The Serenity Prayer and Your Beautiful Mind

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.
— The Serenity Prayer


On Saturday mornings, I try to make it to my favorite Al-Anon meeting in town. Today's meeting reminded me of a good movie you see. You leave the theater and know you are going to think about it for a long time. That was this morning. I feel incredibly rich being in a room with such gorgeous people and fellow travelers through life. 

First Reflection: Often, when I pray the Serenity Prayer, it sounds like this: "God, grant me the serenity-.... [oh wait, I've go to do this....fold the laundry, unload the dishwasher, fill my car up with]" My mind and heart are so concerned with making my life happen, checking through my to-do list, so that "I will feel better." Daily, I have that conversation with myself. It goes like this: "I'll feel better when ______________." (I get fully licensed, my husband finishes his exams, we have a baby, we buy a house, summer comes, etc....) Do you have that conversation, too? The "I'll feel better when" promises relief and finality, but it doesn't work. The when in our lives is ever-shifting. 

Second Reflection: The Serenity Prayer brings up this aspect of control. Controlling spaces. Controlling others. "...the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..." I love control. It brings and promises me comfort. Growing up in the midst of alcoholism, I have learned that my physical environment intersects with my experience of feeling in control. Cleanliness, minimalism, and order-it promises so much. The physical scene of my space inside the home mirrors my hope and longing for my heart and mind to be the same way-clean, minimal, and in order. Yet the human heart is anything but that. Often, my heart is a mess. It is turbulent, always loving something, always in flux. While I love beautiful, clean spaces, (and that is a good thing), they never stay clean for long. There is always something else to be done. Even this morning, I spilled my coffee on the counter. So, I will never arrive at perfection, at least in this life. We sin, we mess up, we confess, we need grace, we receive mercy, and start again. Clean, dirty, clean...

Things we are powerless over: the weather, aging, children growing up, what people do, how our family acts, fashion, technology, traffic, disease. What else? You tell me. 

My mom often told me growing up: "We are powerless over people, places, and things." It was some Al-Anon slogan, and often, it annoyed me. But she is right. I have control over myself, to a certain degree. I can choose to focus on what is worrying me, what is scaring me, or what I am grateful for. When I change my thoughts, I can change my feelings. And when I change my feelings, I can change my actions.

In the same way I want to focus on "cleaning" or "controlling" my home and physical environment, this aspect of control can show up in my longing to control other people. It's always about the other person and what he or she is doing wrong. Right? If they didn't act this way, then I would be okay. It is wild thinking. We must stop using our beautiful minds as a microscope into the lives of others. Jesus says, "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7). In fact, the person in the mirror (me) is the one who is sick. Jesus tells us that he comes not for the righteous, but for sinners-for those who know they are not well. And I am not well. None of us are well. We can be honest about this part of our hearts. I am finding that it brings relief to be honest.

My step-father, John, often says: "Worry about yourself." He does not mean this phrase in a manner of self-absorption. He means for the words to liberate-to remind us where we end and other people begin-to free us from the compulsion to believe that our happiness exists within another's hand. I am responsible for myself and no one else. Here's one more voice saying the same thing: Dr. Bill Barnes. He is a retired surgeon in Georgia who works with horses. This is how he describes this nature of our relationship between ourselves and others:

The number one thing that motivates a horse to be with you is peace, and that also is with people. People like to be around people who are settled, who know where they are going, who are directed and have self-confidence, and also, are trying to be a servant to others around them. You’re really working more on yourself more than the horse, and that is a real art.
— Dr. Bill Barnes


Third reflection: Life is about loving and being loved. (The Moral Bucket List by David Brooks). It isn't about how successful your career is, or how much money you bring in. It's about relationship. Be honest. Love people. Do the next right thing. Make your bed. All will be well. God's planning and timing are perfect (and different from what we would like). Don't argue with the wisdom that comes in your gut. You are loved. Spring is coming.




Spring is Coming

Spring is Coming