I want to find peace


Hardin

This is part two of a series about Joy who was sixty-four years old when she enrolled in hospice services with cancer of the jaw. Joy reflected, “I ran away from home when I was fifteen, and over the years I’ve used every drug there was. I was in prison three times. I was homeless at times and I slept in peoples’ closets. I had four children but I don’t know where any of them are today. I could ask myself that, ‘What if’ question, but that won’t get me anywhere,‘coulda, shoulda woulda!’ I want the end of my life to be positive. I want to find peace and I want my life story to be an encouragement to others.”

I asked Joy, “Where does a person find peace?” Joy tapped her fingers on her chest over her heart and replied, “You find it in here; not out there. And acceptance is the key.” She then recited the following excerpt from the Alcoholics Anonymous’ “Big Book”:

“…acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I found some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s’ terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”

Joy then recited “The Serenity Prayer”:

“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.”

I suggested to Joy that the excerpt from “The Big Book”, must have struck a chord with her for her to have put it to memory. Joy replied, “You could call it my mantra. You have to tell yourself something.” I told Joy that her statement reminded me of another fellow pilgrim who understood the significance and power of what we tell ourselves. Lucky was in his fifties with end-stage alcoholic cirrhosis. One day Lucky shared, “I’ve been thinking about that word acceptance a lot lately. If I tell myself that it’s not supposed to be like this then I can make myself miserable and everyone around me; but if I tell myself that it’s just a part of it, a part of life, then I can go on and do what I need to do. But I have to be careful what line of thinking I allow myself to fall into.”

According to Lucky, acceptance frees us to “go on and do” what we need to do. Personally, I believe that acceptance is only half of the equation; acceptance of the things we cannot change, without the courage to change the things we can, constitutes resignation. In fact, the earliest version of “The Serenity Prayer”, by the verified author, Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971), began with “courage” followed by “serenity” and “acceptance”. But Niebuhr’s unabbreviated version is my favorite. It reflects the hope we have for our hospice patients, acceptance without resignation. And it might even be a mantra worth adopting; after all, in Joy’s words, “You have to tell yourself something.” But make sure, as much as possible, that it’s the truth, for only “…the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

“God give me 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;

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

I also encourage those who, like Joy, “want to find peace”, to meditate upon Philippians 4:4-9, its God’s prescription for anxiety and the key to “…the peace of God which surpasses all understanding”. And just maybe, if we “practice these principles in all our affairs” (A.A., Twelfth Step), our lives will be “positive” and our “life story will be an encouragement to others”.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord.” (Isaiah 26:3-4).

Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at hardinl@somc.org or at 740-356-2525