First let me tell you about this mysterious looking piece because it’s something that has quite a story attached to it. Once it grew in the Amazon Rain Forest, then it became part of a ship that was lost just off the coast of Carnsore Point about 200 years ago. Very likely all on board were lost. It’s a very heavy type of wood that doesn’t float, so it remained on the seabed for all those years. We can just imagine all the storms and currents and sea creatures it had to endure over that time. Then one day it was picked up looking more or less as you see it now. The man who found it very kindly gave it to me so I just gave it a clean up, put it on a stand, and placed it in the corner of my living room.
If that were the end of the story, you wouldn’t be looking at it now. But, it wasn’t. A young man came to see me who was very troubled. Life had been very unkind to him, he had been badly messed up in childhood through sexual abuse, his teenage years were a disaster and now as an adult things were no better. He described himself as, ‘feeling lost in a sea of hopelessness’. Sometime during the chat his gaze became fixed on the piece and he went silent. ‘I feel that God is speaking to me through that piece’, he said. ‘What do you call it?’ ‘Well got at’, I replied ‘ and you can see why’. Then he got excited, ‘that’s it’ he said’, ‘that’s me, I’ve been got at all my life’. What do you see in it I asked? Something that is perfectly imperfect and yet its perfectly whole’. ‘So what’s it saying to you’ I asked. ‘I think that what God is saying is that, just at the moment my life seems perfectly imperfect and yet if I can start accepting all those imperfections I can still become perfectly whole.’ He walked out the door a new man with a spring in his step. That was the point where his life began to turn around.
A little girl was complaining to her mum one day about not being let do something. ‘Mummy’ she said ‘that’s just not fair’. Darling replied the mother who ever thought you that life should always be fair because as you get older you will one day realize that its not. Sometimes it can be very cruel and deal us some very hard knocks. The question is how can we begin to rise above them? It’s all too easy to become entombed in bitterness, feel like a helpless victim and think that there’s nothing we can do.
What I want to share with you is really the first and really big step that is absolutely necessary to make if we want to move forward and get on with our lives when something unpleasant happens. Its called ‘acceptance’.
As a child growing up one of the things that always puzzled me was something I used to hear my parents say when some tragedy would strike or something would go seriously wrong. It was a simple statement, ‘Blessed be the will of God’. At the time I would have been far more inclined to blame God for what had happened. Now that I’m a lot older I can see that there was profound wisdom in that statement. That in fact it’s only by acceptance that we can begin to climb out of the holes we find ourselves in from time to time. Its not that God wills or wants anything nasty to come into our lives, but evil is a reality and bad things happen to good people. That is a fact we cant deny. As long as we reject or resent what happens to us we find ourselves stuck, but with the grace of acceptance then we can begin to experience that our spirits are amazingly resilient and history is full of people who came out on top against the most incredible odds.
A statement that caught my eye one time that sums this up quite well is, Gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for living. If we want our spirits to rise then gratitude and acceptance have got to be the key.
St. Paul put it another way when he said ‘in all situations five thanks, for this is the will of God for you’.
The famous prayer of AA is God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. There are many things in life that we might like to change but are unable to. That doesn’t mean that we can’t rise above them. Imagine a boat travelling down a very narrow gorge. Suddenly a giant boulder appears in its path. There’s no way around, it bounces against but there’s no getting through, what can it do? There are not many options, but what it could do is accept the reality of what is there, pull back and wait. Then hopefully the water level will begin to rise and at a certain point the boat can sail right over the boulder and continue on it’s way. The boulder is still there but it can now rise above it.
For many this message of acceptance might sound not just difficult, but even impossible. You may have a burden to bear that seems just unbearable. Something may have happened that you feel that is so unacceptable that even in ten lifetimes you couldn’t come to terms with.
That too is fine. The grace of being able to accept the unacceptable comes not from our own efforts but is part of the pure gift we call Grace. The very most we can do is accept our non-acceptance and surrender it to the Lord. The more we strive to struggle to accept something like the death of a loved one, a sickness or a disability, the more frustrated we become because we don’t succeed. However, if we surrender out inability to accept and stop struggling, let go and let God as they say, then we find the grace of acceptance flowing into our hearts. It is from that place of acceptance that miracles happen. So today as you are anointed with holy oil I encourage you that even before you pray for healing, pray for the grace of acceptance. If we have that then even if the problems don’t disappear then we can still rise above them and that’s a wonderful healing in itself.