The Wisdom to Know the Difference - Katieby Miracle Chasers on 04/19/20
Most of us know the Serenity Prayer, perpetually popular after being adopted by AA some 75 years ago. First penned one New England summer in the middle years of WWII by Reinhold Neibuhr, his words express both helplessness at the world's predicament, and hopefulness at the same time. He had faith in our ability to find our way "home" in spite of what we are up against. Neibuhr was a close friend of both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Paul Tillich, all three Christian theologians and Germans, fiercely opposed to Nazism from the beginning, each with different answers to the inherent question of how do we know what we can change or control that the original prayer contemplates:
God give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Coronavirus has given all of us the experience of the sometimes hard reality of having to accept feeling out of control. Confronting isolation, scavenging for groceries and necessities, scrambling to find the supplies to make our own masks are experiences not from a world most of us recognize. Worries compound about loved ones and friends on the front lines, or whose jobs have been lost. Disappointments pile up as weddings and graduations are cancelled, places of worship are shuttered, and even a walk in the park, especially on a beautiful spring day, becomes hazardous to your health. My own situation includes a growing desperation to get home to NYC after being waylaid in Denver for a medical emergency.
Aside from the fact that none of us is ever really in control, we have the distinct advantage right now to find the courage to focus on what we do have, not what we don't, to see that glass as half full, to take advantage of extra time, and unique ways to connect. To survive well, we need to take a deep breath each morning, find more resilience than we thought we had, and muster up some initiative to be worthy of living the gift of today. Maybe we can even get reacquainted with ourselves and what makes our own heart beat, allowing us to reset the rhythm of our lives going forward. The answer to what we can control, how we face adversity, and what we are able to change is different for each of us.
Having safely emigrated to the U.S., lives at risk as members of the resistance, Paul Tillich tried to affect change from afar in 112 secret addresses to Germans over the course of the war, broadcast through Voice of America. Dietrich Bonhoeffer felt he had to go back to Germany and continue his resistance from there. He was executed in April, 1945 for his role in an assassination attempt on Hitler. With the survival of civilization at stake, their stories should give us both perspective and inspiration. We still have so many freedoms to create, to appreciate, to be. Practicing serenity, discovering courage, cultivating a bit of wisdom along the way, I've found it's one way to find your home away from home.