It has been some years since I discovered the Serenity Prayer, of which the first four lines are best known and regularly quoted, even by those with no religious adherence. They do so because the prayer strikes a chord with how life is and how we should live it in that light. Recently, I have been thinking about this prayer a lot as I come to terms with the enormity of those things I cannot change, yet mindful of those things I can change and in the few years I have left making the most of the opportunities that present themselves.
I do so as earlier I was reading articles on immigration, climate change, draining the swamp, religious persecution as well as returning yet again to the vexed question of putting to right many of the wrongs in the world, all issues that matter greatly, where I know not enough to declare the right way to address and even if I did few would listen. There have been several significant changes in my own circumstances in recent years that make this prayer personally pertinent, while each day I find fresh ways to answer this prayer. I no longer have a full time, paid job (although I am active as a volunteer in the community); I am no longer in church leadership (although I do preach and teach); my health has deteriorated so I am a lot less capable doing some of the things I did and I am old. Some say I have become more grumpy, which may be true (and I am working on it). Those who read articles like this would likely agree that I am more ready these days to venture an opinion on things I care about but may not be able to do all that much about, and in the process upsetting as many as those I have managed to influence.
Going back to the first four lines of the prayer, which provides sound counsel for anyone who cares to see the desired outcome is to reflect on their own surroundings, along with their own circumstances, challenges and capabilities, I would suggest not only do “we need to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference” but we should be about making the right sort of difference. Besides the need to humbly recognise that lasting, effectual change cannot be achieved without reference to God, from a personal perspective, the best place, rather than to look outwards (usually a good place to begin) is to start looking inwards (as the better place to begin) and upwards as the place from where help will be found in order to make a difference.
Part of our responding rightly to the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself”, as indeed we must, is doing just that.