It was a little overcast that day on the lake, but spirits were high on our boat. Ian, the son of a friend of mine, was teaching his mom to wakeboard, which is like waterskiing on a board. She was as determined to learn as he was to teach her. Success seemed assured. But after 15 attempts of holding on while fighting the wall of water that the wakeboard was pushing against, it felt like time to quit for the day.
Then, almost simultaneously, several of us had the idea to have her try rotating the board as she was coming up out of the water instead of waiting to rotate until she was on top of the water. Fairly quickly, she got up and had a successful run. We all cheered her determination and the idea that enabled her to lift up onto the water and go skimming over the surface.
Many times I’ve found myself determined to accomplish something but have felt I was hitting a similarly impenetrable wall. Mere determination has not been sufficient, and I’ve been tempted to think that the task was impossible for me and that I should quit. But I’m learning that in those very moments of helplessness, I need to yield, or turn, more to God.
I remember, for instance, that some years ago I felt overwhelmed by the demands of my job. I tried to get up earlier, work longer hours, work more efficiently, regulate the hours that I was available in my office, and even turned away some clients, but none of this seemed to solve the problem. Each day I felt as if a huge wave of demand was crashing in upon me, and I couldn’t get on top of it.
One day when I was reading the Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly, I came to one of my favorite passages, which says, “mortals need only turn from sin and lose sight of mortal selfhood to find Christ, the real man and his relation to God ...” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 316). What struck me was the little phrase “need only turn.” “Wow,” I thought, “is that really all I have to do, turn from sin or self?”
I thought of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son and his older brother, which illustrates for me the two broad headings of sin. In this parable the younger son leaves his father’s house and spends his inheritance in “riotous living.” When he finds himself destitute, he returns to his father, asking to be a servant in his household, but the father restores him to his full status as a son.
The older brother has stayed at home the whole time, working hard to do the right thing, but perhaps as though he had to earn his right to be a son through his own efforts. The father points out to the older brother that his heritage is bestowed freely and cannot be earned or lost.
So, in a profound way, any form of personal sense or a sense of separation from God is sin. Turning from sin means so much more than just turning away from dishonesty or sensualism. It means turning away from a sense of self apart from God, turning away from fascination with finiteness, and looking out into the infinite oneness and allness of God as Mind’s very knowing.
As I considered this idea further, I realized that the sin I needed to turn from at that time was personal responsibility. If I considered myself the source or cause of income for my family and help to my clients, I was denying that God is the one source and cause of all existence. Christ Jesus declared, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30), while the Apostle Paul pointed out, “Christ gives me the strength to face anything” (Philippians 4:13, Contemporary English Version). Both of these statements reveal that our ability is not personal but is the unlimited reflection of God’s omnipotence. Our relation to God is as perfect effect or infinite manifestation.
My prayers that day led to what I can best describe as the discovery of a spiritual point of turning. The yielding of control to God brought immediate peace and better order and dominion to my work. It’s not that I’m never tempted to try to power my way through a situation, but now I know what to do when I start to feel I’m hitting a wall. I remind myself, “Just turn.” Don’t try to ramp up personal effort. Don’t give up. “Give over” to God. And that turning always lifts me above the wall of resistance that seems impenetrable.
Next time you find yourself up against a wall, try turning from sin or self. Try making that mental shift of yielding to God as the Principle that creates, constitutes, and governs the universe. It’s magnificent what that simple “need only turn” can do.