Accept What Is
What does that mean? Is it a cryptic Chinese proverb? New age psychobabble? Actually, I picked it up from an Oprah life class. Now, don’t laugh. There is truth in it.
What does it mean to live in reality and how do I do that and live in faith? Well, I can tell you from personal experience that I have lived in denial before and called it faith. I wanted reality to go away so badly, that I thought if I didn’t think about it, it would. I think living in reality is like the saying accept what can’t be changed and change what you can and know the difference between them. Some things have happened and we can’t change them. The pain comes when we can’t tell the difference, or we won’t let go of the one that can’t be changed and we won’t change the one that can.
Recently I talked with a young woman who didn’t want to forgive her father because he had never wanted her. She had been shortchanged. The reality is that she had been shortchanged and he really hadn’t wanted her. He had added some to her life, not a lot, and she was angry about it. I think she felt if she let him off the hook by forgiving him, she would be saying that hurting her was okay. She seemed to finally be able to let him go when I helped her see that although she had not gotten the Dad she wanted, we could never change that. She had married a man who was a wonderful Dad to her children and she had a good life. She was holding on to an expectation of her Dad that he had not measured up to. He was less than she had deserved; however, when she accepted that reality, she let him go. When she recognized that by holding him in prison, she was in one, and that sooner or later she would have to acknowledge that reality is reality. He was who he was and the past was the past. She couldn’t change the past, but she could accept it and move forward. Trying to change the part that couldn’t be changed was hurting her.
When a parent loses a child tragically, it is a long journey to healing and it is usually accomplished by accepting a new reality. Often it is thankfulness for whatever time the child was on earth and letting go of the expectations that all of us have that our children will outlive us as parents. Most of our suffering does come from wanting what we don’t have, wishing for what we’ve lost, believing we could have done something differently or they could have, and we wouldn’t be suffering. But the truth is that is where all the suffering lies. Accepting the reality, as hard as it might be to accept, sets us free. Peace comes when we accept the new reality. This happened. It was hard. I accept grace to deal with it. I even give myself grace if I caused it to happen in some way. Forgiveness and grace are all about accepting the reality first. We suffer when we won’t accept it and we want it altered. Forgiveness and grace say it is what it is, but I am using forgiveness to let it go and grace to endure it. They are free gifts, but they are supernatural, empowered to create a new reality. Amazing.
Jesus walked in reality. By that I mean that he said he knew exactly what was in man’s heart. He knew all about our motives and our ways, and he didn’t put expectations on us to measure up to the new and better laws He was handing down to us. He came to give us grace and to tell us God loved us. Wow. Think about it. That is quite something. Go find the hurting, broken, messed up masses and give them a message from God. That is what is so compelling about his message. He asked us to love one another as He loved us, which I guess when you get down to it is even when we see each other’s weaknesses, because He loved us first when we were at our most broken and most defiled.
He went to the cross, knowing the pain. He remained intimate with men who were set on denying and betraying him. He set his heart to endure the cross while his closest men fought over who would be first in the new kingdom. I would say He was pretty good at dealing with reality. But then he knew that dying was going to give us the power we would need to really change down deep. Peter was going to come out on the other side a fiery evangelist instead of a flake, and that is also reality. So, I guess we stand beneath two realities as people of faith: the reality is that Joe is who Joe is and I can find grace to love him broken, and the reality is also that Joe is not yet all that Joe might be and I can pray for him. We have a present reality and a hope for a new reality. Believing anything in between those two places will cause us to suffer for we will expect Joe to be somebody he isn’t, and Joe will disappoint us and make us sad. The more we expect Joe to straighten up, the worse he seems to get. We talk with Joe, and that hurts his feeling. Now Joe is sad because he hasn’t met up to our expectations and he is tripping over himself trying to change his ways. We are obsessed with Joe and now we judge poor old Joe to be willfully out to annoy us. If only Joe would straighten up, we could be happy. What is wrong with selfish old Joe? Doesn’t he see how he annoys us? Why doesn’t he change? Aren’t you tired all ready? Let’s give Joe grace. And while we are at it, Sue and Rachel too. And then I am going right up to the throne and get some for myself.