When the big deadline was looming

It was the weekend, and I was working on the final draft of a dissertation, the biggest paper I’d ever written. Actually, this “biggest paper” was more like a book-length report on three years of study, research, and interviews. This assignment—a requirement for graduation—was due on Monday

It was really good stuff. But here I was, almost at the finish line, and I was literally falling asleep at my keyboard. I’d open my eyes, check to see what I had last typed, and then type some more . . . only to nod off again. At this pace, I couldn’t possibly hand in my project on time. I felt a mild sense of panic beginning to gnaw at me. I was putting my whole self into this work, and yet it seemed like I had no more left in me.

Wait—that was it! I was putting my whole self into it. I wasn’t praying! Childhood lessons came to mind: Jesus admitted, “I can do nothing on my own” and “I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will” (John 5:30, New Living Translation). In other words, Jesus knew that his work wasn’t about his personal abilities but about his divine source—God. And because he understood that he wasn’t doing anything on his own, he didn’t have to work really, really hard; all his good work flowed naturally from the infinite source of all good. His real work was in paying attention and following through.

At this pace, I couldn’t possibly hand in my project on time.

I had always taken Jesus’ repeated invitations to “follow me” (see, for instance, Luke 5:27 ) seriously. When I did, hard things became easier, and the “impossible” became possible. Now was the perfect time for me to follow his example and listen to God. 

Calm began to replace panic. What came to mind in the silence of my willingness was a voice I recognized as having been there, guiding and protecting me, all along. I heard God speak to me gently but firmly: “Diane, get out of the way. There is only one author. I’m here. You do the typing.” At that moment, I actually felt a shift inside of me. It was as if my human sense of ego was stepping aside for God, the “sustaining infinite” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. vii ). 

Suddenly it was as if the meaning behind each idea poured out onto the page in just the right words—page after page after page. Gone were the stress, the fatigue, and the feeling that I had to do it. I smiled gratefully, knowing that I could and would make the due date. Why? Because I had made room for the “one author” to take over.

The perfect ideas from God had always been there, flowing freely.

Not only did I make the due date, but my dissertation was very well received. In fact, it was used beginning the very next semester because of an improvement to one of the program’s key components. The assignment accomplished more good than I had hoped or could have imagined. And I never could have done it by myself. 

“I can do nothing on my own.” One of my biggest take-aways from this experience was my realization that the perfect ideas from God had always been there, flowing freely. As soon as I stopped taking responsibility for “getting” them, I was able to recognize their presence and humbly, gratefully “receive” them.

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