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.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time,
accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as (Christ) did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.
Trusting that (Christ) will make all things right,
if I surrender to (Christ’s) will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this world,
and supremely happy with (Christ) forever in the next. Amen.
~ Reinhold Niebuhr
Stepping out on any journey, great or small asks of us preparation and intention. It’s helpful along the way to be mindful of what we carry – and what we no longer need to carry. As I continue on this Lenten path, Carrie Newcomer’s words companion me. From her song, Two Toasts, “To the words and how they live between us, and to us and how we live between the words.” Prayer is that. The words of our prayers and how they live between us, and then our living into and between those praying words. Prayer invites us to pay attention, to open up the doors of our lives that may have been slammed shut (intentionally and unintentionally) and dare to step over their threshold. Prayer invites us to live into the grace that is always holding us.
Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer is etched upon many of our hearts. These words have been spoken at the end of meetings on mornings after mornings and nights after nights - encouraging, reminding, leading members from one place to a recovering place. Words whispered and proclaimed. Words of hope and healing, strength and perseverance. Words that just don’t give up.
Acceptance. A couple weeks ago we began our journey into the wilderness. Now as our lives are literally being turned upside down, this wilderness trek feels much more real. So much is up in the air. Last Saturday feels like ages ago. Words of quarantine and testing and contamination bring fear and stress. For this journey, for this season I/we have the power to choose a different state of mind. If we can begin with Niebuhr’s first words “accept the things I cannot change,” then we might lean into any shifts that come. This path that we now travel is one unexpected, unplanned and perhaps feels unsupported. And yet here we are on this path, you and me. Left foot, right foot. In the midst of our unknowing, we continue on. We continue on in this season of purpose and practice to come closer to the center, closer to God. It is a journey to discover and to begin to trust with a new heart. More than I can remember, this time feels like one of powerlessness and the feeling that I'm in a free-fall. This feels this morning like a time to acknowledge and accept what is coming at us/ what is coming to us instead of using our precious energy attempting to push everything away. If we can accept this journey to be just this journey, who knows what we might experience? Left foot, right foot.
Courage. This trip is not for sissies. These days are not for sissies. We are asked to seek less. We are asked to keep our hearts open for what may change in us and for us. We are asked to continue in and through these next free-falling days, these Lenten days with open hearts as we make our way to Jerusalem. Courage to continue, courage to be generous, courage to accept, courage to receive whatever messages come our way. Left foot, right foot.
Wisdom. There is in us a deep wisdom. There is in us an understanding, a knowing of what we yearn for and what we pray to live into. This wisdom is our compass. This wisdom is guiding us toward what is next. This wisdom is as close as our next breath, as steady as our next heartbeat. Left foot, right foot.
We don’t often hear the second half of the prayer much. Most every time I read it; I’m drawn to a different phrase. Today I’m mindful of being “reasonably happy in this world.“ We are still early in this season of Lent, earlier still in these days of living in a time of COVID -19. We are just beginning. These words of being reasonably happy on this road sounds pretty good to me. Full blown jubilation would be great, sure. Normalcy sounds like paradise. But reasonably happy in this world, sounds to me like a Balm in Gilead. It’s not always dark. It's not always going to be new words to comprehend, not always watching the numbers that rise in the virus and tumble in the markets around us. There are places and spaces for reasonable happiness. Perhaps reasonable happiness can be found in living this moment, this day. Individually and together being mindful, prayerful, hopeful in seeking beyond what is just on up ahead a little bit, just on up over that next hill. Having faith to claim Acceptance, leaning into the strength of Courage, and being guided by the shining light of Wisdom, we speak silently and aloud this prayer as we continue on this path, as we continue to live in and through these days.