Every day we make many, maybe even hundreds, of decisions. What to eat, what to wear, what to watch on television. How to act, how to respond to people, how to handle daily events. These individual decisions may not seem very important, but put together they show a lot about a person.
The school where I teach has established a whole program to study the qualities of character people need to help make the world better and to live their lives in line with Christian teachings. One of my favorite qualities is judgment-not just a human sense of what is right but judgment that is based on following God's direction.
Christ Jesus showed how to follow God's guidance. All of his actions, all the decisions in his life, were based on direction from God-his Father, our Father. Jesus demonstrated exactly how to live a life full of lasting joy and peace through prayer (see Matthew 6:9-13).
But what happens when you have not used good judgment? An experience I had led me to understand that even when you have not been listening for God's guidance, He is always available. You can still pray, change your direction, pursue good judgment, and follow His guidance.
When I was in college, my parents invited me to join them for a vacation to New York City. My dad was very organized. He gave me a full itinerary of flight schedules, hotel information, and phone numbers. When I left the house, I very intentionally left the itinerary lying on my desk-because I felt sure that I could remember everything from it that I needed.
As my plane was landing in New York, I suddenly realized I didn't know the name of the hotel where my parents were staying. I also realized that the name was written down only in one place back home. This was a huge problem! There was no one at home for me to call. I felt near panic. Possible solutions ran through my thoughts, including sitting down at a pay phone and calling hotels. But I knew there must be hundreds of hotels in New York City. That was clearly not the answer.
Finally I began to pray. The knot in my stomach eased as I remembered something I'd been taught, that God is always in control. Even though I was clearly at fault for not bringing the itinerary, this did not matter to God. He is a constant, ever-present source of love, comfort, and direction. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote, "Man is properly self-governed only when he is guided rightly and governed by his Maker, divine Truth and Love" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 106). My feelings of fear and my frantic reasoning stopped as I listened quietly for God's answer to this problem while the plane made its descent into the airport. Suddenly I remembered quite vividly a conversation I'd had with my dad about the hotel. He had mentioned that it was right behind Carnegie Hall. So that is where I had a taxi take me.
When I got there, I listened again for God's direction. One way seemed clearly the right way to go, so I walked to a corner and looked around. There were hotels to the left and to the right. Mile after mile of them! Again, I listened to God, and one little hotel stood out to me. As I entered it, my dad was coming down the staircase to meet me. When I told my parents the whole story, we were all filled with gratitude for my protection and for the quick resolution of an apparently serious problem.
This experience taught me a great lesson in humility. It was also an example to me of something very central to the teaching of Christian Science: God never stops caring for us, no matter how much trouble we seem to have gotten ourselves into. God always sees us as His most beloved, perfect children. He is actually unaware that we have messed up! He is always directing our thoughts, and what we have to do is listen to hear His messages, which lead us to say and do the right things. We can help ourselves and others by seeking His guidance.
And thine ears shall hear
a word behind thee, saying,
This is the way, walk ye in it,
when ye turn to the right hand,
and when ye turn to the left.