My kids and I like adventure movies and television shows that portray a Houdini-type character who always figures out a way to escape from impossible situations. During each episode, it looks like he won't be able to get out this time; this dead end really is a dead end - there's no way out. But each time he does escape, and we're always delighted.
I think I identify with these characters because I've felt caught in inescapable predicaments with no way out, or if there was a way out, I didn't think I'd be able to find it.
One time I felt so overwhelmed with failure and discouragement in every area of my life, I convinced myself there truly was no way out. My husband and I had made poor financial decisions, we had lost a feeling of partnership in our marriage, and our two children were dealing with substantial behavioral and educational problems, including suspension, probation, and truancy, as well as failing grades. I felt guilty that perhaps our parenting style was to blame. Also, my father was seriously ill, and a family member was aggressively and cruelly attempting to supplant me from a legal role that I had been assigned. Everything I cared about most deeply - my home, my marriage, my children, my extended family - was disintegrating.
I didn't see how my life could change, and I didn't have faith that things would get better. I wasn't even sure I deserved for them to get better. And even if things did improve, it felt like the best part of my life was over. I looked ahead and saw no reason to live. However, I'd grown accustomed to turning to God when I was in trouble, and this time, that seemed my only hope. Humbly, I asked God to show me a way out.
This prayer inspired me to think about the life of the Apostle Paul. He had made many serious mistakes, but when he distilled his lessons, he listed these three:
1) forget the past
2) face the future
3) strive to be and do good
(see Phil. 3:13, 14)
This advice seemed designed just for me, and I prayed to be able to follow these directions.
When I would brood about mistakes I'd made, I would urge myself to turn away from the past - to move away from the concept of myself as burdened by mistakes, and to accept a spiritual view - a view closer to the view God has of me. It was encouraging to accept the fact that I'd never been separated from my divine Parent, no matter what I'd thought or done. God was my constant companion, so that meant good had always been with me. There had never been a time when I'd been without God, without good.
Even in reviewing dark times, I could look for and find evidence of God's presence. I could face the future, knowing that God would be with me, supporting and helping me. I could rely on Him no matter what challenges came up. I could put my hand in God's, trust Him with all my heart, and rely on this promise from the Bible: "For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee" (Isa. 41:13). I could see that God with me meant good with me, right now and in the future.
In striving to be and do good, I could start out fresh every day. I learned it is now that is important. Opportunities to express good are always present; I could see myself as an expression of good. I could watch God express Himself as me, and I could witness God expressing Himself as other people.
All of my challenges aren't over (although some have been resolved), but I don't have that dead-end, trapped feeling anymore. I'm learning that a dead end is not as much a place as it is a type of thinking. God answered my prayer and showed me both the way out and the fact that there is always a way out. There can be no dead ends in God's kingdom. There is no end to good, ever. God is always here, and that precludes an end.
Working and praying with
true motives, your Father will open the way.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor