The Things I Cannot Change…

Advent CandlesGod, 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 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.
AMEN

–Reinhold Niebuhr

I love written prayers.  They often provide me words when I can’t find them for myself.  But I will also admit, sometimes they make me cringe inwardly because they make me face my truths.  You know, the things you don’t like to own about yourself?  The things that mean you aren’t perfect.  Before you know it, that one line just pops out of your mouth and you think to yourself, “Did I just ask God to help me with that?”  And then you wonder if you can take it back?  Not you?  Maybe I’m just projecting.  🙂

The first time I read the Serenity Prayer, the line “to accept the things I cannot change” was out of my mouth before I knew it was happening.  And honestly, I was annoyed and a little undone.  Why would anyone write a prayer asking God to help us accept the things we cannot change?  Seriously?  I don’t even like thinking about the things I cannot change.  Do you?  And accept them?  ARGH!  The thought makes me shudder.

As a parent, we’ve spent most of our time loving, nurturing, teaching, molding and shaping our children.  Praying over them, trusting the Lord will guide them, protect them, fill them, use them.  Playing with them so they know how to interact with others.  Training them to live safely in our society.  Helping them find ways to grow, explore, mature and stretch themselves to find purpose and satisfaction in life.

And then… there are the things you, I mean, I cannot change.  Sometimes as children become adults they make decisions that don’t go well.  Sometimes they face heartaches we cannot change.  Sometimes they have burdens that we cannot lift.  Sometimes they have hurts and illnesses that our kisses will not heal.  Sometimes they stray far from the things we’ve taught them.  Sometimes there is a brokenness in their hearts that only God can change.  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things ‘I’ cannot change.”

The prayer does not say that God cannot change it.  So herein lies another challenge for us, I mean, me.  We have to accept there are things we cannot change, but our God can.  That means we have to let God have it, place those “unchangeable” things on the altar of God and allow Him to work His wondrous love, healing and restoration.  His time, his way, Him… all Him.

Am I the only one who lays things on the altar of God only to pick them back up and try to fix them again and again… and again?  Why is this so hard??  Is it because we don’t trust God enough?  We trust ourselves too much, because we think we are able?  Do we believe we just have to be busy?  Do we struggle to quiet our hearts and spirits instead of allowing God’s peace to quiet us?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7

God, grant me the Serenity
to accept the things I cannot change…

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…

May we all be like the boy’s Father in the Bible who cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24

Love, Cindy and John