The keenest memory I have of going back to school each fall is the abrupt change from bare feet and sandals to brand new tie-up shoes that on the first day felt as if they weighed five pounds each. I loved those shoes. They represented structure and getting down to business, following breezy summers of losing track of days. Mostly, they symbolized newness.
At this time of year, many are getting back into routines of more rigorous work or class schedules, sports practices, meetings, and obligations. While some undoubtedly look forward to the reining in of summer's carefree mentality and return to an increase of structure, there are some who dread going "back."
In two recent conversations, one friend of mine, a schoolteacher, was not relishing her return to what she said were the same students with the same problems, the same classes, books, co-workers, and meetings. Another friend, an actor on Broadway, who does eight performances of the same show in one week, night after night, month after month, tells me it's never the same to her. It's ever fresh.
These two conversations within days of each other prompted me to consider this "going back" idea more deeply. Since much of life is lived in familiar patterns, there must be a way of infusing those patterns with freshness and joy. After all, few of us tire of one of the simplest foods, fresh bread.
Familiarity can present a platform from which we can mentally stretch and discover newness, or appreciate anew something already known. Haven't we all had moments like this? Perhaps we've walked the same path every day on our way to work, and then one day discover something we've never noticed or delighted in before. Those moments don't have to be occasional. Our lives can be filled with newness.
What enables me to find newness, even in the very familiar, is inspiration - inspiration that comes from the divine Mind that is God - spiritual inspiration. And I've found that prayer is what makes this inspiration accessible. To me, prayer is aligning my thought with the source of infinite ideas and fresh views.
The Bible affirms that God is indeed that source. The author of Revelation wrote, "He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5). This indicates to me that the Christly view, the close-to-God-view, is what brings freshness and renewal. For example, at the wedding feast that opened Jesus' ministry, he changed the ordinary and bland water into colorful and rich wine. The touch of Christ indeed enriches and heals.
I've felt this touch in a significant way. Over a period of years I suffered from severe asthma. I spent much of my time in bed, and one of the most challenging aspects was the pattern the disease followed. Just as I was recovering from one attack, another started.
I called for treatment through prayer from a Christian Science practitioner. I described the frustration of perpetually feeling that I was "back at square one," unable to make any headway. She answered with love and conviction based on years of facing down problems for herself and others through spiritual means. "There is no square one! Every time you turn to God in prayer, you are lifted up."
Her confidence convinced me at least to stop saying that, and fairly quickly I stopped believing it. I was less discouraged by the repetitious nature of the disease. One day, feeling pretty helpless in bed, I decided to fight this repetition with another sort of repetition. I reached for a book of hymns, which I already knew well. I resolved to learn them by heart.
I'm glad to say that I didn't get all the way through the hymnal. I was completely healed after having committed about a third of them to memory. I became more taken by the inspiring messages than by the symptoms. The content of the hymns, repeatedly praising the goodness and nearness of God, filled me with love for the Creator, and expectation of active living. In a sense, I began to inhale and exhale good ideas, and this restored my ability to breathe.
Though these hymns were familiar to me from my childhood, they came to my side when I needed them, delivering fresh inspiration and healing.
We can look freshly at everything every moment, and never go back, but instead, go forward anew.
Prayer makes the difference. Few of us tire of fresh bread.