Need a good idea?

Originally appeared online in the teen series Trending -  September 12, 2023

I had an important paper due in five days, and I hadn’t started it. In fact, I didn’t even have a topic. 

My professor had handed out a list of topic choices, but all of the topics seemed obscure or dull. I couldn’t make myself choose any of them. 

As zero hour approached, I knew it was time to do something I should have done earlier—something I’d done many times as a student of Christian Science. In prayer, I turned to God, infinite intelligence, for help.  

The first idea that came to me as I prayed was part of Mary Baker Eddy’s explanation of our spiritual identity in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “the compound idea of God, including all right ideas” (p. 475). It occurred to me that the decision about which topic to choose was itself a right idea because finishing my paper was the right thing to do. And according to that explanation, that idea was already part of me. It had to be. Otherwise, I’d be incomplete, and God can’t make anything or anyone that is incomplete. 

All of the topics for my paper seemed obscure or dull. I couldn’t make myself choose any of them.

Then why wasn’t I able to pick a topic? I realized that this was the wrong question, because it still assumed that the necessary idea was somewhere outside me, and that I had to pick, find, or wait for it. In reality, I didn’t have to do any of those things. What I had to do was accept my completeness as the compound idea of God. 

It’s no different than dealing with a health problem. The purpose for our prayer isn’t to make our body feel better. Our prayer is about understanding more clearly that, as God’s children, we are, in reality, already whole and healthy. Similarly, I didn’t have to pray to think of or choose something I lacked; I just needed to know that I couldn’t lack anything, including necessary ideas. 

I resolutely pushed aside concerns about my circumstances—my opinion about the topics, the time pressure, the consequences of not turning a paper in, and so on. With growing conviction, I claimed the truth of my completeness as God’s child and insisted that no anxiety, worry, frustration, or any other negative thought could intrude on or interfere with that completeness. I prayed that way for a while, until I felt confident and free of concern.

Only then did I allow myself to glance back at the list of topics. Immediately, one jumped out at me. It no longer seemed obscure or dull but instead felt like something I wanted to know more about. I got busy right away. I enjoyed researching and writing the paper, turned it in on time, and received a good grade.

There are no formulas when it comes to the practice of Christian Science. But this basic insight—that each of us includes every necessary idea—was very helpful to me in my remaining years in college and graduate school, and it has continued to be helpful. Any job or situation we find ourselves in requires an idea or a flow of ideas. And it’s comforting to remember that as “the compound idea of God” we already have whatever ideas are needed.

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