'The mean reds'

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

'There could never be another you!"

I was listening to "oldies but goodies" on my car radio. Suddenly there I was, a middle-aged business executive, driving home after work on a winter day in my comfortable-but-not-particularly-interesting blue sedan. My youth, and the long summer evenings spent cruising around in a snappy silver convertible with my first fresh-out-of-high-school summer romance, seemed FAR behind.

Nostalgia was about to hit - in a big, big way.

Perhaps you've experienced these kinds of regrets. Sometimes they come as sudden bouts of longing for people we've loved and lost. We might be sorry we didn't marry that summer romance. Or maybe now we're sorry we did. Maybe we wish we'd had more kids. Or maybe we think it would have been better if we hadn't had any children.

Sometimes the regrets aren't particularly hooked up with people. Maybe we think we should have become a lawyer instead of a teacher. Or that we missed a good education by bumming around Europe while everybody else was studying. Or maybe we even wish we'd dropped out of school and seen the world instead of wasting precious time on all those irrelevant classes.

I've found that's the way it almost always is with regrets. They may make for terrific song lyrics. But so far, they've never led me anywhere but down. At one point, I indulged those feelings of loss so intensely that I almost took my life. Holly Golightly, the waiflike character in Truman Capote's short novel "Breakfast at Tiffany's," referred to such feelings as "the mean reds." I was more likely to refer to them as "the pits."

Apparently, the Psalmist in the Bible was also quite familiar with them. In a beautiful song, he wrote, "O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit" (Ps. 30:3).

That's how I felt when I began to inch my way up out of the pit of all pits. I made a promise to myself that I would never go back there again - that I would make use of my God-given honesty to recognize the downward spiral of self-indulgent longings, and that I would not merely give myself over to them, like a leaf that is caught in an autumn wind.

I'm grateful that as I've continued to study the Bible, and another book I deeply cherish, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (which was written by the Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy), I've learned to look my longings straight in the eye a little sooner than I used to. To question whether they can promise me a better understanding of God.

I remember a day not too long ago when I did just this.

Things had been going wrong all morning. A family member did something unkind. My boss yelled at me for no apparent reason. A creative project I'd nurtured was rejected by someone whose opinion mattered to me - a lot. By lunchtime, I was facing the mean reds. I went out to take a very fast walk around the block.

After I left the building, I began to pray, to discipline my thought. This I've learned to do through my study of the Bible and the other book I mentioned. And I appealed to God for help.

Before I'd walked far, I was arrested by this simple thought: God did not exactly promise us we would find the perfect spouse, or the perfect job, or the perfect education, or the perfect house. He promised us we would find Him.

I recognized this very practical truth as coming from a verse in Jeremiah, where "the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel" is promising the captive Jews that something they long for - their release from all bondage - will follow, as a result of their search for Him.

"And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart," He tells them (29:8, 13). The instructions, and the reward, are clear. We are to search for God with all our heart. The reward is that we will find Him. And, since God is good, and God is All, what we find has to be satisfying!

The peace I felt as I reflected on this was enough that I could leave the details of my day to Him.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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