Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
In Thee, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In Thy righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline Thy ear to me, and save me! Psalm 71:1-2
We’ve all had the feeling of a long journey. Not all “long journeys” involve travel. For instance, a cancer patient has a long journey through chemo, sometimes with lots of painful side effects. A person who has lost a loved one has a long journey of grief. A college student has a long journey through four years of classes. Depending on what is going on, a given day can feel like a long journey.
There are many things that long journeys have in common. When we begin a long journey, it feels daunting. We’re not talking about getting on an airplane for a ten-hour flight to Europe or Hawaii. That is a long journey in terms of miles covered. However, long flights are not daunting. We settle in, sit, maybe sleep, and in a few hours it’s over and we’ve reached our destination. This is a long journey, but not a daunting one. Other kinds of journeys feel daunting at the beginning. While we might get on a plane with excitement, the other kinds of long journeys are usually met with trepidation, anxiety or fear.
Long journeys feel like they will never end. For the person facing three months of chemo or rehabilitation from an injury, that can feel like a lifetime. It is hard to see the other side.
Long journeys are completed one step at a time. No one can finish a four-year college in one day. No one can finish multiple cycles of chemo in a day. We don’t raise children in a day. These journeys are made over a period of weeks or months or years, or in the case of children, decades.
If we try to see the whole picture, we will most likely feel despair and we will definitely lose focus. The key to making any journey is learning to take one step at a time, to focus on one step at a time, to focus on what is right in front of us, the immediate challenge that needs to be conquered. We can’t meet all the challenges at once. We can meet one challenge at a time. I’m reminded of the saying “What’s the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
We are in the midst of a long journey in 2020. Unlike many journeys where we know when and where and how they will end, that is not the case this year. Although, there are many journeys we’ve taken where the ending was uncertain. Take college for example. When I entered college, I knew I needed 120 credits to graduate, and I knew I was supposed to graduate in four years. So, I had an idea of what to do and how long it was going to take. I didn’t get the 120 credits in one day or one semester. I got 15 credits in a semester, by taking classes each day. The key to college, as with any journey, is to take it a day at a time. And that’s the key to this journey in 2020, one day at a time.
Some of us are living in relative isolation—so we have to embrace this challenge, one day at a time. Each day there should be a period of prayer, exercise, adequate food, rest and hygiene. There should also be daily contact with other people over the phone. Everyone should reach out to at least one person a day.
For those venturing out to shop or work, it is also helpful to take things a day at a time. I’ve encouraged people to be “careful, but not fearful.” I go out almost every day, either to church to worship, or to the office to work, or to the store to shop. That certainly raises my chances of getting sick more than if I stayed at home and saw no one besides my immediate family. Rather than dwell on what could happen, I use the “careful but not fearful” approach. I approach each person or situation, service or shopping trip with care, and a sense of being deliberate and purposeful. I don’t spend much time on the big picture of when does this end and how does it end because that tends to bring me down, rather than up, or as a friend of mine says, “there is no cheese at the end of that tunnel.” (Thanks Alkis Crassas!) Worrying about things generally doesn’t change their outcome. If anything, worrying makes one more likely to make a mistake.
So do what you do today and focus on today, one step at a time. Take refuge in the Lord, as today’s Psalm says. Because while we need a relationship with Him for life, the first day of the rest of our lives is today, the day we have. So, go with God today, make the most of today.
In Thee, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In Thy righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline thy ear to me, and save me! Be Thou to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me, for Thou art my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. For Thou, O Lord, art my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon Thee I have leaned from my birth; Thou art He who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of thee. I have been as a portent to many; but Thou art my strong refuge. My mouth is filed with Thy praise, and with Thy glory all the ay. Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. For my enemies speak concerning me, those who watch for my life consult together, and say, “God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him for there is none to deliver him.” O God, be not far from me; O my God make haste to help me! May my accusers be put to shame and consumed; with scorn and disgrace may they be covered who seek my hurt. But I will hope continually, and will praise Thee yet more and more. My mouth will tell of Thy righteous acts, of Thy deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come, I praise Thy righteousness, thine alone. O God, form my youth Thou has taught me, and I still proclaim Thy wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, till I proclaim Thy might to all the generations to come. Thy power and Thy righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens. Thou hast done great things, O God, who is like Thee? Thou who has made me see many sore troubles wilt revive me again; from the depth of the earth Thou wilt bring me up again. Thou wilt increase my honor and comfort me again. I will also praise Thee with the harp for Thy faithfulness, O my god; I will sing praises to Thee with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to Thee; my soul also, which Thou hast rescued. And my tongue will talk of Thy righteous help all the day long, for they have been put to shame and disgraced who sought to do me hurt. Psalm 71
Focus on one step at a time today!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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