EACH week my art class was sent out to paint in the nearby village. Each week one student's frame was filled with nothing but crosshatches. All of us were a little perplexed. We wondered why she remained in the class. Yet eventually forms began to emerge from those lines, then rich color and dimension. A year later she won the school's top art award. It's natural to want to express our individuality. And we can. This is true even if we're slow to find our way or if our uniqueness goes unrecognized for some time. Man's identity -- the genuine identity of each of us -- is spiritual, originating in God. And that real selfhood manifests His beauty and grace. As we understand more of our true nature as God's child, we find that we experience a greater degree of fulfilling self-expression.
This is not the same as an egotistical display of personal talent. Even the most impressive exhibitions of self-centered abilities can never bring the spiritual fullness that the expression of our real, Godlike nature brings.
In the deepest sense our very being is God's expression. Therefore we can progress spiritually even when we encounter difficulties in our efforts to express our own unique identity. What may appear to be failure can serve as a spur to turn us more wholeheartedly to God. Nothing can prevent us from drawing closer to God and humbly manifesting His nature. But we do need to exert ourselves in prayer to ensure that our expression of God is purified and enlarged.
The lives of Bible characters demonstrate this. Take Joseph, for example. Though at one point he found himself in a pit and later in a prison, throughout his life he remained more intent on expressing Godlike qualities than on mulling over the unjust treatment he was receiving. Eventually his ability to base his own self-expression in his spiritual nature earned him a position from which he could also ensure the survival of nations.
I too found that what at first appears to be failure at self-expression can be spiritually progressive and lead to greater good. I was faced with an extensive project that seemed daunting to me. I had received little initial guidance, and my efforts as they took shape did not seem very good. But because continuing this work seemed God-directed, I persevered and did the best I could. Paul's comment in Philippians reassured me: ``It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.'' I prayed to demonstrate Christlike qualities of intelligence, order, and inspiration. As time passed, it became clear that the conclusion of that particular task was less important than my deepened awareness of the Godlike qualities to which I was heir. The humility, perseverance, and trust in God I had learned enabled me to complete projects of greater scope and complexity. These were genuinely helpful to others and satisfying to me.
No honest attempt to manifest God's attributes ever leaves us where it found us. The expression of Himself that God, Spirit, quickens within us must inevitably become apparent, fulfilling us and blessing others. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, ``And how is man, seen through the lens of Spirit, enlarged, and how counterpoised his origin from dust, and how he presses to his original, never severed from Spirit!'' Man originates from God's creative love. When we press toward enlarged manifestation of Him in our daily lives, we can rejoice that the expression of our true, Godlike selfhood is divinely assured.