The need to smell the roses

A Christian Science perspective: Scrubbing a bathroom became the beginning of a major career move that changed this writer's life.

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No one knows who first said “Stop and smell the roses,” but most of us have been urged to do it. Ringo Starr even wrote a song about it. Like the allure of roses, my study of the Bible stopped me from rushing through life and has helped me pause to savor more of my spiritual selfhood as a child of God, to listen more to that “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12), and see that the Christ, the true idea of God, always leads the way.

With this refreshed outlook, I stopped second-guessing God, or trying to win His favor. I saw that divine Love is not something to earn; it is our divine birthright. “[I]t is the gift of God,” the Bible says (Ephesians 2:8). To enjoy this precious gift, I didn’t have to plead with God, or fear being lost or forgotten in the immensity of creation. Cascading blessings flowed as I strove to trust God to be God, the source of all good.

My daily Bible study became the one fixed point in my changing brave new world. This reliable guide was becoming boldly active in my life. A big lesson was that no matter how depressing the circumstances, things are not what they seem to be. Just because we can’t see the stars on a cloudy night doesn’t mean they are not there.

In Air Force boot camp, I couldn’t see the big change in my life that would come the day I volunteered for janitorial duty at the base newsroom. I loved newspapers and welcomed even a chance to clean bathrooms at a newsroom. When the editor heard I had been a college English major and would like to work for the paper, he sat me at a typewriter, gave me some notes, and told me to write a story.

The next day, I was assigned to the newspaper as a reporter, hatching a half-century career in journalism chasing stories from Bikini Atoll and Midway Island to the frozen vastness of Alaska and the farms and prairies of Iowa and Nebraska. At every crossroad, divine Love was there to help me pick the right path.

So as it turned out, led by the Christ, scrubbing a bathroom became the beginning of a major career move that changed my life. It became proof to me of divine Love’s palpable presence. The good that came from that lowly duty taught me to look beyond the human scene to see things as God sees them and to let His heavenly light brighten my way. But that light needed to break through some dark clouds first.

My dream was to report overseas for the famed Stars and Stripes military newspaper. Instead, I was sent to a remote radar site in Alaska that had never had an information specialist, let alone a base newspaper. I became the base librarian and later went on to found a weekly newspaper on my own. Although at first I’d been devastated by the move to such a remote area, I was buoyed by the Bible’s promise to make “the rough places plain” and the crooked straight (Isaiah 40:4). If a remote assignment was God’s plan for me, so be it. Sometimes the worst brings out the best.

This odd turn actually proved that to be the case. Thanks to my well-stocked library, I caught up on my reading of classic literature, much of which I’d missed in college. (I’d had to leave school because I ran out of money to pay tuition.) The eight-page newspaper I produced during my 17-month tour in Alaska was a weekly joy, forcing me to hone reporting skills in a tough, top-secret environment.

“Remember,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, “thou canst be brought into no condition, be it ever so severe, where Love has not been before thee and where its tender lesson is not awaiting thee. Therefore despair not nor murmur, for that which seeketh to save, to heal, and to deliver, will guide thee, if thou seekest this guidance” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” pp. 149-150).

The Christ light shines equally bright for everyone. While the path Jesus lights for us may not always be strewn with roses, when we trustingly follow it, we will find the best is not yet to come – it’s already here.

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