Living Through Powerlessness: Acceptance, Grace, and Hope

I spent more than two days this week without access to the internet at home. Now, for most folks, this is a mere annoyance. But for me, it was overwhelming. You see, my “day job” is working for a law firm as a paralegal – from home. Meaning, a day without internet at my house means searching out a WiFi signal on my laptop somewhere else so I can earn a living. It means transferring my phone extension to my cell phone, uprooting my laptop and a second computer monitor, and finding a place to perch that has reliable internet. (Thankfully, I do have a second job that does have reliable internet and an extra desk for me in Dan’s office!)

This whole process has made me feel powerless. I was working along, minding my own business, when the connection stopped working. Nothing was wrong with our “box” and no amount of restarting all the devices could make it work again. And no matter how many times we called the internet provider, they still had techs only available to come out two days later. They kept telling us there was nothing they could do.

And so, I sat, powerless to change my situation at home. But the thing about powerlessness over situations is that we are in fact empowered then to do something else.

I was empowered to shut down the laptop and take the night off. Empowered to go on an impromptu date night with my husband that turned out to be extremely fun. Empowered to find a new place to sit and work the following day, which turned out to be nice because I was able to work face-to-face more with my coworkers here at church. I got out of my work-at-home doldrums and got to dress up and say hi to other humans (and not just my happy, but non-human doggies).

We have all heard/read the serenity prayer at some point:

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.

My role this week was acceptance. I couldn’t convince others to do things on my schedule. I couldn’t change my internet connection situation. I had lots of courage to try, but the internet company had no appointments. And so, I had to accept my fate of being an internet nomad in search of a WiFi singal so I could work.

But where the serenity prayer stops, we should not. Acceptance doesn’t mean stopping. Once we accept, we can then do something with that knowledge. In my case, I could try something new, get out of my routine, and keep a positive attitude. I could find new ways to approach the unchangeable that were life-giving. I didn’t have to sit in pained, silent acceptance and do nothing in my disconnected apartment.

Life is a series of things we cannot change. No matter the amount of courage we have to change things we can, some are impossible to change (at least on the schedule we would like to). These could be nuisances like a lack of internet or a locked car door, or they could be major life circumstances like cancer, sudden death, the struggles of aging, or illness in innocent children.

We just cannot change things sometimes. No matter how much we try, these things simply are. And we are left with knowing that we cannot change them, and then finding ways to live in them, through them, and make the best of our lives as we accept them.

As we face life’s challenges, we are going to overcome many things by having courage to change them. But when we cannot change things, I pray that we instead find ways to integrate them into our lives in positive ways. For the “small stuff,” it can simply take a positive attitude and some ingenuity; for the bigger things, it may take days, months, or even years to find ways to live into God’s meaning in our lives as we face these hardships.

But we can experience the grace of God in our healing and acceptance of the unchangeable, and maybe change up our prayer a bit:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
The wisdom to know the difference,
And the grace to find new ways to live in spite of the things I cannot change.

[Cross-posted from River Road Church, Baptist Pastor’s Blog:]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *