I had run up against the proverbial brick wall. On the verge of finishing a project, I received a phone call late one Friday afternoon telling me that a portion of the product needed to be revamped entirely. I had only the weekend to fill the hole, and no explanation was offered for this sudden change in direction.
It wasn't the first time I'd faced this kind of stop-in-your-tracks command from on high. But this time, the approach wasn't the only thing that bothered me. I was frustrated because what I was being asked to do didn't bode well for the product. It seemed something significant would be lost in this revamping process.
I grumbled. I seethed. I even cried a little. This project felt so inspired, yet here I was being defeated in my efforts to carry it to a successful completion.
The Bible is one of my trustiest resources when I'm looking for reassurance that there's a solution to any problem. I've found it to be timeless in its message of salvation. Proof that, though the characters and settings change, the issues that we wrestle with really don't. And neither does God, Love itself, who never wavers in His care for us.
As I read, I was struck by one of the stories of the apostles - nearly thwarted in their ministerial work when the city's religious leaders, angered by the apostles' progress, threw them into prison. "But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors," the Bible relates, "and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life" (Acts 5:19-20).
It's not that the apostles had it easy after that. They were told to stop the teaching and preaching, beaten, too. But the point, as I saw it, was that they continued.
Though I felt this story was my answer, I also admit that when I first read it, it actually just made me more upset. "No divine hand is delivering me from the tyranny I'm facing," I thought. "It's all well and good that the apostles could go forward, but how can I when I can't do anything but follow orders?"
It was in just this state of mind that I found myself in church on Sunday morning, hearing the story read as part of the sermon. Yet this time, a light dawned. I saw the connection.
"Maybe," suggested a voice inside my head, "the point here isn't about what the apostles were doing physically, isn't about the specific acts of teaching and preaching. Think about it. What were they really doing?"
My answer brought a new dimension to the story. I got it: The point was that nothing could stop the apostles from expressing Christliness. That is to say that nothing had the power to keep them from living the powerful healing love of God. Their real work was about mastering love with hate, conquering cruelty with Christly affection.
So too, I saw, was mine.
A friend once told me that solving problems was never about the result - that it wasn't about praying and getting the nice car, or about any other outcome, for that matter. The implication was that trying to define God's work in material terms could only limit it, while the point of prayer, she said, was to draw us closer to God, to get us to live lives that were more loving, more Christly. The rest, she said, would follow.
Though I liked this idea, at the time I thought it lacked a necessary specificity. Yet now I was seeing that the beauty of living the spirit of Christ is that it translates in an infinite number of ways - it's not unspecific; it's infinitely specific.
What I learned from this experience is that it's impossible to feel defeated if you keep listening and looking to God, because then the job becomes about the qualities expressed rather than the details or the outcome. For me, this meant inspiration and an attitude adjustment right when I needed it - and a satisfying result that I never could have envisioned. Better yet, I discovered that seeing things in spiritual terms takes the focus off me and what I want and puts it, instead, on God - the infinitely creative Mind, who impels and guides every endeavor, and whose work could never be thwarted.
Love's work and Love must fit.
Christian Science Hymnal, No. 51