SOMETIMES a year may be devoted to a particular group or interest, such as the ``Year of the Child'' or the ``Year of the Woman.'' It's a way of highlighting special needs for the world's attention. In that spirit, why not declare a special year for yourself and call it, ``A Year of Progress.'' It could be your own time for getting to know yourself better and for finding out not just where you've been but also where you are going.
One of the best ways to get started is to look at the heart of your identity, namely, your real nature as the spiritual idea, or child, of God. This is the key to real progress because it gives us a better appreciation of our relationship to God and of who we truly are.
At first, looking at progress this way might seem strange because we are so geared to measuring progress in material terms--so much income, so many college degrees, so many promotions at work, or whatever criteria may be desirable in your part of the world. But Christ Jesus, who brought a powerful message of God's love for all mankind, had a wholly different way of defining progress.
In his Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus said, ``Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also'' (6:19-21). If we aren't measuring progress by material terms--such as wealth and advancement--what criteria can we use? Jesus defined them throughout his Sermon on the Mount. They include, for example, meekness, mercy, purity, righteousness, the desire to see justice prevail, the willingness to make peace. (From the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12).
In our ``Year of Progress,'' we could certainly cherish and seek to express these qualities on a more consistent basis. And along with expressing them, we can make a fuller effort to accept God's love for us and His desire to send us only that which is good. Love, being all good, simply can't indulge in evil. As we recognize this we are able to free ourselves from wrong beliefs about God, and we will find it easier to make progress.
Why? Because progress and unfoldment are an integral part of God's plan for us. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, points out that emulating Christ Jesus' life gives us a true and spiritual basis for advancement. She writes: ``Every day makes its demands upon us for higher proofs rather than professions of Christian power. . . . This is an element of progress, and progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil'' (p. 233).
There have been times in my life when I have felt overwhelmed by the demand for progress that is inherent in God's law. Yet I can honestly say that the more willing I am to yield my will to God's will, to let Him lead the way, the more peaceful and rich my journey is. This willingness to strive harder for spiritual growth does not always come easily, as anyone who has wrestled with injured feelings, misunderstandings, or injustice will confirm. But as we shift our longing for progress from the material to the spiritual, we will find ways opening up that we didn't know were there.
So in our individual ``Year of Progress,'' let's adopt Christ Jesus' measures for progress--mercy, justice, love, compassion, certainty of God's goodness, to mention just a few. And as we make these and other qualities realities in our lives, our spiritual growth will lead to joyful progress throughout every year.