The Serenity Prayer
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
—Psalm 23 (NRSV)
A few years ago I was in England riding north from London on a train. Without warning, and far from a station, the train began to stop. Not smoothly, but rather haltingly. I worried—something had to be wrong with the engine, and my trek of several hours would become the whole day. And then the announcement: "Sheep on the line," the conductor repeated, "Sheep on the line."
"Sheep!" I thought. "You must be kidding. We're stopping several hundred people on an express train because animals have stepped across the tracks. Can't someone just blow a whistle, clear them out, move them along. Don't they have a shepherd tending them, getting them out of the way? You must be kidding."
Such moments come out of nowhere. But the chore is always the same: be present. Learning that sometimes things are just as they are, and there is nothing to be done to change them is one of the hardest lessons I've tried to learn in my life. Our nature is to control and to hold on tight when something brings change to our routine or our plans.
When we can let go and just allow the events to unfold, we find grace and mercy all around. Some things can be changed; some can't. Learning to know the difference is where we find peace.
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.
The Serenity Prayer was written by Reinhold Neibuhr.
Copyright © 2006 Michael Sullivan.