On How to Overcome Futility and Wishful Thinking

by | Nov 14, 2012 | Uncategorized

I remember her eyes, pools of sorrow glistening in the shadow of headlights pulling away from the church. We stood on the sidewalk splitting acorns open under the weight of our pain. She asks me what we are going to do now that the church changed their mind.

I bend over; wrap my arms around the neighbor whose relatives laid footprints where we stand, every generation since the 1700’s. She says the history can’t hold her there any longer.

And I’m a nomad, a harlot of homes stretching across states of acorn ditches.  I don’t know much about that history and I don’t have answers. But I have tea and consolation, so I extend my hand and pull up a fallen sheep with an invitation.

A few days later I lean my back into the wooden panels of a wall, join a hundred voices singing we lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus. And she is there, all crown of wisdom, arms outstretched, voice lifted to the heavens in adoration with a smile through the chorus. And afterward, when I remind her about the tea, she says she has a car full of friends to take home and a full schedule, and could we talk about it later.

And I’m hand over mouth taken back by joy.

Acceptance, it’s the train pushing grace forward through the steam of futility.

I’ve stood on the bank of wishing things were different. Awakened to futility standing over my bed, arms outstretched ready to take me on a tour through every room in the house of my mind.

And he faithfully woos me back to acceptance and courage through the voices of friends and trees flaming change.

And I wonder, was Reinhold Niebuhr standing under a cascade of falling leaves when he wrote the serenity prayer?

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Because the leaves don’t ask to change color, for courage to let go of the branch, it is what they are created to do. To change.  Like the way we are made to worship Him. And be changed by it.

Linking with Jennifer, Duane, WLWW, Emily, Life Unmasked.

For six weeks, we’ll be exploring the question, “How do we walk out our faith in the midst of pain, suffering, disappointment, and loneliness,” with a book club discussion on Thursdays about Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. Join the conversation tomorrow in the comments and at Redemptions Beauty Book Club. Start here for more information.

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  1. Sandra Heska King

    Created to change–and be changed. Your words today take my breath away.

    The Serenity Prayer–my mother loved it. And there’s more to it, did you know? The original goes on:

    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.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Ya know, I don’t think I’ve ever read the whole thing. What a gift you’ve just given me Sandy, thank you.

    • lynndmorrissey

      Sandra, that is so beautiful. I’m so glad you shared it!

  2. hopefulleigh

    What a gorgeous picture you’ve painted here, Shelly.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Leigh. And I almost didn’t post it because of my futile thinking yesterday. It’s amazing how your eyes see with new perspective after a good night of sleep. 🙂

  3. Tresta

    Beautiful joy, and this: “Acceptance, it’s the train pushing grace forward through the steam of futility.” I needed that.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanking God for timely words Tresta, so glad you let me know.

  4. lynndmorrissey

    Such a powerful post, Shelly, and I rejoice to see how God is sustaining you and your friend through a difficult change. Praise Him! *Change*! It is the only thing that doesn’t–*change,* I mean. Change is inevitable. I will never forget the time in my twenties when that unalterable truth became manifest to me. Understanding that life never remains constant almost unnerved me. But life wouldn’t be life without change; nothing grows without it, including me. Change can be good or bad, peaceful or turbulent, welcomed or disdained, accepted or avoided. But nothing can really be done to stop it. Leaves fall. The leaves on our family’s tree have nearly fallen at once, in one gusting wind; and our tree stands on turbulently shifting sand. We are scrambling to find our footing, sinking as we are in the quicksand of unwanted change that we cannot change back to stability. But suddenly, I am reminded of Peter, and how Jesus bid him walk on a violently shifting sea. Of his own volition, he chose not to resist the changing, churning waves, but rather he left the boat to come to Jesus. And then he sank. But he didn’t drown in the sea of change. Peter cried out for mercy, and Jesus reached out and grasped him, saving him. They climbed back into the boat, together, and the storm changed to calm. Oh Shelly, Jesus is the One who never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I thank you for this beautiful post which reminds me there is no futility in life when we trust Christ, in Whom nothing changes. Your post reminds me that He is wooing me to cling to Him, though the leaves fall and the flowers fade and the ground shifts. Your post reminds me that through change, I must worship the God who doesn’t! I really needed to read this. Thank you, dearest one.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      So thankful with you Lynn, that He never changes, His love is constant, even when mine is turbulent.

      • lynndmorrissey

        Wow, Shelly……you have the genesis of another post here: ….when *your* love is turbulent. You always supply more than ample food for thought.

  5. cbuxton03

    The line about acceptance being a train – it is, it really is. Sometimes we think that acceptance is giving up; but it’s not. It is a powerful force.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It can be giving up but you got it, the kind that I am talking about Courtney. The kind of circumstances that we have no power over, wish were different, but it isn’t. My husband does this well, accepts things for what they are and doesn’t allow circumstance to move him. I’m a slow learner unfortunately.

