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Seeking spiritual guidance

From the February 9, 2015 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Which college should I attend, and what should I study? What profession shall I pursue, in what location? Is this the right time and the right person for me to marry? Is it better to be a stay-at-home parent or continue with my career?

When we need to make important decisions like these, with far-reaching consequences for us and perhaps others, nothing we can do is more gratifying or insures a better outcome than turning wholeheartedly to God for guidance. God, infinite Mind, is the very source of all being and intelligence. As our true Parent, He intends only good for us, and when we take a pressing question to Him in prayer, we can trust that the answer we receive will bless not only us but all concerned.

While it is entirely possible and natural to receive divine guidance in any aspect of our lives, seeking God’s will may require persistent spiritual discipline. What I have found in my own experience is that the necessary work has a great deal to do with putting off the human mind’s preoccupation with the pros and cons of a decision so that deep, humble, and genuinely open spiritual listening can take place.

At one point I was faced with a career decision that had implications not only for my own employment and place of residence but also for my wife’s, since she had established a career where we were living. At the time I was working for a nonprofit organization in the Boston area, and as a result of the ending of a major government contract, my job had become precarious. I prayed earnestly about it, endeavoring to be an active witness to God’s unfolding of progress.

Sensing the need to be open to what God would reveal, I worked with two Bible stories. One suggested the possibilities for good in remaining in my current situation. That was the account of Joseph’s experience in Egypt, where he was able to prosper and bless others in every situation in which he found himself (see Genesis, chaps. 39—50). The other suggested that blessing could come through willingness to join a different organization in another state. That was the account of Ruth and her willingness to follow Naomi away from her homeland into an unpredictable future, where she reaped blessings while blessing others (see book of Ruth). Both stories showed the importance of flexibility and responsiveness, a willingness to put aside the human inclination to figure it all out, so that I could be wholeheartedly open to whatever divine Mind would bring into my experience as the next step.

I responded to some job postings by other organizations, and in several cases I was either interviewed or invited to submit answers to questions in writing. I had three interviews with an organization located in New Jersey. Those were terrific experiences. On flights and cab rides, in airports and waiting rooms, I spent time in spiritual study and prayer, and I felt a poise, peace, and clarity during the face-to-face interviews.

On a Friday morning I received a phone call from the head of the organization in New Jersey, offering me the position. I thanked her for the offer and told her I would be back in touch with a decision early the following week. I had taken the day off and was grateful to have a three-day weekend to devote to spiritual study and listening. I had learned from previous decision points in my life the importance of seeking spiritual direction.

Seeking God’s will may require persistent spiritual discipline.

At first after receiving the offer, I felt stirred up—a sort of gleeful agitation that was none too conducive to spiritual listening. I contacted a Christian Science practitioner, who agreed to pray for me. Then I settled down to do some diligent spiritual work over the next few days (my wife was out of town that weekend). During those days, I struggled with the temptation to calculate which way to go by imagining possible scenarios. What helped me resist that tendency was to claim divine Mind as the one true source of my consciousness. As I dug deeper into spiritual study, I felt closer to God. 

On Sunday morning I was reading Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy and came upon the definition of ears in the Glossary, which begins, “Not organs of the so-called corporeal senses, but spiritual understanding” (p. 585). What came to me as I considered those words was that spiritual understanding doesn’t come and go, any more than our ears do. Divine Mind is constantly imparting its message to man, and it’s natural for each of us to hear it. It may be a “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12), but spiritual understanding hears it loud and clear.

I was inspired by listening to re­corded hymns on the drive to church, and by the church service itself. In the early afternoon I had a helpful conversation with the practitioner, who pointed out a statement by Mrs. Eddy in Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896: “The apostle indicates no personal plan of a personal Jehovah, partial and finite; but the possibility of all finding their place in God’s great love, the eternal heritage of the Elohim, His sons and daughters” (p. 182). 

As I continued to pray, I realized that I didn’t really have the burden of a decision to make, but the joy of discovering how God, divine Love, was opening the way. A short while later I opened the Christian Science Quarterly to the new Bible Lesson and read these words in the Responsive Reading: “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (Revelation 3:7, 8).

As I paused after reading these words, my consciousness was spiritually illumined. With joy I recognized this Bible quote as an affirmation that divine Love had opened the door for me, and that if I walked through it, I would find Love’s guidance all along the way. It was a wondrous moment! So many human considerations and the weight of a big decision dropped away, and there was only the joy of spiritual light.

I accepted the position the next week. My wife and I put our house on the market and began looking for a new home in New Jersey, and for the next step in her career. It has been more than 18 years since we made that move, and it is difficult to fully express how blessed we have been. Not only have we been purposefully and happily employed, but within a year of the move we were blessed with our only child, who as I write this is finishing high school and looking forward to college.

When faced with a consequential decision, we don’t need to pore over lists of pros and cons and hope that luck is on our side. We really belong to omniscient Mind, the Father and Mother of all creation. This divine Parent gives us spiritual sense, which Mrs. Eddy explains is “a conscious, constant capacity to understand God” (Science and Health, p. 209). We can actually build our lives on the spiritual foundation God establishes for us as His loved children.

It’s not possible to escape the fact that we belong to God—that we are only and fully and beautifully what He expresses. Why be fooled into believing that this isn’t the case? We must eventually come to realize our actual oneness with our Father-Mother. And when we do, we’ll understand that we were never truly confused, uncertain, or lost, and never could be. God always has guided and always will guide every one of His children in the way of understanding.

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