The day I ate my words
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
"He's hopeless! He can't make a decision, and we're getting desperate." I was explaining to a dear friend and fellow university employee why my boss - an associate dean filling in until a new full dean was appointed - was driving me crazy. My work involved meeting publishing deadlines, and the meter was ticking, just not loudly enough for him to hear.
I was going to have a meeting with him that afternoon, and I assured her that no change would occur. My friend, a Christian Scientist, smiled and said in a very loving way, "Expect him to be helpful." My response was, "Yeah, right." Then, feeling really frustrated as to why she couldn't "get it," I explained again why he wouldn't be able to make a decision.
She continued smiling and said, "Expect him to be helpful." I grumbled and fussed, but as I walked back to my office, I thought a change in expectation couldn't make things any worse. And I recalled this statement from Mary Baker Eddy's book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "When the destination is desirable, expectation speeds our progress" (page 426).
For me, the destination was a finished manuscript that I could get to the printer on time, and that was a deeply desired goal. And to achieve it - according to that author - I needed to be expectant of ... what?
As I thought about it further, I realized that I needed to expect that God governs, not just in the abstract but in the specific need that I had right then. I couldn't outline how this would get my boss moving, but I knew that I needed a moment of clear communication in which I'd be able to convey to him why I needed that material so desperately.
As I began to think more about God as the answer to this failure in communication, I also realized that God is divine Mind - the one intelligence that governs the whole universe and keeps everything moving as it should. As the Psalmist put it, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork" (Ps. 19:1).
I really needed to see God's handiwork rather than fussing so much over the deadline. I tried my best to trust that God's purpose for me and for the project would be a good purpose, one that didn't include frustration, delay, or pressure. The one Mind's infinite intelligence could guide everything to a good solution without my having to blow a gasket or do something equally likely to bring me to the unemployment line.
Thanks to my friend, I was thinking more intelligently about my situation, and that certainly was a step of progress. By putting the discussion into this more spiritual environment, I was also stepping away from the feeling that this was a contest between the associate dean's will and mine. Instead, I was trusting God's will to bring about the right solution.
That afternoon, I went to my meeting, still somewhat skeptical but a lot more willing to accept the possibility that the dean would be helpful. For the first time, he seemed genuinely focused on the work we were trying to do, and he seemed to understand the urgency of the situation.
One of my problems was with a department that wouldn't even return my phone calls. The dean called them while we were together and persisted until we got the answers we needed. By the time we had finished my list, I was ready to take the next step in the project. And during the rest of the time that I worked with that dean, we never again had a problem with meeting deadlines.
Needless to say, expectation is something that has meant a lot to me in the years since that experience. As I've grown spiritually, I've seen that Jesus was wonderfully expectant. When he prayed for people, he really expected them to be helped and healed - and they were! I'm nowhere near Jesus' level of expectancy, but he sure has given me an example to aim for.
The one thing that was a slight problem at the university was that I was a little embarrassed about telling my friend that she had been right about expecting good to happen. I had been so obnoxious to her that I felt I had to eat my words.
But you know, as I think about all I learned from that experience, I figure that eating a few words wasn't so bad after all.