“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi
For several weeks I’ve been struggling mightily with a now-diagnosed sinus infection. I thought the problem arose from a dental issue, and I was waiting for an appointment with a specialist. However, my new physician (once I finally realized I needed a different kind of help) described the ongoing infection as “smoldering,” and I thought that was apt. The pain has been intense, bordering on intolerable, and I’m now taking antibiotics to fight the germs. Was it misplaced stoicism that caused me to suffer or preoccupation with turmoil in my life?
The iPhone picture above was taken yesterday afternoon from my deck–a freeze frame moment in time as I rested and recovered. The day was glorious; it’s one of the blessings of summer in my mountain town. It was a priceless expression of serenity, a blissful snapshot as the small sailboat glided across Lake Pagosa. The picture is like a post card for summer in the mountains, and I was transported to a state of grace and gratitude.
As I gazed at the image, the metaphor was not lost on me and reminded me of another famous quote from a Breton fisherman, “O God, thy ocean is so great and my boat is so small.” I wondered what the sailor on that small craft was thinking and feeling as he was drawn around the lake by sweet breezes. Was he caught up in the beauty of the moment? Could he imagine the potential canvas his journey created that was worthy of a Da Vinci? Or had he taken to the lake to escape some great sorrow in his life?
Life is at all times a blend of grief and joy, beauty and pain. Nothing lasts and everything is in a constant state of change, a shifting kaleidoscope of experiences. We can’t control what happens to us most of the time, but we have a choice how we respond. We can rage, or we can accept. We can deny, or we can change. I’ve always felt the Prayer of Saint Francis, as it’s usually called, is the perfect prayer. We are challenged to meet all of life with what Buddhists call equanimity. Serenity comes from the right blend of acceptance, courage, and wisdom. I aspire to these qualities and to the peace that can result. Sometimes it comes in a moment of bliss when we are offered a gift of such rare beauty and significance.