God Grant Me Serenity
There's a sacred prayer that I've prayed more than a few times that isn't found in the Bible. In fact, it's a prayer that is prayed every day by millions of people worldwide-- even people who aren't particularly religious.
Chances are, you probably know this prayer or are at least familiar with it, and maybe you have even prayed it once or twice at least on your own.
Got your attention? I hope so.
The prayer that I'm talking about is the Serenity Prayer, which is prayed at the end of every Alcoholics Anonymous, and Al-Anon meeting, everywhere. If you aren't familiar with the words, here they are:
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.
Even though this prayer can't be found in the Bible (or any other religious text for that matter), the foundation of its meaning certainly can be found there---particularly in the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus taught his followers to live an examined and mindful life, full of the kind of hope that comes from fully relying on God, loving others, and tending to one's own spiritual life through reflection, study, community, and service.
He embodied the kind of life that God would have us all live, free from unhealthy attachments, honest and loving in his interactions with others, forgiving of those who wounded and betrayed him, and imbued with the kind of peace that comes only through surrender.
But it's not easy to live into the truth of the Serenity Prayer, and it's definitely not easy to follow Jesus' example. Most of us struggle with both, truth be told. In fact, most people who say that they are followers of Jesus, don't really adhere all that well to the example he set.
I know that I struggle and stumble after Jesus the best I can, and more often than not I fall short. I've learned that this, too, allows me to practice Jesus' teachings on myself because I'm my own worst critic, my worst accuser.
What I need from myself more than anything at any given moment is forgiveness, grace, and love, but what I tend to offer to myself is something less life-giving.
This is why the Serenity Prayer is such an important part of my life now. I need to be reminded of what following Jesus means when it comes to my own self-care and how I speak to myself about myself.
I found an amazing poem by Wendell Berry the other day that spoke into this for me so perfectly, and I had to write down this stanza:
When I rise up
let me be joyful
like a bird.
When I fall let me fall without regret
like a leaf.
Serenity is being able to maintain your inner peace whether you are rising or falling. It's the ability to realize most things are out of your control, and to smile at that thought without a hint of cynicism.
The Apostle Paul once wrote that he always tried to "be content" no matter his circumstances. He endured incredible hardship and somehow maintained his serenity, even when those hardships were life-threatening.
He even wrote that he didn't fear anything that anyone could do to him, because of the inner peace he had through his belief in the universal pattern of resurrection that was embodied by Jesus.
Everything rises. Everything falls. Everything rises again.
May you find serenity today and every day as you learn more fully what it means to accept what you cannot change, rejoice in the rising, have peace in the falling, and know that through all of it, you are held, and loved by God.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.