“I’m sure I will be dancing when I’m ninety!” That was a statement I often made to friends. I had been a dancer since I was twelve and attending ballet classes pretty much dictated my schedule for some thirty years. I couldn’t imagine life without dance. It was my joy, my challenge, my desire to come as close as I could to perfection. Dance defined my comfort zone and at that time, to some degree, my identity.
But at the same time, my desire to be in the healing practice of Christian Science was growing. I felt a need to shift my focus from a strong emphasis on dance to an even greater emphasis on the practice of healing. Of course one can practice Christian Science wherever one finds herself. It was a rather compulsive approach to dance that I needed to give up, not necessarily dance itself. This caused me to pray deeply about my desire to keep dancing, even after I was in the public practice of Christian Science.
This passage from Science and Health with Key the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy gave me pause: “The time for the reappearing of the divine healing is throughout all time; and whosoever layeth his earthly all on the altar of divine Science, drinketh of Christ’s cup now, and is endued with the spirit and power of Christian healing” (p. 55). My “earthly all”? Did that mean I had to be willing to give up that which I thought gave my life joy and artistic expression?
Over the years I struggled with what seemed to be a reluctance to sacrifice dancing. Throughout this time, this quote from Science and Health kept me grounded: “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds” (p. 4). I could see that the key for me was “fervent desire for growth in grace.”
The heart’s desire will pretty much steer the directions our lives take. The chapter titled “Prayer” in Science and Health makes it clear that spiritual desire is prayer. And when our desires become pure, unselfed, and free from materialism and human will, they become effective.
It became clear that what I needed to sacrifice was my allowing dance to control my life. I found that cultivating a desire for spiritual growth is something worth working for. Opening the heart to God’s presence is transformative. Asking God for growth, for guidance, for more spirituality is a prayer that is powerful. It is answered as we conform our motives to the standard of spiritual purity.
Claims about our character that are ungodlike are revealed in order to be overcome. Sometimes human will would cloud the pure desire to yield to God’s will.
The almost compulsive drive to do something would have to be characterized as human will.
What would be God’s will in any situation? Not that we should or shouldn’t give up something that seems important to us, but that we should be open to the operation of God’s law in consciousness to cleanse our thought of any selfishness or merely material desires.
For me, the almost compulsive drive to do something would have to be characterized as human will. When I was perfectly honest with myself, my desire to dance fit this definition of human will. So I prayed to want to want to be willing to give up willfulness.
And to me, the word fervent when used with desire was important. One dictionary definition is “feeling enthusiasm, ardent.” My prayer needed to move from lukewarm and tentative to enthusiastic. I asked God for help. Over time, my prayer did become purer and more focused on my desire to “be about my Father’s business” as Jesus had shown (Luke 2:49).
My fear of loss also had to be dealt with. I felt that I would lose friends, lose an activity that brought me joy, lose a big part of my life that had been a focal point for years. I became quite aware of the meaning of these words from one of Mrs. Eddy’s poems: “… fear / No ill,—since God is good, and loss is gain” (Poems, p. 4). To me, that meant I needed to trust that yielding to God could only bless. Loss was an impossibility.
During these years I wasn’t praying for help in quitting dance; I was praying just to put off human willfulness.
Then, the most amazing thing happened. Without warning, one day in the middle of a dance class, I thought, “This isn’t fun anymore.” When I left the dance studio that day, I never went back. I never wanted to go back. I felt no regrets—no sense of loss. My prayer had been answered without my needing to make a wrenching sacrifice. My spiritual progress had simply put me in a place of effortlessly moving forward to discover what more wonderful things God had in store for me.
And here I am. I’m not dancing; I’m not ninety. And I feel my life is richer and more satisfying than ever.
Since this happened to me, I’ve seen how the prayer for “growth in grace” has helped others I’ve prayed for—freed them from unhealthy relationships, workaholic behavior, addictions to certain activities and even substances that were dangerous; and the list goes on. We can trust our desires to God. Our God is merciful, and we find we are rewarded by being willing to let go of what we think we need and letting in the divine presence that takes us on our journey to freedom and unlimited joy.
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