A string of difficult events had placed the weight of the world upon my shoulders. No good answers had emerged for easy resolution. Confusion and fear had attached themselves like two, fat leeches, sucking the life out of both body and mind, as yet another sleepless night had rendered nothing new. Pulling covers tightly over my head, in the early hours of morning, a prayer for peace rose from my thoughts.
The first rays of dawn’s light peeked over the horizon, beckoning me away from four walls, into creation’s brand new day. Bare toes plunged into dewy grass, while tranquil songs emerged from cedar boughs of forest-green. My breath caught at the sight of a beautiful eastern bluebird, serenely perched on the barbed wire fence, as golden rays danced on the tall, jeweled grasses beyond. As if transformed from one world into another, I gratefully walked into the realm of Stillness. The purity of the moment lifted the crushing weight from my shoulders, sending it like a feather on the wind. The old garden bench creaked with my weight, as I sat to ponder…
Two moments. Each offering, in stark contrast, its own unique experience of life. The difficult physical circumstance had remained constant between the two moments. The difference between the two, tenuously held by my own wavering perspective. Once again, Stillness had patiently reminded me of the Truth that is contained within each given moment.
Life is riddled with hardship; there is no getting around that fact. No one is immune to difficulty or adversity. In response, we wring our hands while replaying a million scenarios, analyzing every angle, and repeatedly attempting to make necessary changes for a successful outcome. There are many times when our valiant efforts are gratefully met with the sweet victory of what we believe to be an acceptable solution. But sometimes, our greatest efforts fall short and we are left with outcomes that we do not wish to accept, let alone embrace.
Our response to a disappointing outcome can send us down negative pathways, filled with despair, resentment, anger, unrest, or deep sadness. We are able to easily justify the choice to flounder in those dark alleyways of despair by holding on tightly to the past, lamenting events that led to the difficulty, blaming others for their part and blaming ourselves for our own. At times, we may even raise fists toward the heavens, railing at a God who has seemingly failed and betrayed us. Sometimes, we try to find protection from further disappointment by emotionally shutting down, or we may try to hide from the pain by choosing to crawl into the bottomless pit of addiction. Sadly, every one of those pathways only compound the trouble, ushering us into an experience of life that is totally devoid of true resolution or inner peace.
In contrast, we might resign ourselves to quiet acquiescence: “a silent, reluctant acceptance, without protest”. Although the outside appearance of that pathway might suggest otherwise, it is entirely possible to quietly surrender to the dreaded outcomes, without truly finding inner peace. But, what if we could step just beyond quiet acquiescence, into the realm of grateful acceptance?
There is a beautiful, well-known prayer, called, “The Serenity Prayer”, written by the American theologian, Reinhold Neibuhr. Most people are familiar with only the first part of that prayer:
“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”
This is the rest of the prayer:
“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”
“Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace”
I had always wrestled with that line, wondering how it is possible that hardship is the pathway to peace. Doesn’t hardship bring chaos and discontent?
In the quiet morning light, from the solitude of Stillness, Love gently spoke…
“After your best attempts to resolve these problems have failed to bring your most desired results, what if you were able to surrender your ideas, of what ‘should be’, over to a profound knowing, a deep understanding, a grateful acceptance of the divine wisdom in ‘what is’?
Relentlessly demanding our own ideas of what ‘should be’ in the face of ‘what is’ brings immense suffering. The ability to love ‘what is’ is born from an intentional decision to harness supreme faith in the absolute goodness of God, which allows us to look for and find the extraordinary, secret gifts that lie buried between the layers of difficulty. Beauty can be found, if not obscured by the shadow of discontent. Intentionally choosing to scan the dark corners of adversity, through eyes of grateful expectation, will reveal hidden treasure that is buried in the mostly unlikely moments.
If we are able, in our darkest moments, to find the gifts that are held within, have we not tapped into a purity of sight that surely stems from the very Source of life itself? And if we are able to fully connect to that Source in the hard times, would it not follow that we are equipped to live at the center of Truth throughout every moment of life?
The only thing that we ever, truly possess is the present moment. The past is gone. Future moments are not promised. Ruminations over the past is time wasted, while worry about controlling the future is futile. As I stepped outside of one dark moment, into the light of the next, the truth that encapsulated “The Serenity Prayer” became crystal reality.
The Pathway to Peace is, indeed, paved with hardship, and as we step into each moment, we are presented with a sacred opportunity to open the precious gift of serenity that quietly awaits at the Center.