Life can seem filled with lots of "I shoulds." Top of the list for many: "I should lose weight."
I can add a few of my own: "I should get up earlier in the morning," "I should invite my neighbor over for dinner," "I should be more flexible."
Knowing what we need to do in order to improve our lives isn't a bad thing; it's essential if we want to progress. But sometimes it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the "I shoulds." The result: We don't even take the first step forward.
What can stop us from feeling stuck? I find the idea of being willing "to be faithful over a few things" - a point in Jesus' parable of "the talents" - helps me focus on doing what's right in the present moment rather than getting buried in procrastination and inertia.
This is the parable: A man who is leaving home calls his household together and asks his three servants to manage his possessions while he is away. He gives one of his servants five talents, another two talents, and the third servant, one talent. Some Bible translations define talent as a certain amount of money.
When the master returns, the servant who was given five talents reports that he has invested the money and earned another five talents, and the servant with two talents hands over an additional two. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things," the master says to both servants. But the third servant tells him that he was scared and hid the one talent he had been given in the ground, so he has nothing more to offer. The master reprimands him and says: "Thou wicked and slothful servant.... Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents" (see Matt. 25:14-29).
The story tells me that I need to make sure that I am using what I have been given - even if it seems to me to be a small amount. Being faithful over a few things means that I am willing to do what I can do now - even if there are many more steps required.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper and discovered Christian Science, wrote: "In order to apprehend more, we must put into practice what we already know.... If 'faithful over a few things,' we shall be made rulers over many; but the one unused talent decays and is lost" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 323).
Several months ago, I was scheduled to attend a meeting for half the day and then take a friend to the airport. But I was feeling overwhelmed by flu symptoms. So I turned to God for help, as I usually do when I'm in trouble. But this time it seemed impossible to pray because I felt so ill. I thought, "I can't hear any direction or guidance from God because the symptoms are too distracting and they are stopping me from listening very well." I kept telling myself how awful I felt. But in the midst of this refrain of misery, I heard something else. It was an inner voice (I'd call it from God) that said: "You can stop repeating how awful you feel!"
I realized that even if I couldn't do anything else, I could be willing to obey this one message: Stop repeating the error. I remembered that Science and Health states how important it is to rebel against symptoms of disease rather than give in to them. "Instead of blind and calm submission to the incipient or advanced stages of disease, rise in rebellion against them" (page 391). I did this; I rebelled by refusing to dwell on the symptoms. I got quieter and felt closer to God.
That was the turning point.
I was able to get everything done that day, and later that night I had more time for prayer. I heard the inspiration I needed, and that led to complete healing by the time I went to bed.
Doing what we can do this moment - obeying the messages we get from God no matter how insignificant they may seem - is being faithful over a few things. This willingness to be faithful leads to the progress and healing we yearn for.
is the accepted time;
is the day of salvation.
II Corinthians 6:2