I think we can all agree that we live in unsettled times. Sure, those in every age probably considered
that the time in which they were living was unsettled, perhaps even world altering. I wouldn’t disagree that
those who lived during the Great War or World War Two would have said it. In early times whenever there
was revolution or strife this characterization would have been made. However, in modern times there has
been much more to lose than ever before.
Anxiety: what a way to begin a summer column when the beach beckons, the gardens are producing fruits
and vegetables and the shrimp and crab are delicious. That’s just the point. All of us are so easily distracted
that we’re willing to take a trip into denial. Well, there are some ways to integrate both situations so that we
can regain our creativity and even joy in our lives while also being realistic and dedicated to serious
engagement with the issues from which we retreat in our daily lives.
We are called to be joyful in our faith as well as recognizing that we fall short of God’s hopes for us; the
sweet and the bitter. I find myself vacillating between these two poles too, but I take great comfort that so
many have at least identified the problem. In the book One Man’s Meat, E. B. White writes
(in paraphrase), when I awake in the morning and gaze out the window seeing the beauty of my
surroundings, I am troubled by my urge to reform the world or enjoy it. This makes me nervous.
Can we live with any comfort between these two polarities? Actually, we are, more or less, already doing
it. To gain more comfort and composure I suggest these approaches. First, acknowledge that
current circumstances either political or church related can be managed by gaining more information.
Facts (not false news or polemics) can reassure us that we’re OK and doing the right thing. That
gives us confidence. Second, designate a certain time every day to take a walk, swim, or participate in
some activity that doesn’t expose you to these controversies and tempt you to respond. That quiet time will
help you regain some calm and actually open the door to refreshed thinking and release new ideas.
The Gospels show Jesus engaging the public and dealing with controversy but also withdrawing to a
“quiet place.” Sometimes it took all night of praying and listening for his father’s voice before returning
to the fray. Below is a formula that has brought peace and comfort, as well as action and commitment to
many. It’s been battle tested.
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. --Reinhold Niebuhr, theologian and professor