Simeon accepted Jesus into his arms and blessed God:
“God, you can now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised.” Luke 2:28-29
A strange sensation came upon me as Lindsay drove us from the urgent care to the emergency room last month. I had just been informed that I needed to go to the ER immediately, because the doctors may have to amputate my toes. That feeling, which overwhelmed me, was the same feeling that I once had rock climbing with Ellie when the belay rope slipped out of her hand and I fell 30ft. It was ACCEPTANCE.
In both of those situations I knew that there was nothing that could be done to change the outcome. While I could ruminate over the past, or worry over the future, in the moment there was nothing I could do that would make any difference. The matter was out of my control.
Acceptance is not resignation; it is not wastefully wishing things would be different. It is not pleading or manipulating in order to achieve a different outcome. Acceptance is acknowledgement that God is the one in charge, not me. Acceptance is embracing Him. If God is in charge of all things (what theologians call “sovereignty”), and I am not, that means that the outcomes are in His hands. Acceptance releases us from the unnecessary pressure of managing life.
This feeling of acceptance–both in the free fall and the drive to the ER–was the most powerful experience of peace I have felt. There was comfort in knowing that I was not in charge. There was an eerie calmness in my heart. Whatever the outcome, it would be okay. I may not be, but it would be.
By surrendering the outcomes to the Lord, it frees our hands so we can receive and discover His peace.
It is no wonder that the serenity prayer is all about acceptance.
Last year I went to the funeral of a man who had been in recovery, and during the service they read the full serenity prayer, which I had never heard and later discovered was written by Christian theologian Reinhold Neibuhr. The prayer captures beautifully that peaceful acceptance I received and the peace of Christ which transcends all understanding when we accept the Lord’s invitation.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
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 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.