We Hold the Key

The Sirius soundtrack for my gym workouts is a dizzying clash of styles and eras. The other day I heard OMI, Taylor Swift and Maroon Five, followed by a switch to Robin Trower, Jethro Tull, and Led Zeppelin.

In the middle of this time travel mix was the classic Youngbloods song, Get Together, with some of my all-time favorite lyrics: If you hear the song I sing, you will understand…listen. You hold the key to love and fear, all in your trembling hand. Just one key unlocks them both. It’s there at your command.

Depending on the focus of our faith, we may describe this key differently. For me, its name could surely be ACCEPTANCE.

I don’t mean passive submission. I mean the peaceful letting go that happens when we accept life on life’s terms, not as we would mold it. I mean the pressure we release when we “live and let live.” It is admirable to work for change, but our expectations of the way things SHOULD BE can lead to discontent, and ultimately, resentment.

There’s a saying in 12 Step groups that sums this up beautifully: expectations are resentments under construction. A passage in AA’s Big Book speaks to many of us.

When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment…Unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

What expectations are constructing resentments within you this moment?

• Do you expect your parents, your spouse, or your children to change their habits according to your pattern?
• Do you expect more recognition from others?
• Do you expect God to answer a prayer according to your demands and timeline?
• Do you think life owes you something?
• Have you not accepted yourself, or are you still brooding on what you are not, or what you don’t have?
• Are you mired in the longstanding grief that stems from not accepting a sorrowful event in your life?

Learning to curb our expectations does not mean depressive resignation. As the parent of a special needs son I must stay centered every day in the grace of acceptance. It’s not easy. I find help in the full version of this famous prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.

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.
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;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

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