“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Probably one of the most duplicated, recited, and recognizable pleas. A short, simple prayer. Full of intention and power. In writing the “Serenity Prayer,” author Rev. Reinhold Neibuhr seemed to be seeking calm and peace. Him and I have that in common.
But if you know what the last year of my life has been like, you know it hasn’t been easy. Then again, most things worth having aren’t. I’m willing to pray for my peace. Meditate for my peace. Read for my peace. Write for my peace. Seek help for my peace. Fight for my peace.
With God’s help, I’ve come to love myself more and I’ve found joy in taking count of all the ways He’s blessed me. I revel in every good moment and try to extend grace to myself and others in the not-so-good moments. But I still have good days and bad days. Light, airy moments and dark, heavy moments. The heavy moments lift quicker than they used to. The dark ones pass by faster. For that I’m grateful. In that, I’m reassured. I’m growing. I’m healing.
I’m sure one of the things that slows me down is my idealism. I can finally admit it. I’m an idealist posing as a realist. So, sometimes reality hurts. There’s not enough chanting “it is what it is” in the world when something cuts you deep and affects you profoundly. Thankfully, there’s the “The Serenity Prayer.” In reciting this prayer, we invoke three ideals – faith, grit, and discernment.
In my research, I found out there’s more. Rev. Neibuhr’s work was shortened. After the first verse, he wrote:
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
I’m so glad I came across this “lost” portion. Rev. Neibuhr and I totally see eye-to-eye. When I rejoined my own spiritual journey at the top of the year, I told God I would surrender to Him. Let Him lead. Finally. I’m weary. I’m tired of trying to figure it all out and make it all right on my own. It doesn’t work. It’s gotten me nowhere. So now, faith.
Yet, God made me how He did. He knows it. I’m persistent, stubborn, willful. I’m strong, determined, gritty. I am not a quitter. I WILL make it just so. And when I don’t or can’t find a way, I beat up on myself. I put myself down. I feel like a failure. I rethink and overthink. Every moment. What could I have done differently? I don’t want to be that way with me. But I know it takes more than six months to undo a lifelong bad habit.
I first heard the term “locus of control” when I was a corps member for Teach for America. It’s a psychological concept that refers to how much control we believe we have over the situations and experiences that affect our lives. In education, it tells teachers to do everything in their power to reach every student intellectually, socially, and emotionally. But it also tells us not to get discouraged or stressed by what happens outside of the school building – in the neighborhood, at home. It makes sense. Students aren’t our responsibility then. You have to separate work from life. Have balance. But that’s easier said than done. You don’t stop caring and loving because the dismissal bell rings.
Likewise, I know some things are out of my control. And I know God is in control of everything. But that doesn’t always make it easy. To focus on me. My mindset. My thoughts. My habits. My routines. My words. My actions. And I know sometimes things outside of me will impact me for better or worse. And when it’s worse, it hurts. It’s hard. I don’t like feeling helpless. But I circle back. God is in control. He is my help. And I can only do what I can do. And while I am powerful and can do a lot, a lot isn’t everything. I’m working on accepting that.