Of Snow Plows and Serenity

            I counted a few frustrated Facebook posts early in the week as weather reports confirmed one more snow storm on the way. Faithful church folks colorfully and coarsely told winter what they thought of it. It’s now just three days until Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week and our church looks like a Christmas card.

            On my desk sits a new addition, given to me by the Foglifters, the Alcoholics Anonymous group who meet in our buildings every morning. Last Friday evening I attended their 28th anniversary meeting. I’m always permitted a few moments to speak to the group that fills Fellowship Hall. As I do every year I greet them on behalf of our congregation. I tell those good people that we’re proud of them and support them in their efforts to stay sober and help others do the same. After I made my brief comments, two members gave me a gift bag. In it I found a plaque with the words of the Serenity Prayer, the full version.

 

GOD, grant me the serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change, 

Courage to change the
things I can, and the
wisdom to know the difference. 

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship 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

            This prayer is attributed to the pastor and theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, who first wrote the prayer for a sermon at Heath Evangelical Union Church in Heath, Massachusetts, used it widely in sermons as early as 1934 and first published it in 1951 in a magazine column. The prayer spread both through Niebuhr's sermons and church groups in the 1930s and 1940s and was later adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other Twelve-Step programs. My friends in recovery frequently pray the first two lines of the prayer, often many times each day.

            If you consider the prayer you might wonder why addicts are drawn to it. Isn’t the more pressing need to ask that God would help the alcoholic not pick up a drink? Maybe, but those who have been sober for years have come to understand that one of the main diabolical forces pushing them to drink are unreasonable demands they place or allow others to place on their shoulders. The essence of the Serenity Prayer, particularly the full version, is humbly accepting what one finds in life. You don’t have to like it or love  it, but you do have to accept it. You won’t find peace—not in a snow storm, not in the transitions we’re facing together, and not even on a perfect spring day—without trusting, confident, and faith-filled acceptance.