I’m not sure which comes first, the profession or the obsession, but every engineer I know has an obsessive compulsive nature to a degree. It’s necessary to keep up. When I’m working on a problem it’s with me day and night, no matter what else I may be doing. Part of my mind is locked on it. At 13, when I was learning to code, if someone stirred me from a nap, I’d wake up spouting the code I was working on. That’s pushing hard. It pays off when you produce solutions. It’s not so fun when you’re just going round in circles. It’s a hard fact of life that not all problems can be solved the way we desire.
So what do you do when you have problems that cannot be solved? There’s that whole Serenity Prayer thing. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; and courage to change the things I can.” It’s a good prayer. Unfortunately, I find myself constantly bumping up against the things I cannot change. My mind plays them like a record that won’t stop. I create an endless debugging session for myself, trying to fix the errors. “Gotta make it right.” The fight in me doesn’t want to give up. But I’m not helping myself. I’m just increasing my frustration. How can I get off this ride?
I think I’ve had a minor epiphany about it. I got a chance to go to Apple’s Developer Conference last week. It was a great week. A lot of life’s normal pressures were off and I got to focus on things I enjoy. Coming home, I realized that I’d stopped thinking about some of the things I find upsetting. By stepping out for a bit, it cleared my head. It occurred to me that the point of serenity is: peace in the midst of trials.
The word surrender comes to mind when I hear the word serenity. I’m resistant to surrendering against things I oppose. Perceived wrongdoing gets my back raised up like a disturbed cat, followed by hissing and the showing of claws. It’s really hard to listen to Jesus and turn the other cheek. The trouble is in thinking I have the solution for wrongdoing. I become the the victim and the corrector in my mind, which is an endless circle of defeat. I cannot tell God how to run his planet. Humility Now! 🙂
So what can I do? Complain all the time? Like that does any good? All that does is feed the misery and kill time. Take it like a Christian? Maybe get a whip and flagellate myself for good measure? Bah. I’ve settled on one simple thought: Recognizing what I cannot change, I choose not to make it worse. I can do that by not adding bitterness to it, nor malice, nor hate. I can do that by entrusting my whole life to God to make right, weeds and wheat together. Real trust, or faith, is the kind of surrendering that brings serenity.
Jesus set the example:
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23
Faith is what carried Joseph through when he was sold into slavery in Egypt. He could have made it worse. Faith carried him when he was falsely accused and imprisoned. He could have made it worse. Had he done so he would have ruined his own life. Instead, he trusted God and God rewarded him.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
The key isn’t in pretending it’s all good. Some of it isn’t. The key is the joy that comes from knowing God is all good.
“Life is hard, but God is good.” – Randy Stonehill