  6. Sherri

    Shelly~ how true this is – simple acceptance causing this reaction – “hand over mouth, taken back by joy”. So often, this is what we are seeking, without even knowing it! Acceptance from others, from ourselves, but the one constant is that God ALWAYS accepts us, just the way we are, even when others don’t. Thank you for the reminder! And looking forward to tomorrow!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It does seem simple and I wonder why I have such a hard time with it sometimes. I’m looking forward to tomorrow too, can’t wait.

  7. Kris Camealy (@AlwaysAlleluia)

    I’m going to be back to read this again. Shelly, this is breathtaking. You’re writing is blooming my friend, in huge transformative ways. Look at Him stretch you out. It’s a beautiful, magnificent thing to behold. XO

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Kris, I am so moved by your comment. And you know I can’t often see the forest for the trees so thank you for saying so. I’m glad to know you are seeing the petals open.

  8. jeanwise

    Read this twice. Such honesty and beautiful writing, full of wisdom too. Often we grow most during the tough times. don’t we?

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Unfortunately, I think you are right about growing most in tough times. I’m starting to embrace those more because of it.

  9. margaretfeinberg

    Finally! I’ve never known the author of the serenity prayer and it has been bugging me for years. Reinhold Niebuhr. Thank you for finally giving me the answer!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Margaret, never knew until I researched. I had actually forgotten about that prayer until it came back to me on a walk while meditating on the word Acceptance. So thankful you stopped by here, what a gift.

  10. Jennifer Camp

    “Because the leaves don’t ask to change color, for courage to drop their leaves, it is what they are created to do. To change. Like the way we are made to worship Him. And be changed by it.” Wow, Shelly. Your words are so encouraging {and beautiful!} Thank you!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      He often teaches me life lessons through what He creates. I love the shift of seasons that run tandem with my heart.

  11. Tereasa

    Acceptance is the train… It is futile to work against change. Isn’t it? I have found change so much more frightening as I’ve gotten older. On the other hand, I have gained the gift of acceptance. I call it “living in the moment.” I am happy where I am, but I know that I’ll be happy once I get to where He’s taking me next. This must be what Paul called contentment.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I can relate Tereasa. In some ways, I’m less fearful of change the more I do it but I think I know what it requires too, and that isn’t so comfortable.

  12. Jennifer@GDWJ

    Ooo. I like that. How the leaves change because that’s what they’re made to do. Yes. … A mighty fine metaphor for mortals, my friend. xo

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Glad it resonated Jennifer. You write some might fine metaphors too my friend.

  13. Susan Stilwell

    Hi Shelly,
    I echo the other commenters: love the image of acceptance as a train pushing grace. I’m embarrassed to think about how many times I’ve dug in my heels, or tried to change a situation. Or asked God to change a situation! This is a good word for me as I accept a recent change that’s left my heart in pieces.

    Trusting Him to put them back together in a beautiful mosaic.
    Hugs from VA,

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m in the midst of one of those heartbreakers too Susan. And I think its given me clarity about acceptance. How I often am wishing things were different and the way it keeps me stuck. Praying you see redemption at the end of your pain. Hugging you back.

  14. Claire Vorster (@clairesteaparty)

    As Winston Churchill said ‘Never, never give up.’ And on days when you don’t feel like it and days when you do, ask for His hand. He goes before. We are in an inch by inch battle on this planet now Shelly, but He is in every inch. Bless you, you are beautiful, and all your hidden beauty He sees.

    Not as the world sees.

    Love to you today, keep on keeping on.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Like that quote from Churchill Claire, taking it with me today. And my beloved Golden Retriever’s name was Winston – random I know but it made me think of how much I miss him laying at my feet.

  15. ro elliott

    I love…love this shelly…acceptance…yielding…surrender to what is…not what we wish it was…but accepting what is…This scripture was worked deep into my life through a painful split….
    “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;you have made my lot secure.
    The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16 blessings and see ya tomorrow 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      That scripture really stuck out to me recently Ro. It’s like a sacred echo for me. I read it in a different version for my daily reading and marked it and here you are holding it up again. Thanks!

  16. chasingsilhouettes

    sigh. i needed to be reminded of this. that we were born, like the leaves, to change, and to fall, and to be reborn. beautiful words, friend. thank you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Love the way the community of words reminds us of what we know, but forgot in the mundane of every day. Thanks Emily.

  17. Anita @ Dreaming Beneath the Spires

    “Because the leaves don’t ask to change color, for courage to let go of the branch, it is what they are created to do. To change. Like the way we are made to worship Him. And be changed by it.”

    Love that. What a beautiful post, and what glorious photographs!

  18. narrowpathstohigherplaces

    This is breathtaking writing, friend. Just gorgeous. I’ll look at the changing colors with new eyes. Love the pictures you paint here.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Alia, its been great getting to know you over at the book club. So glad you’ve added your voice to the conversation.

  19. Duane Scott

    Thank you for this: Because the leaves don’t ask to change color, for courage to let go of the branch, it is what they are created to do. To change. Like the way we are made to worship Him. And be changed by it.

    Amen, amen.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Glad to see you here Duane and good to know you can comment now. I know you were having trouble earlier.


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