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Steppingstones out of stress

From the May 1, 2006 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


ALL THROUGH high school and college, writing was very difficult for me. I always dreaded it! Stress wasn't a word I'd have used at the time, but that's exactly what I felt.

Then, right out of college, I interviewed for a job that required quite a bit of writing. I remember adopting a sense of willfulness about it: I'll just force myself to finally learn to write well.

But, at the same time, I felt a humble willingness to listen for God's will, not mine.

So I prayed from the perspective that if I belonged in that position, God would place me there. After a few interviews, I was hired.

The job involved researching a subject totally new to me and then writing a lengthy report for a client. Eagerly I dived into the research work, as well as the writing. Yet every draft I handed in came back with corrections, questions, and edits.

"Hold in yourselves the true sense of harmony," wrote Mary Baker Eddy, "and this sense will harmonize, unify, and unself you" (Message to The Mother Church for 1900, p. 11). At each step I tried to hold to God's direction, rather than to fear or give in to the idea that I needed to come up with the answers on my own. And the result was order and a feeling of freedom. For me, to be aware of true harmony meant to mentally give up any feeling that I was in charge, or that I depended on luck, and to vigilantly focus on God and His goodness as the only influence in this project.

My boss was understanding, but exacting—and deadlines loomed large. I began to dread going to work, and because I felt so inadequate, I would often arrive in tears. On top of that, I had just moved, become engaged, had a wedding to plan, and needed to find a place for my future husband and me to live. I felt overwhelmed. But I loved the Bible promise that "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28).

I decided that what was required of me was to trust God's goodness and turn away from the evidence that I was only a fallible mortal, and to rely instead on His power to show me the next steps. And I did my best to listen to His direction and to hold to an expectation of calm. The closer I held to this, the clearer and quicker the answers I needed came.

At points, I felt low, depressed, and very stressed. But even in this turmoil, directions spontaneously came. Finally, I got an idea for organizing the report, and confidence began to replace my fear and stress.

This conscious expectation of seeing God's harmony in my work had a side benefit. The events in my personal life, including the wedding, came together—almost effortlessly. I don't remember much about planning the wedding, except that each step was obvious and each solution harmonious.

As the deadline for the first draft of my report got closer, I spent even more time holding to God and the expectation that divine direction and care were present, right then. Constant prayer meant that rather than just dip in and out of contemplating my relationship to God, it was crucial for me to maintain a continual awareness of His care for everyone affected by the work.

When the first draft was finished, I still felt doubtful that our client would accept it. I also felt concern that its content might cause others to make flawed business decisions. At that point, I turned to God, the one Mind, as originating both the demand for the project and the information that would fulfill this demand. I reasoned that if my reporting was flawed, God would point out the mistakes and pave the way to rectify them. That idea that all things had to work together in the love of God—of good—was not just for me. It was for my firm, for the client, and, in turn, for the client's customers.

The report was ultimately accepted. Then I was assigned another equally large report. The compiling went smoothly, and the report was also accepted. As gratifying as this was, the more significant outcome for me was that I'd learned a spiritual lesson: The ability to hold mentally to a true sense of harmony, one rooted in the power of divine goodness, is a precious treasure that conquers stress.

Another time when I was feeling a lot of pressure to get a task done on time, a colleague came to my office door. She obviously needed to feel God's care right at that moment. Turning to God for direction, I realized that by giving love to this individual, I couldn't be penalized, nor could the task. In the past, I would have felt impatient and put-upon. But what I had learned about letting God reveal His plan spoke to me. I trusted that God would provide what was needed for my task and for the woman at my door. After a brief visit, she left feeling comforted, and, in turn, my task was finished on time, and effortlessly.

Another time my job was threatened by a higher-ranking individual. This fellow was not my boss, but he had my boss's ear. He told me in no uncertain terms that by the following weekend, I was to have a particular client signed on for a long-term commitment. Having never done any sales work, I did not know how to begin.

Again I held to the guarantee of goodness God gives each of us, and, as a result, I felt no fear or pressure. I knew that if something was required of me, it was first required of God, and that His power, not my own, would accomplish it. I could see then that there was no pressure on me or my abilities. When the temptation to lose that conviction came, I resisted it and maintained my hold on the idea of God's supremacy. I obediently followed up with the client as soon as possible. They requested to sign a long-term commitment that very day.

It has become clear to me that the only place where stress and pressure can exist is in consciousness. And I've learned that it is possible to vigilantly maintain an awareness of God's unfailing care, expecting His clear direction. We can trust that harmony will be the inevitable result. Pressing demands can actually become steppingstones for practical solutions through prayer. And even more important, for spiritual growth in all areas of our lives. That's another precious treasure. | ♦

It has become clear to me that the only place where stress and pressure can exist is in consciousness. And I've learned that it is possible to vigilantly maintain an awareness of God's unfailing care, expecting His clear direction.


Kate Dearborn lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Tim, and their daughter, Taylor: "Not completely stress-free, but working with God on it!"

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