How to Practice Radical Acceptance that Leads to Endurance
So I accepted that our summer had changed after my daughter broke her arm. I made new plans, mellow plans. We played Fishopoly. Built bigger and bigger puzzles. She can't practice violin with her cast so I adapted and found Music Note Bingo and Music Go Fish. We are going to make it.
I accepted the new terms of summer. I did. Truly. No lie.
And then I had to do it again. Accept it again. Because the new terms are exhausting me.
And that's ok. That's how acceptance works sometimes.
If I told you that with every challenge I have faced, I accepted my circumstances in one solitary act and moved on, I would be lying. The truth is that God brings me to a place where I have to surrender my expectations time and time again. I accept it, my limitations or my interrupted plans or whatever else is not within my control, and release that burden to Jesus. And it's good and beautiful and freeing.
At some point, the challenge, the hurt, the brokenness comes back to me in a fresh way. Psychologists say that every trauma needs to be processed again at each new developmental stage. Perhaps, at my age, my traumas (big and small) need to be processed with each new remembrance. Whatever the reason, the hurt feels new again, so I must go through the work of accepting what God has put on my path and surrendering it to him all over again.
The path to endurance and hope is taken with not one but many small steps of acceptance.
Seventy x Seven
The Bible tells us that Paul prayed three times for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. Not once. Not twice. But three times. (2 Cor 12:7-10)
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for God to "remove this cup from me." (Matt 26:36-36) Not once. Not twice. But three times.
I am not Jesus! (Can I get an AMEN?!) Nor am I Paul. Three times is not nearly enough for me. Let's try 70x7 times, shall we?
Do it again. And again.
This week, I learned of a thing called Radical Acceptance. Radical means exactly what you think, extreme or ultimate or maximum. So Radical Acceptance is extreme acceptance. What does that look like? It looks like telling yourself the extreme truth, even if you don't feel like it. Even if you don't believe it. And keep telling yourself the extreme truth until something breaks through. It will. In time.
For me, this summer, Radical Acceptance looks like this:
I have to cancel another fun plan/appointment because I need to keep my daughter home and mellow so her bones can heal. I'm bummed about that.
Instead of doing my normal thing which is to sigh or give up making fun plans, I tell myself, "Fun can still be had."
I might finish that off with an, "uh-huh" of disbelief. But that's ok.
I repeat the line, "Fun can still be had," every time I fall back into Eyore Mode. And eventually, the "uh-huh" doesn't sound so strong.
I repeat the line, "Fun can still be had," every time... every. single. time. And eventually, the "uh-huh" doesn't come out of my mouth.
Radical Acceptance is just a tool. It's not magic. But it is handy for helping me fight lies that swirl in my head like "God must not love me," or "We are being punished for something." I know those aren't true but my emotions may not be in line with my head. The truth is that God loves me and always will. There is beauty to be found in the slow. Accidents happen. We can adapt. We can still have fun. I believe these things in my logical mind. Radical Acceptance helps my heart catch up.
Whatever you are facing, persevere in the work of accepting it. It truly is freeing. I have learned that it will lead to hope. Try, try again.
And take heart, Friend. After Paul prayed three times for his thorn to be removed, he wrote this:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ... For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- 2 Cor 12:9-10 (ESV)
His grace is sufficient.
When we are weak, he is strong.
Persevere, dear Friend.
There is one more thing, a critical thing, I have learned. I have watched someone I love struggle and strugglewith accepting the terms of their life. Thoughts cycle daily: Life isn't fair. Things should be better. And until things change, there will be no enjoyment of life.
These thoughts lead to frustration and anger. Daily. This is holding back the person I love from the freedom that comes with acceptance.
In a way, anger has become the thing to hold onto. If they release the anger, there is a sense that they may become untethered. That's just too scary. What this person needs is to replace the fear and anger with Jesus. Because Jesus alone will bring true enjoyment of life. Jesus will bring hope.
Accepting the terms of our lives comes easier when we can put down the fear, anger, frustration, disappointment and pick up our Treasure, Jesus.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
- Matthew 13:44 (ESV)
That parable has always been interesting to me because the man sold everything, everything, for the treasure. At that's the end. We don't read about him later selling the treasure to buy a mansion or to building a business empire. He just wants the treasure. Just the treasure. And he wants it with all that is in him.
What we truly long for isn't what Jesus can give us: peace, relief from struggle, comfort. Those are secondary. The thing our hearts truly long for is Jesus himself. The treasure.
When I accept the terms of my life, my broken lungs, my weak body, my traumatized children, I am free to let go of my expectations and longings for strength and ease. Then with open hands, I can pick up my treasure, Jesus himself.
Radical Acceptance, repeated to myself.... Releasing disappointment and receiving Jesus... these are the steps to my endurance. I can live my life, broken and messy as it is, with hope and joy because I already have what my heart longs for: Jesus himself.
How about you? If you have had to accept a roadblock in your path, please share how many times you have had to accept and release it. Just leave a number in the comments below.
If you are struggling to endure the hard things in your life, please let me send you Five Prayers to Help You Endure.