Pulled in many directions? Let God shape each moment.
“This summer I’m going to figure out how to stop wearing so many ‘hats,’ ” I promised myself as I traveled to a summer camp for Christian Scientists. “I’m going to learn how to wear just one hat at a time!” On the surface, nothing appeared to be really wrong with my life. My days at home were filled with all the normal activities one would expect from a working husband, dad, and community member. But at the end of every day, I couldn’t help feeling exhausted, pulled in different directions, and ashamed of myself for not being more “together.” Something in my perspective was off.
A week into this summer camp experience, while walking back to my cabin after an exhilarating late-night outdoor game, I suddenly realized I wasn’t tired at all. I mean, I was definitely ready to go to bed! But I wasn’t mentally tired or worn out. Why not? I wondered. My time at camp was actually more filled with activities than my time at home. Why wasn’t I feeling pulled in many different directions? Ah. I realized it was because every single activity here, from dishwashing to Bible Lesson study (the weekly Bible Lesson found in the Christian Science Quarterly), from a game of capture the flag to each individual quietly being alert to how he or she could help another, was rooted in something bigger than one person—bigger than just the immediate task at hand.
I stopped and drank in the moonlight pouring over the mountains. Suddenly, I was filled with joy! Not because of the beautiful vista (although it was stunning), but because I realized this was the change of perspective I’d been looking for. The point wasn’t how many activities I was doing each day. The point was how willing I was to let it be about something greater than just checking off tasks or trying to make myself or others happy.
There is a beautiful poem by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, that includes these words:
My prayer, some daily good to do
To Thine, for Thee;
An offering pure of Love, whereto
God leadeth me.
(Poems, p. 13)
The foundational idea at this camp was that everything we did there was in service to, in honor of, and in love for God. Not a taskmaster god, or a Santa-like deity, tracking and comparing how nice or naughty we are, but rather God who is Love itself, pure Spirit—who shines so clearly throughout the Bible. We weren’t doing things just for the sake of doing them. Everything was devoted to the joy of God’s presence. We were all unified in our love for God and for His spiritual expression, man—each one of us.
Every single activity at this camp was rooted in something bigger than one person.
I took this lesson home, and was so grateful to see that it wasn’t the physical location of camp that had allowed this sacred sense of devotion to God to really flourish. It had truly been just a change of perspective that was needed. Instead of thinking that devotion to God was just one activity among many, I saw that devotion to divine Love, to pure good itself, was the one true activity that encompassed everything else. Yes, even washing dishes was an avenue for living that prayer—some daily good to do, always for God.
Engaging with this purpose of unifying every activity completely under the umbrella of loving and serving God rescued me from the exhaustion of feeling that I had too many hats to wear. It gave me the perfect hat for all occasions: the recognition that everything real, everything of value, is really all about, and for, God. This echoes the unity of God’s creation spoken of in the first chapter of Genesis: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (verse 31).
It’s not really about us trying very hard to make everything click. That would be putting ourselves at the center of harmony. It’s plain from the first commandment—“You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3, New King James Version)—that only God is truly central to His own harmonious creation. And we can learn to discern between activities that honor God and those that pull us away from feeling our unity with Him. Someone who experienced the healing power of Christian Science by reading Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy put it like this: “… I learned that God has given us strength to do all we have to do, and that it is the things we do not have to do (the envying, strife, emulating, vainglorying, and so on) that leave in their wake fatigue and discord” (Science and Health, p. 683).
Jesus’ reference to trees bearing only fruit that reflects their own nature (see Matthew 7:16–18) implies the inseparable unity of God and man, cause and effect. The book of James references similar ideas: “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (3:11, 12).
Anxiety about what role we are to play in any given situation may undermine our confidence in the provision of divine Love, God.
What we really are is the effect of God and His nature. From this biblical idea of man as God’s likeness Science and Health extrapolates the following: “Man is not God, but like a ray of light which comes from the sun, man, the outcome of God, reflects God” (p. 250).
After her discovery of Christian Science, Mrs. Eddy devoted the rest of her life to explaining and showing how the Bible, with the Word of God recorded therein, is fully applicable to every human need. Just as my camp experience wasn’t confined to that physical location, the promises and expressions of God’s love throughout the Bible weren’t confined to a certain time or a certain group of people, but actually define everything about us today.
I’m also reminded of a line from a hymn I love describing what the work of God, divine Love, is like: “Love’s work and Love must fit” (Mary Alice Dayton, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 51). If we are the effect of Love—the fruit of our creator—then we must fit into the larger scheme of all of Love’s work, which includes those around us.
A fascination with or anxiety about what role we are to play in any given situation may undermine our confidence in the provision and direction of divine Love, God. But we need only look to Him to find assurance of success, peace, and the certainty of good. Circumstances may shift around us. Other people may make demands on us—children, coworkers, supervisors, friends, spouses—with varying degrees of legitimacy. But we’ll never find our peace by trying to arrange all the circumstances around us. No, it’s much better to start with the one changeless cause, God, and gently, naturally work out from that standpoint to see what we are as God’s children and what we can bring to each moment.
The limited, mortal view suggests people have different, sometimes unbearable, burdens that are an inextricable part of their identity. But the God-centric, Spirit-first view reveals that everything we’re made up of, everything we’re capable of, is found entirely in perfect, divine Love. Love wouldn’t require its children to manage everything on their own. Love has already unified all its work, and it’s our privilege and pleasure to start from Love’s perspective.
We are already God’s beloved children, the fruit of His vine. The more we are willing to look out from His perspective, the more we’ll see and feel the true peace of His creating. Our peace is indeed tied only to God.