Preston Harrington
Slideshow image

I routinely beat myself up over things that remain unchanged. When I was about five years old, my father was imprisoned for selling creek liquor. On one of our family visits, he gave me a leather wallet he made by hand. On it, he burned the most famous lines of the serenity prayer which read, "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." I loved that wallet. I kept it until it became worn. Not knowing the value those words would have in my life today, I didn't keep up with that old wallet and eventually, it got tossed away, regrettably.

As I recall that one pure and fond childhood memory, the words in the serenity prayer teaches me to:

Walk with the courage and grace to routinely correct what requires personal change and be steadfast and unmoved in character when things or people aren't as quick to change with your personal best.

Change is constant. It's happening all the time whether or not you chose to change. Everything around you keeps changing. Refusal to understand that the world moves with or without you is a futile exercise. Don't be that person who is unwilling to be a forward thinker. One important fact to remember in all of this is that the advancement of the times doesn't necessarily have to mean you change in character. Rather, progress with the times remaining true to self. The courage to change requires wisdom adorned in grace.

Our God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. As believers, we often mistake the fact that our God's unchangeable character somehow means we are unable to progress within the times. This is not the case at all. The times in our history continue to lead us on a journey of tremendous revelation and advancement towards what is the fullness of God. While God doesn't change, we do. We have to. It's the only way we are going to ever come to full knowledge and truth.

This journey can suck. You progress. You change. Except, people around you perhaps don't. Maybe they move way slower than what is convenient for you, or maybe you are the slow one. It doesn't matter. The pattern is the same, and the results are the same. Change creates conflict. Just as you don't have the patience to wait around, imagine what your counterpart is feeling. You, to them, seem to always be in a hurry about something new, different, better and improved. It's enough to drive a wedge between two people who are really fond of each other.

Change is infinitely constant in the human experience because we are always trying to catch up to the eternal parts of our existence that God shares with us. It's amazing how frustrated we become when we feel we are not on track and not on time. It pulls at us like a game of tug of war. The scripture says in Ephesians 1:3-4, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In us is this ability to know the times. More importantly, in us is the desire "to be". Unfortunately, we spend a great deal of time being frustrated in our attempt to answer this very question, "Who am I?" The God parts of our being are constantly running after God's intent and purpose. We long for things to satisfy, but without a true relationship with the wisdom of God, we fall short of what satisfies completely. Instead, we end up with temporary fixes and more than our share of headaches and troubles. So what's the point, you ask. The simple truth is we may never truly know our purpose unless we have the courage to seek God for His way of doing things.

That's the target of the serenity prayer - that we get wisdom to know the difference between what we can change and what is fixed. However, on a way larger scale, we spend much of our existence warring with ourselves and with others when a life of prayer can help us avoid some of these pitfalls.

I will quote James 4:2-3 from the Message Bible, but before I do, know this. The purpose of God is discoverable. It is possible that the desires of your heart are out of control, hasty, and roguish. This can change with prayer, trusting the authority of the word of God and faithfully applying it to your life. The fervor of your lusts is without its truest aim when you don't allow the leadership of God to be the single weight of your desires. Otherwise, expect disastrous problems that are of your making.

James 4:2-3 says it best,

[ Get Serious ] Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.

The courage we all need is the courage to pray to God for His wisdom and leadership so that we are better suited to change when change is necessary and be steadfast and unmoved when the temptation to change is trouble waiting to happen. 

We can't fix everything or everyone. So, stop trying. I'm sure if you self-assess you will find many things that need God's help. Start there. It's difficult enough to have to deal with those who won't change. Regardless of their non-moving parts, change will still occur in them and around them. While this is true for all of us, make sure you are shifting with the times in a way that produces a healthy result, both in the natural and with God.

Change can be difficult and is inevitable, but the joy of knowing the will of God makes the journey worth whatever must be endured getting to a good result - a God result.