God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Temperatures dipped to 19 degrees on this particular Sabbath morning. Monday presented a fine, crisp day. Amid morning solitude, sunshine stretched inside the house. Sitting at my desk attempting to corral my thoughts and process God’s gift, demands began to intrude. Quiet evaded. Noise interrupted. Restive thoughts sought order. Frustrated, I reached for a truce.
Surfacing, an old sermon found traction in my thoughts. Sometimes preachers talk above our heads. This one said, “There are three kingdoms. First, there is Heaven, the kingdom after death. Then, there is a kingdom yet to come, when Jesus comes again. And last, there is the kingdom within our heart, the place Christ seeks to reside.” I thought, do I have a choice?
Mary Oliver writes, “Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions… But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation.” Kingdom work within demands no less.
There’s something about “self” with which we have not yet made peace. We have yet to reach a truce with our past, our negotiated present, our fear and imperfection. We cower in the shadow of honesty.
The easiest thing to do is to look outside our self and see the world as something different than us. We tend toward an idea if there were more like us, many more we think, even a mere more, our world would be a better place. But life is made of many “selfs,” different people meandering through the same noisy maze of interruptions and self-made kingdoms. We think heaven on earth is what we ask of others, how they ought to act as if we were Heaven’s only angel. “Let’s make a world in our image,” we say. And we go about our task, forgetting change without begins within. Truth is something to try.
My friend told me, “When you say the Serenity Prayer, mean it!” Then, when change arrives, when courage and wisdom speak, the world looks different, too.
Different requires interrupting self one thing at a time. And there is always a first thing – a first step, a belief, a perception, a reaction, an emotion, an attitude, self-humility, a spoken word and tone, an enlightenment uprising from the soul. All reside in His kingdom within. All demand conversation with God. It takes work, not work that attains and possesses pride, but more a response to grace. Until we allow God to reside in self, His kingdom within remains elusive.
God’s kingdom within needs solitude, a place beyond time and ordinary. Here, we face honesty and God together and allow grace its miracle.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).