There's a golden thread of joy that weaves through a life dedicated to and governed by God. Joy is vital to lives lived with "vigor, freshness, and promise" (Science and Health, p. 246). And I've seen this so many times myself.
It's a choice I can make, whether to laugh or cry over the challenges I face. I often find when I take the first road, I'm accepting the constant promise that divine Love gives good perpetually, unconditionally, and I'm trusting that it's not up to me to manufacture a right outcome. Joy breaks the mesmerizing grip of uncertainty and fear, and releases me to worship God, and only God. In this way, it's grace lived.
Recently, I took a closer look at how "vigor, freshness, and promise," relate to joy and bring healing.
SERVING GOD WITH VIGOR
This summer, I spent several weeks at a summer camp, working with a teen leadership group. At times, it was tempting to identify myself as the oldest person in our crew of campers, counselors, and fellow staff, but I repeatedly found myself with joyous opportunities to prove that expressing one's spiritual identity trumps the limits of human capability or age.
One gorgeous morning, as we scaled an avalanche field toward a peak with expansive views of the Collegiate and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges in Colorado, a simple idea brought clarity to my thoughts. It dawned on me that, as infinite Love's reflection, I was just as "eternal" as any of the campers. My capacity and mobility were just as spiritual and complete as anyone else's. Immortality is an absolute spiritual fact about each of us that can't dwindle or weaken. We each include unlimited potential and freedom as our divine identity. As I watched the steady, calm pace of the counselor in front of me as we finished the ascent, I rejoiced in the opportunity to be with these kids and listen to their chatter and song that carried across the valley.
I brought this revelation to the next, more daunting peak climb. One of the teens found the experience out of his comfort zone, so I knew immediately that I could best serve the group by helping him. As we slowly ascended, I encouraged him to take each moment and live it fully and expectantly. We talked about triumph on the mountain that day, laying a solid foundation for future successes, and I found myself singing a familiar hymn with the words "The joy that none can take away / Is mine; I walk with Love today" (Minny Ayers, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 139).
I'll always smile when I remember the look on his face as he later called home to tell his parents he'd reached the summit. I'd seen how quiet, inspired determination, not sheer human willpower, had steadily carried him up the mountain. I was heartened by the appreciation he expressed for this most challenging, yet rewarding, experience. His gratitude and joy spoke of dominion and highlighted God's unlimited potential. And I realized that in forgetting myself by helping him, I'd also been carried to the summit!
A FRESHNESS THAT HEALS
This joy that impels us sometimes comes through hard work and prayer—and a willingness to demand fresh inspiration. Several years ago, as a young wife and mother, I found myself in what felt like an emotional hole with no exit. My husband and I had been living with family for a number of years, raising small children and running our business out of a home office. A dishonest advisor had led us into a situation in which all our capital was gone, and we'd had to start over. I saw no end in sight and resented not having my own home at that point in my life. It seemed I'd lost my sense of identity in the midst of changing diapers, working, and living in someone else's house. For a good nine months, I cried every day, though I was able to hide it from most people. While my husband tenderly supported me, I prayed and listened for what I needed to learn from this experience.
The sense of heaviness came to a head during a family reunion. While I smiled on the outside, inside I'd reached a point of wanting to run away and start all over again. I felt spiritually dead, completely limited.
One night, I wrapped myself in a blanket and walked out under the starry Colorado sky just to be able to find the space to breathe. Afterward, I curled up on the floor of the cabin and, like Jacob, wrestled with an "angel," not letting go of my prayers until I felt blessed and secure, forgiven for wanting to find a way out of my situation (see Gen. 32:24–30). I longed for a new nature to identify a truer sense of myself—a fresh beginning that would remove me from what felt like a mentally crippling experience. I got a vivid insight into lines from a poem I love, written by Mary Baker Eddy:
And o'er earth's troubled, angry sea
I see Christ walk,
And come to me, and tenderly,
Divinely talk. (Poems, p. 12)
The healing Christ, a divine message beyond mere human hope, did come to my heart that night. I gradually saw that divine Mind, God, not the human mind, governed me. And that God graciously, sometimes even unexpectedly, would supply all needs at every stage of our experience. What was clear was that this fresh start didn't have to involve changes on the outside, but could be a rebirth of what I saw as my identity. In the coming weeks, I prayed with this quote of Mary Baker Eddy's from Science and Health that had been pivotal in a prior healing: "All that really exists is the divine Mind and its idea, and in this Mind the entire being is found harmonious and eternal. The straight and narrow way is to see and acknowledge this fact, yield to this power, and follow the leadings of truth" (p. 151).
Someone had once told me that we know we're being pushed around by what Mary Baker Eddy referred to as "animal magnetism," or dark feelings of the absence of good, if our joy is gone.
As I looked for divine Mind's guidance, to see the state of harmony that had always been present, I began to give gratitude for all the good around me—a beautiful temporary home and expanded, supportive family, great schools and friends for my children, and an experience far beyond what my pocketbook said it could provide. Someone had once told me that we know we're being pushed around by what Mrs. Eddy referred to as "animal magnetism," or dark feelings of the absence of good, if our joy is gone. Well, I realized that's all it was—a pull toward a purely matter-based view of existence and the belief that my life was somehow stagnant—that would try to back me into a corner and label me as lacking fresh inspiration.
And that's when the depression began to lift. As I look back, I see that Love never takes us half way. All the darkness and sadness were completely replaced with a foundational joy that is such a strength for me today—something I know I always included in my being.
As my husband and I began identifying the qualities we cherished most in a sense of home, we gave up any preconceived idea as to where we should be. We obediently researched every idea that came to us and followed Love's lead to a fresh start—a new community, church family, and a lovely home. It hadn't come to us from the outside in, but from the inside out.
AN UNENDING PROMISE
I'm finding that promise is unlimited God-given potential. Science and Health states, "God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis" (p. 258). As I cherish and mentor the youth around me through my job with DiscoveryBound (which provides year-round fellowship for Christian Scientists and their friends of all ages, where they see Christian Science in action), I find myself feeling so grateful for an abundance of youthful inspiration.
There are countless invigorating conversations I've had with youth which show their desire for a God-directed life. This sharing serves as a shining light to me and keeps me fresh and expectant of promise in my own life. There are the high school students who've experienced healing breakthroughs regarding their spiritual identity, and numerous beautiful healings I've witnessed both at Christian Science summer camp activities and weekend youth events. Students have eagerly related stories of sharing Christian Science with others on plane rides—these experiences always affirming their love for and understanding of Christian Science. And it's humbling to see how I'm not asked just to be an observer. I've traveled, camped, and gone on adventures right along with teens and have seen how God's promise of good includes me as well.
I find that, no matter what the challenges are in my life, encouraging and celebrating youthful individuality and a desire to grow spiritually is the most regenerating, inspiring, and yes, even promising work I can imagine. It helps me see that, at every stage of our lives, life becomes rich with meaning when we find and celebrate that golden thread of joy. |
Jennifer Dale lives with her family in Penn Valley, California.
Access more great content like this
Welcome to JSH-Online, the home of the digital editions of The Christian Science Journal, Sentinel, and Herald. We hope you enjoy the content that has been shared with you. To learn more about JSH-Online visit our Learn More page or Subscribe to receive full access to the entire archive of these periodicals, and to new text and audio content added daily.