“The Serenity Prayer,” attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr, is one of my favorites. It seems to cover the important pieces of everyday living – and it is easy to remember. I ask for serenity to accept the things I can’t change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. What else is there, right?
What I have missed for a very long time is the part of the prayer that comes after those three lines that are so commonly shared among people in recovery from addictions, as well as others who just like the prayer. This less common second part of the prayer doesn’t just cover the important pieces of everyday living, but also the essential principles for continued spiritual growth.
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;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.*
Read it again. The first two lines, not too difficult to swallow. But the third through seventh lines – OUCH! I have to accept hardship, take the sinful world as it is, not force my will on others, trust that God will make everything alright, and surrender to God’s will? And, my reward for all that, which shows up in the eighth line, is that “I may be reasonably happy in this life”? When I first saw this section of the prayer, it made the first part of it look like chump change. This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to my spirituality. This is where I have to give up control completely, surrender what I want, accept what the world has to give, and trust that God has my best interest in mind. This is where I must recognize that my purpose here on earth is not to get everything I want when I want it. My purpose is to show up, accept what comes to me as it is meant to be, and have faith that God knows what He’s doing. If I do those things, I might get to be reasonably happy as I go about my daily living.
“Reasonably happy.” My initial reaction to those words was that I really didn’t like them. In fact, they were a real turn off. I thought to myself, “I do all that, I surrender all that, and all I get is to be reasonably happy? That’s it?” It didn’t sound like much of a payoff. However, today, reasonably happy is considerably better than I once thought.
Today, reasonably happy for me means that I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, and food and water to sustain my body. Today, reasonably happy means that I have things in my life that I enjoy doing – studying, reading, writing, watching television and movies, being with my family and friends. Today, reasonably happy means that when I go to God with concerns, needs, sadness, joy, I trust that He is hearing me, even if I don’t see or feel any answers from my prayers. Today, reasonably happy means that for the most part, I am content; and on the occasions when I am not content, I find comfort in prayer. In other words, reasonably happy is not too shabby.
The most important thing for me in this second part of “The Serenity Prayer” is the awareness and acceptance that this life is not the payoff. This “reasonably happy” stuff is just what I find along the way as I journey the path of this life, which guides me to the actual payoff. The spiritual principle of “supremely happy with Him forever and ever in the next” is what I have been searching for all my life. Some might stop me here and ask, “But, what about now? Can’t you be supremely happy now?” My answer as I continue to journey this path is that in my reasonably happy place on this earth, as I walk along the path God has put in place for me, and as I welcome all the pieces of that path – good and not-so-good – I am supremely happy! I am supremely happy that in this journey of reasonable happiness I am being molded into the soul that gets to spend eternity with my Creator, celebrating my union with the only One who could ever fulfill the desires of my heart. What else is there – really!?!