I remember that last day of college so clearly. We sat in an outdoor amphitheater in our black gowns, wedged between our fellow classmates, anticipating the moment when we would fling our mortarboards into the blue. As we gazed up into the sunshine and watched the caps fly, we celebrated the infinite possibilities before us.
I also recall, however, the barrage of question marks that my friends and I faced. Will I succeed in my career? What kind of job will I be able to find? What do I even want to do? High school seniors, too, face myriad questions, whether heading to a new school experience or into a work environment.
I found that what helped settle those persistent questions was to clarify my motives. Continually! Rather than ruminating so much on the “what” or “where” aspects of the road ahead, I strove to zoom in on the “why”—whether I was choosing a major in college or negotiating the twists and turns of my first job experience. I would ask myself: “Why do I like this activity?” “Why am I here?” My responses often included these powerful infinitives: to serve, to share, to express, to bless.
As a Christian Scientist, I knew that spiritualizing my motives—making them less selfish—would rescue me from a limiting, “me-centered” approach and point me toward a “Thee-centered” or God-centered one. I could better connect to God’s plan for me and to my spiritual, unlimited nature as His offspring. God, our divine Principle, needs each one of us to manifest and glorify His character, His dominion, goodness, and excellence. When our desires are honest and pure, we can’t help but be guided and supported by our heavenly Father-Mother God, the one divine intelligence, or Mind. Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, once wrote, “Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 454).
Four years earlier, after graduating from high school, I’d had similar questions about my future and was anxious about the demands ahead. But I’d found great comfort in this passage from the Bible: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalms 27:4). That may not sound like anything that relates to college, but to me at the time, it underscored my priorities. Deep down, I wanted to live in God’s presence, to learn more about His beautiful creation, and to expand my ability to glorify Him in everything I did.
Like a flash it hit me: It’s never what one is doing; it’s how and why one is doing it.
My ultimate purpose then was to bear witness to God’s love, intelligence, and understanding. I endeavored to see every challenge—including the privilege of performing a piano concerto with a visiting orchestra—as an opportunity to glorify God, divine Love. Throughout my college years, with their ups and downs, trials and victories, that Bible passage and many others found in the weekly Christian Science Bible Lesson kept me focused on my spiritual identity as God’s reflection. I came to feel assured, over and over, that I was capable of fulfilling whatever tasks God set before me, and it proved true.
After college, once again I had to face down fear. Sometimes those commencement speeches lay it on pretty thick for graduates to “go make something of yourselves.” Talk about pressure! But how wonderful to know that, in the Science of Christianity, in which God is revealed as the sole creator and architect of being, such self-determination is an erroneous concept. God, alone, determines all. As the primal cause, God, our Father-Mother, expresses Himself-Herself through man and the entire universe. In reality, since we are the spiritual reflection of God, we live and work as God directs and causes. We could no more veer off course, or falter, than a sunbeam could split off from the sun or turn in a contrary direction from its source.
This grand fact of being, however, needs to be recognized through prayer—and practiced. Early on in my first job out of school, I had to learn a smidgen about humility! My entry-level position with a newspaper required hours of sorting mail, running packages, and clocking in before dawn to haul cartloads of papers to editors’ desks. It was thrilling and fun at first. But after more than a year, not so much. Carrying around resentment wasn’t helpful, I knew.
During that time, I recalled pondering how Jesus, probably in his early 20s—the same age as me—labored as a carpenter, like Joseph. Drudgery for the Son of God? I doubt it! He was practicing being good, honest, and obedient to God, all in preparation for his great healing and teaching ministry, which began at the age of about 30. I remember one day, when I was faced with a particularly ominous stack of mail, that even though this wasn’t my idea of advancement, I resolved to be the best mail clerk there ever was. Like a flash it hit me: It’s never what one is doing; it’s how and why one is doing it. I realized that I could perform this chore using my God-given qualities of poise, precision, and efficiency. After all, it helped the editors and contributed to the smooth operation of the entire newsroom. What a freeing thought that was—it was all about love! The sense of burden and unhappiness vanished. Eventually, I was promoted to more skilled duties—and just at the right time, when my heart and motives were purified and unselfed.
Whatever question marks or roadblocks appear to rise up as we move forward, divine Love opens the way when we align our motives with love and service. At every stage of life, it all boils down to love for God and His creation. Christ Jesus taught this, and he no doubt practiced it every day of his life. He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
Laura Clayton is a Christian Science practitioner in Franklin, Massachusetts.