I stood in the kitchen, elbow deep in hot sudsy water, when movement outside caught my attention. A car pulled into the church parking lot, mere spitting distance from my back door. Samuel waved and headed into the church building.
I smiled and nodded, but immediately felt the temperature of the water seep inward into my soul and stir the glowing embers of anger. The rest of the day I felt those coals smolder.
I snapped at the kids when they messed around and didn’t finish their assignments during my allotted time for schooling. I curtly hung up after my husband informed me I was “asked” by the board to “rally the women” to begin Vacation Bible School preparations. But the moment the coals fanned into flame was when I closed the back door after our dear, sweet church secretary popped in uninvited. She “saw the curtains open” and me “moving about through the window”.
I stared out the large, single-paned window at the broken fence that once separated me from the daily goings on at the church. Two winters ago, the huge cottonwood blew over in a fierce storm. Although the tree missed the house, it aced out the fence that protected me like a walled city.
The kids argued behind me about something tremendously trivial and my eruption of anger spewed sparks all over the place. After my dragon-mouthed burst of fire, I hid in my room over an hour for the protection of my family. Rolled into a ball with a pillow clutched to my chest, I blinked away the tears of utter frustration. I didn’t even know what made me angry until my eyes landed on the small plaque on the wall.
“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…”
“How about the wisdom to discern what’s bothering me?” I whispered my query heavenward. I closed my eyes and saw Samuel’s pleasant smile and friendly wave. Instantly, I knew what my problem was.
“Okay, God. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” I paused. “I can’t change the fact that a tree fell and crushed the backyard fence. I can’t change that I’m a pastor’s wife. I can’t change the location of the parsonage.”
I felt the flames begin to die down inside me and continued with my prayer. “Courage to change the things I can…okay.” I had no idea what I could change on my own other than shutting my curtains and locking the back door. Both of those options didn’t appeal to me. “And wisdom to know the difference.”
I sat up with an ‘aha bucket of water’ moment that began to douse the fire in me. That night I wooed Pete and he soothed me and we lay curled up together facing the serenity plaque.
“The kids said you had a meltdown of sorts today,” Pete ventured carefully. “Are you okay now? I mean you seem to be, but do you need to talk about it?”
“Yes and yes,” I rolled over to face him in the dark. “I hid in here for a bit and prayed the Serenity Prayer and felt much better.”
“You what? How could a clichéd, hackneyed, over-marketed, simple prayer help you feel better?”
“It made me stop and analyze what got me stirred up today.”
Pete hated it whenever I stopped talking mid-thought, but I needed to be assured he was fully listening. “The fence.”
“What about the fence?”
“It’s never been repaired since that tree fell on it two-and-a-half years ago.”
“I’m still not following you.”
I propped myself up on my elbow so I could see his face in the shadows while I explained. “Every day, in some way, my life is on display for someone in the church to see. I know we live in a fishbowl called a parsonage, but does it have to be literal? That huge cottonwood and five-foot fence used to buffer me from the daily happenings at the church. So, tonight I’m exercising wisdom and courage. Will you help me find my serenity, please?”
Nothing more was said, but he pulled me close and I slept contently in the secure arms of my husband.
Two weeks later, Pete “rallied the men” for a Saturday morning breakfast, and the restoration of my serenity. I smiled all day, served cookies, and realized...the embers of anger were no more.
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