Summer is packing its bags. Fall is on the doorstep. Here in New England we know what's to come - crisper air, the color-drenched beauty of turning leaves, and, no doubt, thicker clothing. The change of seasons rarely catches anyone here off guard.
If only that were so when it comes to a change of seasons in a career.
Friends of mine were discussing the difficulty some people have as they approach retirement, worried they will feel they lack purpose once they leave their jobs. Someone interrupted: "But I know people who are feeling marginalized right now, even useless, and they have plenty of working years ahead of them. They just no longer feel needed."
An unexpected cold front.
The work we do devours most of our waking day, most of our week, and sometimes too much of our weekends. An enormous part of living happens on the job, so much so that we allow our work not only to define what we do, but who we are - a computer-game designer, a loan officer, a plumber, a real estate agent. If there's a significant change in circumstances - a plant closes or a job is phased out - the uncertainty can take us by surprise, and hit hard. It's no longer about the uprooting of a livelihood, but of a life.
A friend of mine left his full-time job in order to become a consultant. For the first year things went smoothly, but then he hit lean times. There wasn't enough income to pay the bills, and his house eventually went into foreclosure. The money problems were bad enough, but he loved this line of work and had years of experience in it, and now it was going nowhere. He was desperate.
But dark times can be the point at which an illuminating idea stands out vividly and comes to the rescue. He rediscovered a favorite Bible passage: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). No variableness.
He thought of his talents as some of those perfect God-given gifts, and he thought that there is no variableness in their divine source - no fluctuating relevancy, no diminishing value. Nothing about his talents and their purposefulness was accidental. Sure, circumstances might vary, like that first autumn breeze that clears out the heat of summer. But the talents deep within, and the conviction that they need to be expressed, come from the highest intelligence, from God, the Giver of eternal life. They don't disappear in a gust of changing circumstances.
My friend's confidence shot up, and his outlook changed. So did his circumstances. He soon was invited to consult with, and eventually work fulltime for, an organization that put his talents to good use - and to new uses. Their partnership has continued for well over a decade.
The 21st century is already strewn with erratic events, and it's easy to think that life is risky and that we're the plaything of these events. But there's another way to look at it.
We are spiritually formed, given life and talents by God, the permanent and magnificent Maker of all. These valuable gifts don't come and go.
Our charge is to put things in proper perspective - to become better acquainted with what God gives us, to embrace these gifts, use them, and realize they're ours forever, an integral part of the whole of God's universe.
The power of this higher understanding is astounding. You can't not be transformed by it, as Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, pointed out in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." She wrote: "The periods of spiritual ascension are the days and seasons of Mind's creation, in which beauty, sublimity, purity, and holiness - yea, the divine nature - appear in man and the universe never to disappear" (page 509). I read that and can't help thinking of my friend and his renewed life.
Along the way, in our quest to expand our spiritual understanding to the fullest, books such as the Bible and Science and Health will teach us what we need to learn so that we're not caught by surprise should our circumstances change. If storm clouds darken the atmosphere - the ones outside or in the workplace - we'll know how to remain confident and stay in control.
In the meantime, the gifts we've so generously been given will continue to serve us and others - enduring lights throughout the changing seasons.
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations,
but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh
all in all. But the manifestation
of the Spirit is given to every man
to profit withal.
I Corinthians 12:4-7