Many times on the Prayer Team, I write from personal experience. I don’t do this boast. Rather, I want to assure you that even though I am a priest and have dedicated my life to serving God and the Church, that I still have struggles, and probably the same struggles, as everyone else out there. Many times in the struggle I fail. Many times, like we all do, I wish I could go back and do something different. Everyone struggles in life, and I am no exception.
Several years ago, when I had surgery on my sinuses, the surgeon told me that for two weeks after the operation, I wasn’t going to feel very good. He said I would be dizzy and nauseous and that all I’d be able to do was sit on the couch and watch TV. He even told me that I would feel so bad, that I wouldn’t have energy to go through the drawer to find a movie to watch, and he strongly suggested I set out every movie I wanted to watch and to do so before the surgery. I thought to myself, “how bad can this possibly be? Will I really not have the energy to do anything but watch movies? Will I really feel so sick I won’t be able to go and find a movie in the drawer to watch?” As someone who is somewhat of a workaholic, I wondered if I’d really need to “shut it down” for two weeks.
The surgery happened. And the recovery was as bad as advertised. I had put a stack of movies out to watch. I was glad I had done that, as I didn’t have the energy to go looking for movies. Every day I spent the day in front of the TV watching movies. And I started to feel a little guilty, that I wasn’t being very productive, as a priest, a dad, a husband, or in any other way. This was totally unlike me, to sit idle for days.
At some point, I realized that the best I could do was just sit and watch movies. I conceded that I wasn’t going to be able to go to work. I also conceded that I could do worse—I could sit and be angry all day, or I could watch inappropriate movies. I did neither. I wasn’t angry and I didn’t watch inappropriate movies. And at the end of each day, I affirmed to myself, “this really is the best I could have done today.”
In choosing to thrive in our circumstances, sometimes our circumstances dictate that we can’t work, we can’t run around. In fact, sometimes our circumstances call on us to just sit in front of a TV all day. This is not something that happens to us every day. It happens generally when we are sick. So, when there is a day that you can’t “go” because you are sick, and if the best you can do is sit and watch TV while convalescing, give yourself a pass, and say to yourself, “I did the best I could in this circumstance.”
The Scripture passage today is about a widow who put in one coin to the treasury and was ridiculed for it. Jesus was quick to point out that what she put in represented all that she had. From a sacrificial standpoint, she had sacrificed more than anyone else. And her penny was received by the Lord, more so than the pittance given by those who had money. Because, as we have discussed, God rewards effort.
If, on a given day, you feel sick and can’t go to work, that’s okay. It’s not okay for most people to be like that every day. When sickness passes, it is time to go back to being productive. Part of choosing to thrive is knowing when we need to accept our circumstances and be content, versus working to change our circumstances. During the recovery from surgery, I accepted that I couldn’t go to work and found some contentment in just laying around the house. When the doctor said I could resume work, I went back to work. Looking back, I don’t feel guilty about those two weeks. I feel content that I couldn’t do much else other than recover. Had I not spent two weeks on the couch, had I started back too soon, those two weeks could easily have become three weeks, and I easily could have destroyed the successes of that surgery.
We are all going to go through something similar, when circumstances will not allow us to function at our best, or as good as those around us. Part of choosing to thrive, again, is being able to accept our circumstances and give our best effort, even when that means not getting the best outcome.
Lord, thank You for the gift of today. Help me to make the most of it. Whether my opportunities are many or few, help me to make the most of them. Help me to focus on what I can do, and not on what I can’t do. Help me to focus on effort and not outcome. Help me to be the version of myself, and to offer the best version of myself in service to others. Amen.
Choose to accept your circumstances, especially when they can’t be changed. Focus on effort, not on outcome.