Someone quoted me the Serenity Prayer……twice……on two separate occasions…….in two separate emails…….just a few short weeks after my son was killed in a car accident, and in reference to my need to “accept the things I cannot change”. The first email gave me pause, but I considered this sage, though brutal at the time, bit of advice. I am now, and was then, painfully aware that there is no other path before me save acceptance. Being intentionally reminded of that fact mere weeks after losing my middle son seemed cruel, at best. The second email containing the same advice brought about an irate response that I later regretted and apologized for, though I’m still not sure the advisor understood the full meaning behind my intensely emotional response.
This prayer has appeared before me a few more times since my son’s passing eighteen months ago, and each time I have felt less anger and malice toward the sharer, and more willingness to not only consider, but try to absorb the words. It is still painful, though; still not an acceptable path to me, even knowing I have no other choice. I still cling to the false hope that he will come back to us. I know that is ridiculous, foolish even, but I can’t seem to help myself. I think our whole family feels that way to one degree or another. My husband was working in our yard a few days ago and he heard a motorcycle coming down the road. He told me later that he thought to himself, “I’m not even going to look up. I know it’s not him.” I react similarly every time I see or hear a motorcycle, but I do look. Again, I can’t help myself. I so want it to be him. I don’t actually hope it is anymore; I have a kind of pain-filled nostalgic feeling when I hear one and watch it come down our road, or pass by me on the highway. I think this might indicate progress – painful nostalgia in the place of false hope. There continues to be a deep ache in my heart, though; an empty place memories and pictures cannot fill.
After the first two ill-timed reminders of the Serenity Prayer, then a few more encounters with it in various places – one on the wall of a gas-station restroom in Arizona – I decided to do a little research on it, just to be sure I was understanding its meaning, and to possibly learn some of the history behind it. What I discovered was a much deeper and more meaningful second half to the prayer I’d never seen before. It is more in line with how I believe, yet have faltered in, and at times forgotten, over the past year and a half. Many times, before my son died, I quoted Job 2:10 to myself – “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” This from the man who lost all ten of his children, not to mention his livestock and servants, in one day. On this one horrific day, after the news of his losses was reported to him, the Bible tells us “he fell to the ground and worshipped” saying, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Yet, I cannot be told the Serenity Prayer without having an angry outburst. Of course, I know we do not know all that Job felt or thought that day in his life, but he did the right thing. He fell down and worshipped the God who gave him everything he had, but chose to take it away.
I struggle through everyday, hoping and praying that God will help me to trust Him, like Job trusted Him. The same person who sent me the Serenity Prayer, twice, also sent me a meme with some very encouraging and comforting words on it – “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” I have clung to these words like a life-preserver many, many nights as I cry myself to sleep. This journey through grief reminds me of a phrase I heard an old pastor say several years ago – “sometimes it feels like swimming in peanut butter”. Yes, walking this unexpected path the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, has put me on, time and again feels like swimming in peanut butter.
But, I will try again tomorrow.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Amen. Let it be so in my heart and in my life here on earth, Lord.