Stumbling block or steppingstone?

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

A new school year is in full swing – new teachers, new friends, and new opportunities to learn and grow. It's a wonderful feeling of renewal and adventure. But newness can sometimes bring feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure.

I've had my own difficulties with new situations. I'm happy to experience new challenges but at the same time there's a queasiness that makes me hold back. Is this the right thing to do at this time? Do I have the talent or skills necessary for the task?

How can we approach new situations with freedom and expectancy of good? Jesus' parable of the talents sheds some light on this issue (see Matt. 25:14-29). Three servants were given talents (an amount of money) by their master. One received five talents, another, two, and the last, one – each according to his ability. When the master returned, the first two had increased the talents they received. But the last servant, out of fear, buried the money. The master was unhappy with him. He took his one talent away and gave it to the servant with the most talents.

To me this means that if we don't take advantage of the opportunities we're given, we lose the opportunity. And although God is good, we lose sight of His love for us if we let fear control our actions.

It happens in many areas of life. I saw it in my family as my son started band this year. He was very excited about it and was making wonderful progress, but when he was given a more challenging piece of music, he was ready to quit. My husband and I helped him work through this challenge, and he was so happy when he succeeded.

Then he came to another challenging piece, and it seemed as if we started all over again. I talked to him about how he had succeeded with the first challenge, but he wasn't convinced. "Mom, this is different," he said. "It's soooo much harder than the other one!"

I prayed and listened for ideas from God that would help us both. We got through that one, and then a few days later, it happened again. By the fourth time, we were both frustrated. To me, each instance was similar, and if we applied the ideas we had received, we could make it through again. But having been frustrated with mastering a new skill myself, I could understand my son's feeling that it was impossible to move on.

How could I help him get past the fear of facing a new challenge, even if the challenge must be faced again and again? As I continued praying, I realized that I was taking too much responsibility for my son's progress. So I started acknowledging God's power and presence and knowing that my son has direct communication with God, just as I do. He didn't need me as a mediator.

One way I found helpful in doing this is to think of some of the names for God I've come to know through my study of the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy. I also thought about God as our Mother and the qualities that includes – tenderness, affection, infinite love, and intelligence.

God as Mother lovingly directs all Her children. My job is to claim our Mother's infinite control and care for Her creation. This brings a tenderness to some of the names for God. For example, I like to think of God, Principle, expressed as nurturing direction; Mind, as loving intelligence; Soul, as watchful perception; Spirit, as gentle inspiration; Life, as benevolent living; Truth, as compassionate honesty; and Love, as comforting affection.

This mothering is not meddlesome, falsely prideful, worrisome, or burdened. It is joyous, giving, forgiving, and free.

With this prayer, I found I could help without pushing my son. We were both blessed by turning to God for help. Each of God's ideas is protected and guarded by this inspired Mother love. We feel it because we express it directly from God. And our talents increase as we meet each challenge.

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