“God, give me the patience to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change those things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference—AMEN.”
Many of us have written gratitude lists, but I wonder how many have written lists of things to be patient about—opportunities to express acceptance through non-expression. By “non-expression” I mean that what we listed, or it least acknowledged our angst about, those things we accepted, at least intellectually, we could not change.
Things for Mastering the Art of Non-Expression
If we set out to list those things we can do nothing about, our patience is aided. If we take stock, writing them down, we empower ourselves somewhat in resisting the temptation to try to change things that appear unchangeable.
A list such as this could comprise the following, which I have intentionally written in the first person to aid the reader:
1. I cannot change my family, whether I love them or not. Each member is different, some likeable and some not, but they are my family. I cannot change the fact that God will take them perhaps too soon. I cannot control my family.
2. As they say, the past is history. I cannot change the past, the decisions I made, or the consequences of those decisions, or the things that happened to me beyond my control. It is written on the record of the Book of Life. God will judge. But I stand not condemned because of my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. To some extent I cannot change the uncertain future coming my way. To some extent I am equipped to deal with it. But for those things still coming that will overwhelm, flummox or infuriate me I pray for the grace to accept these things.
4. I cannot change people, nor can I change their views on life beyond the influence that God gives me. There are innumerably more people who I cannot help, nor influence, than there are the people I can.
5. Amongst the gathering misfortunes, the circumstances of life as they have happened and inevitably do happen, I cannot change these. It is difficult, even seemingly forlorn, to think in terms of acceptance. But that must be my aim.
6. I cannot change the fact that I am blessed—as all are blessed. And I can do nothing about others’ envy when circumstances, some beyond my control, cause me to be considered especially blessed. All I can do is attempt to understand the lack within the person who envies. This reminds me of the task for me whenever I experience envy.
7. I cannot change, to a large extent, the way God has wired and built me. What I feel, and why I feel, are a representation of my personality and experiences; these, given from God. How I look, also, is from God. Amongst my wiring are my fault and frailties, those, God willing, that are being refined. But I cannot change, that, in the body, I am broken.
Accepting the things we cannot change is one half of wisdom. Acceptance is having the calm restraint of patience, particularly when we are tested by things beyond, or partially beyond, our control.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.