Not long after I graduated from college, marriage brought me to a part of the country I hadn't lived in before. The first year there, I enjoyed the opportunity to explore new career directions, and cobbled together several part-time jobs in different areas.
As it came time to move into something more full time, I found myself with several options, and no clear sense of how to choose. A wise friend and mentor gave me some pretty strong guidance – Go where you can give the most.
This was in stark contrast to the advice I was hearing from friends and former classmates, and even my family, about how to position myself for success. Yet it struck a chord with me and enabled me to identify the job that would provide just the right next step. I was, in fact, able to give a great deal through that job, and it also provided my young family and me with great blessings.
Those words have guided many decisions since that time, and in turn I've given them to others facing similar choices, with great results.
Several years later, I found myself learning a different lesson. My commitment to "giving" had borne great fruit – perhaps too much! I felt overwhelmed with several big projects and commitments, reeling under the weight of it all.
I was working with a group to start a nonprofit, engaged in a major research and writing project, raising young children, and conducting services at my church. I faced challenges in each of these areas, and in particular I was in the middle of a deep conflict in my church that was not only absorbing a lot of my time and thought, but seemed as if it was spiraling downward and bringing us all with it.
My prayer through the whole process had been to be where I could give the most. But I now wondered if all the giving would end up depleting me to the point of not being able to give anymore. I knew that wasn't God's intention, and so my prayer shifted to asking Him to show me how to give.
This time I didn't have a wise friend give me the answer, but it came as clearly as if it had been from a friend: "Perhaps what you need is to be willing to receive." I did a bit of a double take. "What do you mean?" I asked God. "Be willing to receive ... the blessing."
What a wonderful thought! I realized that each of these activities was designed to be a blessing, not just to others, but to me as well. God, divine Love, would bring an activity or event or person into my life only to be a blessing. It wasn't counter to humility to claim that blessing, but instead the very essence of meekness to let God be at work in our lives this way.
Sometimes that blessing can be difficult, like letting go of a character trait or gaining courage by facing down fear, but it is always full and freeing.
All God really ever asks of us is to be willing to be blessed. He'll do the rest.
So, I prayed to receive the blessing of each of my activities and of each of the challenges I was facing. What freedom and joy that brought! In some cases the blessing came through developing the ability to say no to activities that weren't necessary (this was a skill I had to learn). In some cases it came from yielding my agenda to God's agenda, when there was a conflict.
With my children, I learned to let go of a false sense of responsibility for their development, and I gained a stronger sense of reflecting God's care for them and their well-being.
As we unself our motives enough to go into each activity looking for ways to give, we gain untold opportunities to be a blessing to others. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote, "Working and praying with true motives, your Father will open the way" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 326).
As we bring to these "giving" activities a deep desire to receive the blessings they hold for us, we can move forward in them with strength and joy. We help to claim God's blessing not only for ourselves, but for all involved.