At the start of each week, there's nothing I enjoy more than taking a book of the Bible (in two or three different versions) and exploring it for several early mornings in a row.
If I'm alert enough and receptive enough, the texts sparkle in a new light. They present challenges that are sometimes daunting. But, more often, their promises overwhelm me with a gratitude that invigorates.
National Bible Week in the United States (it's also marked in other parts of the world) begins on Sunday. To launch my week, I've chosen to give special attention to the Letter to the Christians at Ephesus, which is attributed to St. Paul, although some scholars think it may have been written after his death.
I never reach the end of Chapter 1 in the J.B. Phillips translation of Ephesians without being heartened by God's plan, in which "everything that exists in Heaven or earth should find its perfection and fulfilment" in Him. The writer prays that "the all-glorious Father" will bless us with "spiritual wisdom and the insight to know more of him: that [we] may receive that inner illumination of the spirit which will make [us] realise how great is the hope to which he is calling [us] - the magnificence and splendour of the inheritance promised to Christians - and how tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God."
I am reminded of the story of the wife who wished that she and her husband were as rich as their neighbors. The husband assured her: "We are rich. We just don't have a lot of money." That observation has carried me through several difficult times in my life - most recently when, after many years of steady employment, I was downsized and lost my job. I had a substantial mortgage and family commitments still to meet.
Seeking solutions, I studied to know more of God, and to appreciate the completeness of my relation to Him.
It became clear that my spiritual rsum had already been written. I'd always had job security in being God's image. God had it all worked out.
Chapters 2 and 3 of Ephesians speak of the richness of God's mercy and of the great love He has for us. They point to "the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us," and emphasize that "God has made us what we are,... to do those good deeds which he planned for us to do." The writer prays that "out of the glorious richness of [God's] resources" we will come to know "the strength of the Spirit's inner re-inforcement."
Mary Baker Eddy used another synonym for God - Soul - when she wrote in the Christian Science textbook, "Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind, and happiness would be more readily attained and would be more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 60).
I stopped trying to spot the right job opening. Instead, I prayed. I tried to become conscious of the "inner re-inforcement" that would help me to accomplish the "good deeds" God had planned for me. And soon I realized that we need to change our concepts of employment and income. To lift them above the desire for material attainment. To contemplate that God is the source of all good, for all of us, all of the time.
I learned that my real employment was the utilization of the ideas that were already mine because I reflect God. I learned that these were my income - infinite, spiritual, substantial, good. As no number in mathematics can take the place of another, no one can be crowded out of God's continuous activity. God's sons and daughters each fulfill a spiritual purpose.
Within a few days, some freelance jobs came my way; friends put me in touch with friends of theirs who needed help. There was always bread on the table - and joy in my heart.
It wasn't long before I landed a year's contract in my special field. That bloomed into a full-time job. I was paid less than I had earned before, but the rewards were far greater. And on my lips were these words from Ephesians, which perfectly described my feelings: "Now to him who by his power within us is able to do infinitely more than we ever dare to ask or imagine - to him be glory ... for ever and ever, amen!"
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society