Remember those marching orders you received when you were a kid? Before you left the house you heard, "Don't forget your lunch ... don't forget your homework ... don't forget to brush your teeth ...." Someone was making sure you were prepared for the day.
That's still the case, as I was reminded recently. Travel plans for the meeting I was to attend out of town were in place. Bags were packed. The plane departed on time. Seating was comfortable. Transportation at the final destination was all arranged. I was set. It looked like a smooth day ahead.
Several hours later, the pilot made an announcement. Because of unfavorable weather conditions, our landing would be delayed for 45 minutes. "Oh, great," I thought. Once on the ground, I discovered that my connecting flight, which I might have just made, had departed earlier than the posted departure time. So much for the smooth day. The person at the ticket counter had no answer when I asked, in an exasperated tone, why the flight had left early.
After I was rebooked on another flight, departing two and a half hours later, I sat down in the terminal and took stock of the situation. What went wrong? Who was to blame? What should I have done differently?
In a few moments, the frustration faded away, and instead I felt awfully disappointed with my attitude. Yes, the weather had been bad at the airport, but the flight controllers were simply exercising safety precautions when they delayed our landing. And yes, there had perhaps been a mistake somewhere in the system, in that my connecting flight departed early. But I could have discussed the matter with the ticket agent in a much friendlier tone. Bottom line: I wasn't as prepared for the day's events as I thought I had been.
About a week later, those events came to thought again. I remembered them right at the moment that I came across a verse from the Bible. In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul wrote, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (3:2). Set. It means to put in a fixed, firm position. Although I had made sure that plans and arrangements for that day were set, my "affection," or disposition, had not been. It had shifted with the first disruption that came along.
These days, whether we're traveling, meeting with people, watching the news, or heading out on the day's activities, it is important to "set our affections" much more firmly than we often do. After all, circumstances change all the time. Yet, even at those times when we haven't been as watchful over our disposition as we ought to be, the ever-present Christian message, articulated by Paul, reminds us how to keep our thinking calm and steady. Those "things above" - a love of God (whom Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor's founder, called divine Love) and an understanding of our actual relation to God as His spiritual likeness, the very expression of Love - are a real anchor for our affections. For our lives.
Of course, setting our affections on the things of Spirit means more than just occasionally thinking about our relation to God. To be thoroughly prepared, we need to live it. On the road. In the skies. Talking with people (especially if a discussion starts to heat up). As God's likeness, we have love to express naturally, permanently, constantly - under any and all conditions. The source of our loving nature doesn't vary with passing circumstances, any more than the source of the sun's light varies with a passing cloud.
Granted, harsh situations may even demand that we literally guard our affections, sometimes moment by moment. But the additional patience or humility or forgiveness required to do this comes much more freely and willingly when we realize that the source of these qualities is divine Love, and therefore that as God's children we very naturally express love.
So before heading out the door, remember to keep your affections set on "things above" - on who you truly are, the expression of unchanging, impartial, divine Love.
More than a reminder, perhaps the Bible's message is a marching order.
You can read other articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.