Serenity and Suffering
Jean’s life story is not the way she would have written it. It includes early years of childhood abuse, same-sex attraction and depression, and later years of heterosexual marriage and children. She writes of the blessing of being able to trust God as the author of her life.
The Serenity Prayer is a blessing and gift used in almost every twelve-step model of recovery there is. Most of us know the first four lines:
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.
Currently, however, there is less and less acceptance of things we cannot – or should not – change. True serenity becomes a distant illusion and true acceptance non-existent.
All gives way to our culture’s new form of ‘courage’.
This ‘courage’ refuses any limits and seeks to alter, medicate, and assuage every experience that gives us pain or pause. Wisdom is lost completely. Believe me, I am all for alleviating suffering. Explore every moral means available to you. But there is ultimately a limit – ethical, medical, or otherwise – to many of our efforts in this regard.As a same-sex attracted woman, I was offered a rewritten script from some Christians in which celibacy was not required of me. While I’m sure they thought it was compassion, it was also an easier path for them than accompanying me in the midst of my storm.
If I thought I was transgendered today, I’m sure they would encourage me to seek surgery and applaud my ‘courage’ to change, considerations for husband, children, and my long-term health and well-being notwithstanding.But there is a second half of the Serenity Prayer. It provides the component needed to achieve the genuine serenity, courage, and wisdom sought in the prayer’s opening lines:
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did,
this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next. Amen.
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace. Suffering can lead to serenity. If only we respond to that suffering with trust in a loving God who will make all things right. If only we receive His hope that extends beyond this life and world. The Lord is patient. He will help us come to that trust. He never stops pursing us, longing to have compassion on us, if only we surrender and turn to Him in our aching anger.
Suffering and sorrow. Which of us would ever script our lives in such a way?
I never would have allowed sexual abuse or same-sex attraction to be written into my story. And yet it is that very suffering that helped lead me to serenity because it has led me to God.
I have also now lived long enough to catch glimpses of at least a few ‘other sides’ of these sufferings. There is a beautiful work in progress.
All of us are wounded from the womb. Sin has separated us from our Father. Life is our journey to find our true identity as beloved children of God and to let the Good Shepherd of our souls lead us home to Him. The Author behind both your story and mine is the King of Love. God can triumph over any twist of plot the enemy of our souls scrawls across our pages, and He writes a much better story than we do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jean C. Lloyd, PhD, is a teacher and a happily married mother of two young children. This is an excerpt of an article originally published at Public Discourse: Ethics, Law and the Common Good. Reprinted with permission.
Encourage and give hope
“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29 (NRSV)
Having a wayward child, whether young or older, is extremely difficult to bear for any parent. We all want our child to be perfect in every way—someone that others will praise and identify as our offspring. So it can be difficult for us to acknowledge that our child might have “issues” or that they are struggling with something. We might have feelings of guilt about our parenting skills, or we might feel anger at their lack obedience for what we know that they were taught when they were young.
Anxiety, concern, and frustration are all normal feelings when dealing with a troubled child. And yet, God tells us something very important in this verse.
He reminds us about the power of our words. Our words can bring life and healing, but they can also tear down and hurt the ones that we love. So even when our children make mistakes or choose poorly, we should continue to love them not only as our children but as children of God – even while not condoning their actions or present lifestyle. And we should also speak words of encouragement and hope into them. – From ‘Top 7 Verses For Help With a Wayward Child’, Karla Hawkins
Resources for information and support
Brave Foundation, an Australian not-for-profit charity that equips those experiencing teenage pregnancy and parenting with resources, referral and education opportunities to facilitate happy, healthy and skilled families over time.
Janet E. Smith’s Sexual Common Sense, the website of the popular speaker on sexuality and bioethics and author of ‘Contraception: Why Not?’
Help for wives of sex addicts. This article is a good starting place to find support.
Courage, an international apostolate of the Catholic Church, which ministers to persons with same-sex attractions. And Encourage, which accompanies relatives and friends of people who experience same-sex attraction.
Desire of the Everlasting Hills. A documentary-style film with intimate and candid portraits of Catholics who try to navigate the waters of self-understanding, faith and homosexuality
Brothers Road. An international fellowship primarily of men from homosexual or bisexual backgrounds who typically do not accept or identify with the label ‘gay’.
Truth Wins Out and the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality