To call the 2007 women's Wimbledon winner the underdog might be a bit of a stretch. After all, this is Venus Williams's fourth Wimbledon win – meaning she was hardly short on experience, or credentials, going in. Yet, when Williams won against Marion Bartoli of France on Saturday, there was something especially sweet about her victory: Seeded 23rd, Williams became the lowest-seeded woman to win Wimbledon.
Listening to a postgame interview, I wondered about the mental poise that had allowed Williams to triumph over not insignificant odds. Several injury-plagued seasons that led to her low seed. A tournament repeatedly delayed by rain. And most overwhelming: All the matches she needed to win, just to make it to the finals.
But when asked a question to this effect, Williams's answer was simple. "I wasn't thinking about the final at the beginning of the tournament," she told reporters. "I was just thinking about the first round."
Williams's answer struck me, not just because of its matter-of-fact wisdom, but also because it reminded me of something I've learned through my study of Christian Science. It's this: No matter how challenging the circumstances, no matter how insurmountable the next obstacle seems, keeping God at the center of my game is the only way I can move forward successfully.
It sounds like a simple idea. God, or Life, Truth, and Love as Mary Baker Eddy explained the Divine in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 587), would naturally be a reliable source if one were in need of energy and vitality to finish a task. Or strength and authority. Or joy, purpose, clarity, and enthusiasm.
Why not lean on omnipotence itself? Why not trust a Father-Mother who is both omniscient and omnipresent?
Well, that's why I say that keeping God at the center sounds like a simple idea – because in practice, it sometimes seems challenging to live that way. Instead of relying on the infinite, it's all too easy to rely on myself. Without God as the focal point, though, I often start feeling overwhelmed – and worried about whether or not I'll be able to take the next step.
Such was the case this past winter when I faced a writing project of a magnitude I'd never before tackled. I love to write, so I set off with gusto. But 100 or so pages in, my confidence – and fortitude – began to flag. Instead of anticipating the good to come, I started wondering if I was up to this challenge. And rather than feeling joyful, the writing process became a slog.
One day, though, when I told a friend I felt I still had Mt. Kilimanjaro to climb, he suggested that I thank God for what God was doing for me. "You're not the center of the universe," he gently pointed out.
My response was a relieved, "Thank goodness!"
That conversation changed everything, because it woke me up to the fact that thanking God for being God, for being the very source of my intelligence, creativity, strength, and productivity, prevents me from wondering how I'll take the next step. It sets my sights on God, instead of on an uncertain future. And it keeps me focused on the work God is enabling me to do right this moment.
The change didn't happen overnight, but as I leaned on God – and on gratitude – my new outlook began to manifest itself in my writing, too. I got up eager each day to see where God was leading me. And rather than feel like a trudge up a steep mountain, the writing became so effortless, I almost felt as though I was coasting. The finish was sweet – mostly because it was so joyful.
Every victory – athletic and otherwise – comes with its own story, its own special set of lessons learned. I'm grateful to Venus Williams whose story reminded me that putting my hand in God's means I don't need to worry about the next step, because there's guaranteed strength – and success – in looking to the Divine, instead of down the long road ahead.