With the spike in COVID cases in our county and Texas after Memorial Day, the wishful thinking of many of us is in the process of or has finally been extinguished. It looks as if it’s going to be with us for a long time. There was always this little place in the back of my and many of our minds that just maybe, hoped that things would lighten up a bit. The human mind is a mysterious entity. We tend to hope sometimes beyond hope and skirt the boundaries of reality.
The mind is often terrified of suffering, fearing at a subconscious level that we will in some way cease to be, called the fear of non-being. If we come to a real perspective, which the spiritual life gives, that suffering is a part of life, then we can develop the interiority to cope with it. The presence of God, as Jesus found, transcends suffering and death. But this has to be more than a theory. This Presence has to be known before we are able place suffering in its proper place as a part of life while God remains in the center of our awareness. Without this spiritual awareness our fearful minds reach for false Utopias that are nothing but a mirage. This is especially evident during times as now as messianic politicians begin to promise far more than they will ever be able to give, denying the reality that they don’t have the control of the universe that some of us wish they had. In our fear of suffering, some clamor for someone who will make us safe. How can a politician living in Austin or Washington D.C. keep us safe? Even local officials and police cannot guarantee our safety. This sought panacea to avoid suffering usually turns out creating more suffering than it alleviates. As with suffering, our safety is our personal responsibility and making choices in the guidance of the Spirit more often leads to peace and joy rather than increased suffering.
Having worked with alcoholics and their families in the past, many years ago I read a recovery story called, “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict” in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. There was one sentence his story that had a profound affect in my spiritual life. The sentence: “Acceptance is the key to all my problems.” He didn’t say that acceptance means that one does nothing or that life is hopeless, but that we cannot magically undo “what is” as our mind attempts to escape the situation’s suffering. Acceptance is merely accepting “what is,” and moving from that point forward under the guidance of his Higher Power, for us the Eternal Life Giving Trinity. Acceptance is the core of the Serenity Prayer of Richard Niebuhr: 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.
So if we’re having an especially difficult day, we accept and begin from where we are, as David did in Psalm 69:2: I have sunk into the miry depths, where there is no footing; I have drifted into deep waters, where the flood engulfs me. Acceptance doesn’t mean that we have to like where we are but that we’re willing to begin where we are as we learn to rest in God and then discern where to go from here. Sooner or later, we’ll experience David on the “other side” of the mess in Psalm 40:2: He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure. Here we experience a sense of being secure in the midst of our difficulties. We’re in spiritual school right now as those who we carried away in the Babylonian Captivity were: “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4). We’re not suffering to the depths they did but metaphorically, we are in a “strange land” in our situation.
So here we are. Where do we go from here? Physically, probably not very far and not with many others. Spiritually, where do we go from here? Stay put until you get a message from above. Or at least while you’re about your COVID adjusted day, listen intently, for the presence that maintains your stillness within. The Spirit leads us into all Truth who is God, himself, and beginning there is enough.
For example, having not being able to exercise like I used in the gym to left me in a conundrum. Using free weights/dumbbells was a huge core of my exercise routine as was the treadmill. Walking at Patton Park turned out to be too risky with the large amount of people there and the new track locked out to the community. I tried to buy weights for two months and there were none to be had online or at stores.
I was led to pick up a book of my shelf on the Jesus Prayer by our beloved late Bishop, Bob Hibbs, (An Altar in Your Heart) which I have been reading to those who participate in our online Compline services on Wednesday. Using other prayer disciplines, I hadn’t really used this. But then the other day the strange idea came to me to use the Jesus Prayer and combine it with riding Kathy’s stationary bicycle. I detest stationary bicycles as they are so B-O-R-I-N-G!!! But closing my eyes and repeating the Jesus prayer to avoid the distractions of the living room enabled me to ride the stationary bike and develop a rhythm, similar to the one I had when I mountain biked during our time living in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming and Colorado. The stationary bike allows me to close my eyes without the danger of running into something so I am able to blend exercise with prayer, something I’ve never thought of before.
Out of difficulty, or chaos as in the creation story in Genesis, God can create anew. The timeless of eternity is the destination to which prayer takes us. I was on the stationary bike a half hour before I realized it. Acceptance allowed me to offer God the fragmented pieces of my life and he delivered to me a new way of life in the midst of our present pandemic.
Acceptance is the key to all our problems. Acceptance requires our acceptance of God. God is always ready and waiting to act in the here and now.