During my first year of teaching, 1998, I took a graduate class for teacher recertification. We were given a schedule the Alcoholics Anonymous classes in our area, and were told we would need to attend a session, pretending we were there because either we or a family member was an alcoholic. (No, I didn't think that was right either, but...) I recall being really nervous about this. If someone I knew saw me there, that would not be good for a first-year teacher! I parked and accidentally made eye-contact with the man in the next car. He was a coach and taught social studies at my school. OMG! Inside, we all sat in a circle, introduced ourselves and the leader helped us to engage in the night's discussion. After about an hour he closed us out with a prayer and the group departed. In the parking lot, the man I recognized from school caught up to me and said, "You're in that grad class with me, aren't you?"
I looked at him like a deer in headlights. He repeated the question.
"Oh yes! Yes! You are, too?" I asked. I felt like a fool! He was there for the same reason I was there--because we had to write an essay.
Besides that funny moment, the thing that still stands out to me about that experience is the prayer you see above.
How often in life, do we stress over things we cannot change? We lose sleep over situations that are beyond our control. We keep replaying scenarios in our heads from the past. Once thing is for certain, the past cannot be altered. Serenity is a state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. Is this not the very heart of our faith? We must realize that worry changes nothing. Matthew 6:26 Jesus, asks, "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" He goes on in Matthew 6:33 to say, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." If we don't stop and take a conscious look at our thoughts, we can cause ourselves undo stress. There are some things we must just accept and move on.
It is also important that we ask God to give us the courage to change the things that are within our power to change. We can change our attitude. We can change our health--to some extent. We can change our income. We can change our friends. We cannot change other people. God can do a work in their lives, that may produce change, but we cannot change other people. I have a tendency to stress over the numbers on the scale--they are always greater than I would like for them to be. It is within my power to change these numbers, but I lack the courage to say no to the foods I enjoy. I cannot change what I ate yesterday, but I can change what I eat tomorrow.
The final idea presented in the Serenity prayer, is also very important--the wisdom to know the difference. Hopefully, this blog post has brought something to your mind that you may be stressing over that is beyond your control. If we have faith in Jesus, remember he said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Jesus wants us to have life to the full. He wants to give us a life of serenity. We cannot have that life if we are plagued with thoughts about things we cannot change, or if we lack the courage to change the things we can change. We also must have the presence of mind to know the difference between the two.
SInce then, I have found that there is another verse to the Serenity Prayer. The entire prayer, by Reinhold Neibuhr, is below.
The Serenity Prayer
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.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
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Blessing to you!
If you like this style of writing, you will enjoy Turn North: A 30-Day Devotional and Journal written by the author of this blog.