One day at a time
Published 10:43 am Thursday, February 9, 2012
We live in a time of tremendous uncertainty, but then who am I to tell you that?
The challenges of today’s political, economic and social turmoil touch every one of us in one way or another. Because we live in the information age we are inundated by news both good and bad, sometimes to the point of mental and emotional drowning. What with all of our digital gadgets and contraptions pinging, beeping, whirteling, chirping and buzzing at us with tweets, pokes, news, alerts and updates every few moments it is no wonder we as individuals and as a society are anxious to the point of breakdown. [Note: In the time it took me to write that paragraph my smart phone pinged at me six times. OK, I checked it now. No disasters looming – yet.]
It is a maddening thing to be clamped in the vise of the “should-have” and the “what if?” – on the one hand looking backward with longing or regret while in the same moment straining to see ahead with apprehension and tension, but never truly experiencing the present. That loss of the moment, that failure to perceive the richness of the present in whatever form it takes is guaranteed to steal our joy and rob us of any possibility of contentment. But there is a solution to be found in faith.
In the Gospel according to Matthew chapters 5 through 7, Jesus delivers the Sermon on the Mount. In those verses Jesus gives us an outline of how to live a full, contented and joyful life. The sermon is a collection of separate sayings, each of which has a wisdom all its own, but it is in reading and meditating on the message of the whole that we can truly hear Jesus’ full intention. As with any Jewish based scriptural form the primary point is found in the middle. In this case it is in Matthew 6:34, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
One day at a time. I tend to say that a lot and it drives a dear friend of mine nuts. But the fact is that there is nothing but the moment, the immediate present, over which we have any real control. That wisdom can be found in sayings from many religious traditions, but there is one bit of verse most of us have heard many times. In 1937 the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a prayer poem which has come to carry almost as much weight as Holy Scripture. It is known as The Serenity Prayer.
God grant me the
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 all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
– The Very Reverend Dr. Michael Doty, Rector The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross