certainly Saul must have fit in that category as he ordered our/his brethren killed before the road to Damascus (along with the twisted and enslaved soul that violated your person to the grief crucified in his being as with Cain).
    I salute your resume as application to serve the Living, Almighty and Ever Present Father/God. May He continue to express His great Love for you and you His, in your great desire – the face of Jesus Christ.

  6. Dear Beverly W. I want to thank you for your question to Di because it caused me to be able to grasp the answer to a question that I have had for many a years.
    Simple as it is, I have had a solid problem in understanding how one can love the sinner and hate the sin. The answer I realize now, the True answer, the Only answer is, “AT GREAT COST”.
    This has been a great dawning in my existence as I have been brought to the realization that there is that separation in me also by the work of Grace, through obedience by and to the word of God who is Love. Bless the author and finisher of our faith for He will complete what He started.
    Seriously Beverly, thank you for being you.

  7. Thank you for sharing your journey. No matter what has abused us in life, this testimony embodies a path toward living more fully afterward. I look forward to sharing this with many others.

  8. I’M SETTING HERE WITH TEARS RUNNING DOWN MY FACE. I REMEMBER THE TIME ALL TOO WELL. THE HELPLESSNESS I FELT TO YOUR PAIN. I’VE ALWAYS FELT THAT SOMEDAY GOD WOULD LET YOU LET THIS GO . WE CAN OFTEN FORGIVE BUT THAT DON’T MEAN WE HAVE TO FORGET. YOU ARE SO BRAVE MY LITTLE ONE. . I LOVE YOU AND PRAY FOR YOU EVERY DAY. MOM

  9. You are an amazingly courageous woman and a true inspiration to all of us who need to overcome being a victim. I appreciate your honesty and openness.

  10. @Courtney & Richard, people are going to think I pay you to feed me ideas to write about. Your questions are so good I’m going to respond in a future post. Thank you both. I appreciate you.

    @Courtney, Beverly, Betti, Jennie or anyone else reading who might need to talk further, please feel free to email me or FB me. Bless you.

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