As an actress living in New York, I was used to taking direction. I loved working with a director to help bring to life the artistic vision of a story and breathe life into a character. However, when it came to the direction of my own life, at times it felt like I was trying to translate a foreign script without knowing the language.
I had been encouraged during college to live in New York to build my résumé, but told that if I wanted to “make it,” I had to move to Hollywood—and I’d better not wait too long, or I might miss my chance! I’m sure they were meant to be helpful, but these “words of wisdom” made me feel worried, lacking, fearful, and hurried. I was becoming overly concerned about the effect every job I took would have on my future. I was frequently exhausted and never took a vacation because I was worried I’d miss my big break.
As time went on depression and disappointment began to set in as my career did not take the shape I imagined it would. I was working as a waitress at a restaurant while auditioning for acting jobs and also volunteering with a nonprofit theater company. Although I found some joy in the work I was doing with my theater company, I felt completely overwhelmed by everything going on around me.
One Sunday evening, after going out for a birthday dinner, I got dropped off at the theater. As it happened, there was a Christian Science church right next door whose evening service was just about to begin. I had grown up in Christian Science and had attended Sunday School regularly as a child. But after college I had gotten so focused on the busyness of having a career that I had started leaving church out of the equation—and, although I prayed often, God felt very far away.
That evening it was as if an angel steered me right up those stairs and into the church. I found myself just opening my heart to God to help me. The very first hymn had been one of my favorite hymns growing up: “Feed My Sheep,” a poem written by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. It begins:
Shepherd, show me how to go
O’er the hillside steep,
How to gather, how to sow,—
How to feed Thy sheep;
I will listen for Thy voice,
Lest my footsteps stray;
I will follow and rejoice
All the rugged way.
(Christian Science Hymnal, No. 304)
With tears rolling down my face, I sat so still during that service, soaking in the spiritual truths that came to me. It is hard to describe what I felt, except to say that I felt like I had come home. And I knew from the bottom of my heart that everything was going to be OK—in fact, it already was.
That moment was a new beginning. It showed me that I needed to listen intently for spiritual intuitions; and as I did so, they began to light up the way for me.
I spent many days at the Christian Science Reading Room, praying for inspiration and direction. I began to feel human will giving way to a higher sense of peace and trust that God was the source of my life, and that I was created with a divine purpose that included right direction.
Very shortly, I realized that I wanted to take Christian Science Primary class instruction, a 12-day course that explores in depth Christ Jesus’ teachings and Mary Baker Eddy’s discovery of God’s laws that underlie spiritual healing. Through a series of angel messages, I was led to just the right teacher for me—and, as it happened, she lived in California.
In preparing for class, I found I was able to put into practice what I had been working on in my spiritual study: calming my thought and shutting out fear. Eddy writes, “Allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought. Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of life harmonious—as Life eternally is—can destroy any painful sense of, or belief in, that which Life is not” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 495). She also instructs us to trust that “Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way” (p. 454). I knew that I was being led to take class instruction, and that this right idea must include all the correct elements in order to make it right.
It was so clear to me that there couldn’t be a single detail left out of the equation, and there wasn’t. A series of incredible events gave me the time off I needed to take class, with some extra time at the end. I even got an e-mail from a friend who was moving to New York and was happy to take my apartment and pay rent for a month while he settled into the city. The experience continues to remind me of the ease and grace that is present for each of us to experience, and how as we listen for those angel messages, we find we have the spiritual intuition we need to move forward without fear.
God’s guidance didn’t stop there. Less than two years later, I was in the middle of starting up a brand new theater company. We were just about to cast our first show, in which I was expected to play the lead, when the opportunity arose for me to move to California. I once again began to feel the mixed emotions of excitement, fear, worry, doubt, and wonder. I remember sitting in my apartment and looking around at everything I felt as though I’d built over the years in New York, thinking about the connections I’d made, the friends I’d met, the theater companies I had worked my way up in. I reached out to God, more deeply than ever before, and literally said out loud, “OK, God, if this is the right move, You are going to have to take care of all the details.”
As we listen for angel messages, we find we have the spiritual intuition we need to move forward without fear.
And, of course, the details were met! I called the friend who had stayed in my apartment when I had gone through class instruction and told him I was looking to move but didn’t know what I would do about my lease. He told me he’d loved staying in the apartment when he first moved to New York and would be happy to fulfill the rest of the lease. I remember getting off the phone smiling from ear to ear and thinking, “Well, there’s no turning back now!” The fear about leaving completely dissolved, and it became clear that I could leave without harming the theater company I’d worked so hard to found.
Within a few months of moving to California, I had the opportunity to perform a small role in a play with a theater company that had a similar vision to the one I had for the company in New York. I was welcomed as a member and had many wonderful experiences performing, producing, and even serving as the company’s president.
I had fallen in love with the quaint, historic city where I had attended class those few years before, and often felt led to go back there. So when I found an audition for a Shakespeare festival there, I just knew I had to audition. It didn’t matter to me that I would have to drive 60 miles just to get there. I felt completely inspired and let divine Love lead the way. It was at that audition that I met my husband.
One day, just a few weeks into our relationship, I found him reading my weekly Christian Science Bible Lesson. At the time, he had never heard of Christian Science, but had been deeply seeking spiritual truth. Those first conversations we had together set the foundation for a beautiful relationship that continues to grow in so many ways. At the time I had also been attending a monthly young adults discussion group at church, and this became a wonderful way to introduce my husband to Christian Science. To this day, we still attend the discussion group and are both very active in our church. And a few years ago, my husband also took class instruction.
While doing a study of the word grace, I found this definition from Strong’s Concordance: “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.” It made me think about all the wonderful ways those spiritual intuitions had come to me, leading and directing my life in the perfect way. Outwardly, things had happened in a way I understood (I did end up moving to California and pursuing a career as an actress)—but no amount of human planning could have provided me with the spiritual insights I gained about divine Life, and about my inseparable relationship to my Father-Mother God. These wonderful discoveries resulted in seeing things from a higher view; taking on a new perception and seeing life in a different light. Later, this newness took shape in a new career as a photographer.
I find it so comforting to know that wherever we are we can rely on God for the inspiration we need and trust we’ll have the answer that best supports our growth. By doing this, we support the prayers of those around us who are listening for guidance, too. God knows what we need every moment, and when we trust and let divine Love lead us, we experience grace: the divine influence in our heart, reflected fully in our lives.
Kristin Palkoner lives with her husband in San Juan Capistrano where they own a portrait photography studio.