THE Christmas story--read one hot July afternoon--rescued me from self-doubt and freed me to go ahead with a career that I had long cherished. Although I had looked forward to being able to devote all my time to serving others in this way, I had been very sad since leaving my old job. During the first three months not one person had called for my services. I felt mentally deadened. I was sleeping too much, and I felt little hope for improvement in my situation.
Even though my prayers to God about the emptiness had been rather desperate, they did finally lead me to reread the Christmas story in the Bible.1 I was especially impressed this time by the spiritual qualities that Mary, Joseph, and the angel expressed.
In my valuing of Mary's innocence, it occurred to me that I was seeing her chastity and purity as including a wholehearted willingness to do God's will, a total receptivity to God. This insight encouraged me to stick to the divine direction I had felt in making this change. I realized that by constantly holding to the higher motive of using my talents to serve mankind, I could be cleansed of the pressures of material ambitions. It was also comforting to realize that Mary had had no experience in the task assigned to her. So I could stop using inexperience as an excuse for postponing the hard work that was needed for me to do well in my new endeavor.
To me, Joseph represented wisdom based on divine direction. He not only was willing to take Mary as his wife but also took the practical steps needed to protect her child from being killed at Herod's command. When I had left my job, my financial reserves were low, yet I had felt sure of God's provision. It was very reassuring to know that God's direction would continue to give me the wisdom needed to organize my daily activity and finances.
The angel that appeared to the shepherds reminded me of the importance of joy. The angelic message to them was ``Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.''2 To me, this pointed to the love of God as the antidote to fear. Often my thoughts would be pulled back to my old work; I would long for the camaraderie and stimulus of my colleagues and would be afraid that I had made a mistake in leaving. But the fear was quieted when it occurred to me that the God who directed the shepherds to the Bethlehem babe would direct me also.
At first the only change I noticed was in having simple opportunities to help others around me. It was then that I realized I had been holding to such a structured sense of my new endeavor that I was shutting out times when I could be a tangible help to my friends and neighbors. My first professional calls came soon after I opened my thought to this renewed and expanded spirit of giving. Shortly after this, I participated in a conference that helped me see my work in a broader context, and I met other people who had overcome challenges similar to mine.
The human mind sets up all sorts of obstacles to thwart our best efforts. Fear, confusion, laziness, feelings of inadequacy, material laws, human codes, would threaten one's freedom to make his or her unique contribution. But the frustrations and objections of the human mind evaporate before a growing understanding of God's omnipotence.
The forward steps we want to take are not as momentous as the birth of Christ Jesus; yet his birth causes us to examine ourselves. Are we striving to accomplish a human goal for personal credit, or are we earnestly striving to live lives that pattern the master Christian's? In the words of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, ``Every step of progress is a step more spiritual.''3
Steps that help us express purity, persistence, courage, and joy are the real breakthroughs in our lives. They reaffirm man's spiritual nature as the child of God, and they are the qualities that assure us of useful, unselfish careers.
A Christmas breakthrough is not some thing that happens just once in your life. Looking over the eleven years I've been in my ``new'' field, I realize that moments of rededication to Christian values have had to occur almost daily. To the degree I've been faithful to them, others have been helped, and my heart satisfied.
1See Matthew, chapters 1-2, and Luke, chapters 1-2. 2Luke 2:10. 3The People's Idea of God, p. 1. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalms 37:5