Inevitable progress

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

My friends think I'm weird because I love being in traffic.

Driving from the airport to downtown Chicago during rush hour gives me the same feeling I have being in crowds of people at festivals or watching people walk along the lakeshore. I can see a harmonious rhythm governing everyone. Sure, there is occasional rudeness - trucks cutting off cars, people forgetting to be gracious. But eventually I see harmony reestablished, and all but a few yielding to the rules of the road with an effort to accommodate each other's mistakes.

This mental calm in traffic was not always so. In fact, I used to be so terrified about driving in the big city that when we lived in Wisconsin and would visit Chicago, my husband always did the driving. Just being a passenger on the freeway was hard enough. But the day came when my work required me to drive to Michigan and Indiana, and that meant driving right through downtown. I prayed hard to find the courage when there was nobody else to do the assignment.

Entering the Dan Ryan Expressway, I cautiously crawled along in the right lane, only to find that it would soon become an exit. There was no question I was a nuisance, driving so slowly in the middle lane, and when the express lanes merged with cars unexpectedly passing me on the right, I literally called out, "God, please help me."

The good news about God is that He does help us, especially when we're afraid. I remembered some of the things I'd prayed about before leaving home that morning: that God was the source of intelligence and would give me the direction I needed; that God's love is what motivates my work (the desire to use my God-given talents to be of service to others). This love of God sustains and comforts us as we go forward. I knew, too, that these spiritual facts applied not just to me, but to everyone on the road that day.

Then, very suddenly, I heard a message that was so clear it was as if the words had been spoken: "Go for it!" The voice sounded like my mother's and made me think of how she might have encouraged me when I was taking my first steps as a baby or going off to my first day of school. These new work assignments were similar points of development in my life as my talents were being used more broadly.

Suddenly, I relaxed behind the wheel. I mean really relaxed. I started going the speed of the traffic around me - at peace, but engaged and alert. Somehow I knew that just as God had given me this opportunity, so He was giving me everything I needed to fulfill the assignment with grace and good humor. I wasn't alone in the car; I was with my Father-Mother, God. For the first time, I stopped dreading the trip home and actually looked forward to returning through the city. I've never been afraid of traffic again, and every time I'm tempted to be even slightly annoyed, I remember my gratitude for the freedom to drive I was given that day.

Thinking about this experience in retrospect, I know that almost every time I take a step forward, I have to face fear straight-on. It might be fear of leaving something behind or not being sure that the outcome will be worth the effort. Sometimes there's a fear of being inadequate and failing. But what I keep learning is that it is absolutely necessary and essential for people to make progress.

The Bible teaches that we're all truly made in God's image and likeness. That means we spring forth from God and manifest God's qualities. Because God is infinite, our relationship to God is constantly moving us into new horizons. No one can stop this law of progress in their lives, even if it sometimes seems postponed. The discomfort and misery we feel when we're not going forward is a sure sign of how natural it is for us to respond to the expansive love of God in our lives.

Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Monitor, says it this way: "God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 258), and "... progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil" (pg. 233).

Facing down fear includes recognizing the love of God, which moves us forward. No matter what the opposition, our forward momentum is natural and safe.

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