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'Single-hearted devotion'

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

May 4, 2006



A week at a choral festival gave me a new perspective on life. After several days of rehearsing as part of a 200-voice chorus, we gave a performance to an audience of about 800.

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Learning the music required discipline, but it was our only responsibility for the week. It was a wonderful time of singing beautiful music, meeting new people who loved singing, and working together.

What I enjoyed most was the opportunity to focus entirely on one thing that I loved. The ordinary cares of life were suspended for seven days. Food and housing were included; nothing was in the way of wholly focusing on making music.

At the end of the week, I wondered what I could take home from that idyllic situation. The phrase "single-hearted devotion" came to mind. This is from the Bible, and the verse reads: "I am afraid that your minds may be seduced from a single-hearted devotion to him by the same subtle means that the serpent used towards Eve" (II Cor. 11:3, J.B. Phillips).

But in "real life" how could I put my whole heart into only one task that I loved?

It dawned on me that in real life, too, perhaps I ultimately have only one responsibility. There are various ways to describe it - living as the child of God, putting love at the forefront of everything I do, living to serve others. I began to see that living with single-hearted devotion was not so far-fetched. But I am indeed "seduced" from it all the time. Things that seem so important divert attention from what really is important.

I recall one time in particular feeling single-hearted devotion to a holy mission. Many years ago I worked as a salesclerk in a bookstore. One moment I had a vivid realization that right where I was, standing in the aisle between two long rows of bookshelves, all that mattered was that I loved every individual who walked through that door and that I lived in a way that was true to that love. That was the place where I was fulfilling my mission to live as God's child.

I felt needed and purposeful. With that recognition, every task took on new significance. Every face had something valuable to give me. The customers and I were together for a reason - to show one another the many individual ways God shines in our hearts.

Remembering that time, I saw that I could live with one responsibility, one devotion. Embracing that primary responsibility would make all my other tasks secondary, or it would enable me to see how my other tasks are a part of that mission. That idea led me to this hymn:

O God, I cast my care on Thee;
I triumph and adore;
Henceforth my great concern shall be
To love and praise Thee more.
(John Ryland, "Christian Science Hymnal," No. 224)

"My great concern shall be to love and praise Thee more." I would like to adopt that as my great concern. Wasn't that the basis of Jesus' life?

So, how do I live a life like this? By acknowledging that I have one mission to fulfill - to live each moment with the awareness of what God is knowing about me and that I walk every step with divine Love. The obstacles are obvious - there are a million other things to do in a day.

That's where the rest of the Bible verse comes in - that we can be seduced from single-hearted devotion as Eve was seduced by the serpent. To me the serpent represents whatever force lures us from our mission. And sometimes the serpent is well disguised. But focusing on the mission can give us the insight to know what is or isn't ours to do, and give us courage to say no or wisdom to see how that action could help fulfill our mission. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote, "The devotion of thought to an honest achievement makes the achievement possible" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 199).

Staying focused on a higher goal doesn't come only from hard work. And it's possible not only in a setting such as a choral festival. God gives us what's needed to follow the path He has given us.

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