Years ago, I was challenged to set a new year spiritual goal. The decision to embrace that challenge changed the direction of my spiritual journey. Since then I have chosen a short sentence, phrase or even a single word to establish focus for the year ahead.
Many psychologists and people who teach goal setting recommend this method—beginning with a vision—upon which other goals are built rather than making a list of daunting resolutions, often discarded before the new year takes hold.
In early December, I determined my theme for 2020 will consist of three related words:
A synonym for serenity is peace, one focus of the recent Advent season Christians around the world celebrated. The prophet Isaiah, more than 700 years before the birth of Emmanuel, announced a coming Messiah would be called the Prince of Peace.
Restlessness is the opposite of serenity. In his famous Confessions, St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Serenity is the anchor theme for my 2020 journey, and I’m convinced, it must begin with God. A starting point will be considering The Serenity Prayer, written by theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1940’s. Today, the familiar words are recited regularly at 12-Step and other recovery groups such as Celebrate Recovery.
I became acquainted with The Serenity Prayer in the 1980’s when I embarked on a quarter-century career with the Washington State Employee Assistance Program (EAP). At that time the primary focus of EAP’s was on alcoholism in the workplace. The agency for which I worked embraced the philosophy of 12-Step recovery.
Until that time, I knew little about alcoholism or the process of addiction recovery. Hired initially as a paraprofessional, I was captivated with the dynamics of addiction, the difficulties of recovery and addiction’s devastating tentacles that reach into every segment of society. I committed to completing higher education studies and requirements for certification and was promoted into a professional position.
During this process, I adopted The Serenity Prayer as my own. To this day it remains a practical, working prayer, a petition I reference often.
If you’re familiar with the prayer, you’ll recognize how it has influenced my personal prayer for 2020.
“God, Grant me the grace of serenity to recognize that which is not mine to do, those who are not mine to help and that which you haven’t assigned me to manage.
“God, grant me the courage to live with simplicity, to get rid of all that clutters my environment, my schedule, my thoughts, my emotions and my spirit.
“God, grant me the wisdom to put into practice the Great Commandment Jesus gave: to love you with my entire being; to love others in a way that reflects your love; and, finally, but importantly, to love myself in a God-centered, rather than ego-driven, manner. Help me listen to the voice of your Spirit reminding me when my body needs rest, my soul needs nurturing, or my spirit needs silence and stillness. Amen.”