Of the three steps in my new year plan, step two (ACCEPT) may well be the most difficult for me to accomplish. Step one was RELEASE. Releasing old habits, hang-ups, patterns, baggage, etc., to God and refusing to pick it back up. Releasing is an ongoing process, and one I’m familiar with, so it’s not all that difficult.
“Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward — to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”
Phil 3:13-14 (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
Step two — ACCEPT — is new to me.
Some of us are born striving, I think. From the moment we leave the womb (and maybe before, I’d have to ask my mom) we’re striving, battling, warring, and resisting. It’s like being born on the wrong side of an alternate universe. Where my husband, for example, hears birds singing and sees the beauty of the view, I hear birds shrieking and see a landscape fraught with danger. Vehicle breakdowns and household appliance failures are guaranteed to throw me into a hissy fit/pity party of dramatic proportions. When a storm blows through, the normal person revels in it. I fight it… not physically, really, but mentally and emotionally (which does have a detrimental effect on the physical, eventually). For the duration of the storm, I’m tense, worried, and edgy. God forbid the electricity should go out. (If you want to see a genuine demonstration of “joy in the Holy Ghost,” just wait till power comes back on.)
I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t at war with something. My budget, my body, my relationships, my thoughts, my appetites, my career, the seasons, my prayer life, my worship time, my exercise routine … you name it, I’ve tried striving with it. I’ve resisted the devil, applied the PUSH principle (Pray Until Something Happens), and used every known weapon in my spiritual arsenal against everything from mosquito bites to low church attendance numbers to financial lack.
So when I approached the Lord in prayer about a plan for 2013, and heard Him say “ACCEPT” to my spirit, I hesitated. Accept? Accept what? After a lifetime of fighting and resisting, I’m supposed to accept my circumstances? My situations? ACCEPT THEM? Really?
Because until we accept things as they are, accept the circumstances we’re in, accept our condition, we’re helpless… unable to receive help.
Perhaps I should have paid more attention to 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.
Contrary to some doctrines, there ARE things that cannot be changed. Eek.
Just admitting that feels like ripping off a Band-Aid.
But at the same time, I know it’s true.
There are mountains that aren’t meant to be moved.
Some things have to be accepted.
Oh, I’m really not good at this. It took me 38 years to accept my stick-straight hair, and now God’s asking me to ACCEPT that cars break down, and winter weather comes, and my children and husband don’t always do what I want them to do, and my boobs will always be bigger than I want them to be (yeah, I know, it’s a weird problem, but it IS a problem), and no matter how much money we make it will never be “enough” — when “enough” is defined according to the world’s standards.
Add to that all the other stuff we’re bombarded with daily (politics, disasters, war, famine, plague, etc.) and those horrible commercials about abused and abandoned children and animals all over the world who need to be adopted, and suddenly ACCEPTANCE becomes a monumental challenge of faith.
But after watching my toddler grandson push himself into a full blown tantrum because he cannot fit all of his Hot Wheels cars in his pocket, I realize ACCEPTANCE is a huge step toward the kind of spiritual maturity I desire. As an adult, I can see that no matter how many cars he can shove in his pocket, ALL the cars are still his. I could make his pocket bigger, but then his pants would look, and fit, funny. What he needs to do is accept the fact that only a certain number of cars fit in his pocket. Try explaining that to a 1-1/2 year old.
Can I learn to accept snowstorms that arrive just when I need to travel? Malfunctioning appliances on holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions? Can I accept minor illnesses that actually serve to build and strengthen the immune system? Can I accept my semi-adult children, no matter what they’re doing, and continue to trust God to see them through to His perfect will? Can I accept the fact it may take years to dig out from under the credit card debt we’ve accrued, and that while we’re digging out, we won’t have the money to go “play” like everyone else does? Can I accept my body the way it was designed and configured, even though I got “curvy” instead of “lean”?
That, my friends, is my Step Two assignment. Every day presents new opportunities to ACCEPT something instead of hating, rebuking, resisting, and warring against it. In the last three days of 2013 I’ve had kid #3’s 2 a.m. New Year’s Eve flat tire, kid #3’s New Year’s Day $75 ticket for a cracked windshield, and today SIL’s car malfunction. Grr. (NOTE: My non-accepting self’s response is to lock kid #3 in a closet for the duration of his 18th and 19th years of life. Not an option, not really.)
No. No growling. ACCEPT.
I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.
Phil 4:12-13 (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
Why? Because there is NOTHING I can do about these things. Working myself up into a frenzy of stress and fear and worry and anger will do nothing to change the circumstances. Praying and confessing and declaring and rebuking… same result. What’s done is done. But until I accept that, I can’t receive grace to move forward. It’s only when we ACCEPT that we can move forward and ENGAGE, which is step three.
For now, I’m working on accepting, and releasing, and realizing once again that with God, everything is a journey and a process, and that’s OK. Acknowledging that there are things that happen life that are outside my plan, outside my will, outside my design, is really a step toward genuine faith and trust in a loving, caring God who sees the end from the beginning.
Working on it…