I can’t begin to convey how many times a day these words run through my sometimes way over-active mind, like oars in a rapidly running river, pushing away the water and propelling me forward as gracefully as possible. In some instances, the tide threatens to capsize me and yet, when I recite them, a sense of calm descends, like a warm, comfy blanket wrapped around my sometimes shivering shoulders.
They were attributed to theologian Reinhold Niehbuhr. Here is the text that was used in a sermon he offered in 1943.
God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the thingswhich should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
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.
The first portion of the prayer is used in 12 step recovery programs such as AA and NA (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous) as a way of reminding folks that they need not go it alone. As an addictions counselor having been in the recovery field for 30 some years, I have seen the power of these simple words to guide and comfort. As someone who has been in recovery from co-dependent, caregiving, ‘savior behavior’, for umpteen years myself, I carry a coin in my wallet that I received in a CODA (Co-dependents Anonymous) meeting 15 or so years ago, that has a butterfly on one side (how appropriate for me since it is my totem animal guide, a metaphor for transformation and the image in which my mother assured me she would embody when she would visit after her passing in 2010) and the Serenity Prayer on the other. When I reach into the coin purse, I can feel it as talisman that grounds me.
What does serenity mean to you? To me it means a feeling of calm in the midst of the storm, a certainty that “And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well,” as was so eloquently express by 14th century Christian mystic Julian of Norwich. A turning point in her life was when, in the throes of illness, she had a vision of Jesus and in the aftermath, many years later, wrote a book entitled Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love.
For this solution finder, the next portion of the prayer is a bit trickier since I don’t like the idea of not being able to snap my fingers, wave my magic wand and sprinkle faerie dust on a problem, kiss it and make it better. Acceptance is that Nestea Plunge that I take daily, easing back into the metaphorical arms of God, trusting that I will be safely caught and cradled.
Wisdom, hmmmmm…to know the difference between what I can change and what I can’t doesn’t mean giving up or quitting. It still requires giving a situation my best each time. It takes discernment, sometimes on the fly, if I don’t have much more than a brief pause to contemplate options.
What I have learned is that it, like anything else I desire to master, is a moment to moment practice.
Wishing you serenity~
http://youtu.be/Wonpb0NSu3M Jack’s Bielan’s “Serenity (The Serenity Prayer Song)”, featuring Robbyn Kirmsse’