Sounding the depths of freedom

A Christian Science perspective: Fourth of July festivities bring to mind what lies behind true freedom.

Twenty years ago this week I was on a bus headed to a Fourth of July festival in Erie, Pa., and to my new job as a deckhand on one of the famous tall ships touring the Great Lakes that summer.

At the time I was celebrating my own “Independence Day” of sorts. During the previous few weeks I had resigned from my office job, found someone to sublet the house I shared with several others, and put all but a few of my belongings into a storage locker. I was free! Free of the nine-to-five work routine, free of difficult roommates, free of most of my worldly possessions, and free of a longtime relationship that had come to a dead end. I arrived at the ship and jumped into my duties with great joy.

Looking back on that experience, I now see it as a time of “zero-basing” – a time when I was able to pare most of the external factors of my life down to almost nothing. Then began the process of listening for next steps and building something new. In this circumstance it was something I had chosen to do – a “voluntary reset.”

At times, however, these zero-basing experiences come not by choice but by other factors such as divorce, illness, fire, flood, bankruptcy, etc. And while it was a wonderful time of freedom and adventure for me, it was not without a new set of cares and challenges. I did not, for example, have any idea where I would live or work at the end of the sailing season, which was just three months away.

Fortunately, I had a set of universally available tools that would help me find my way. Most of these tools were mental and spiritual tools gained from my study of Christian Science. I had a clear sense of God as my always present and loving Companion. Rarely did I take a step or make a decision during this time without acknowledging that a trusted, divine presence was with me and was guiding me. I had numerous opportunities to live and walk in the spirit of these words from the Christian Science textbook: “Step by step will those who trust Him find that ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ ” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 444; Psalms 46:1). While sailing I drank in the open views and vast expanse of sky overhead as promises of the boundless opportunities given to each of us by God, who I also understood to be infinite Love and limitless Life.

I also had a couple of physical tools with me – a small Bible and Science and Health as well as a words-only copy of the “Christian Science Hymnal.” These were packed in my sea bag and kept close at hand in my bunk throughout the season. It was during this period that I began a practice of quietly and prayerfully opening my Bible at random, trusting that divine Mind would communicate whatever was needed in any given situation. Numerous times I received comfort, assurance, or guidance. I drew inspiration from the Master, Christ Jesus, whose ministry centered around the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s largest freshwater lake. While doing work on the ship or standing watch, I often silently sang hymns to myself. 

The deeper sense of freedom during this time had less to do with shedding possessions and responsibilities and much more to do with drawing closer to God and leaning more consistently on my divine Companion. I was claiming a steady, unbroken relationship with God and was knowing that at any time and under any circumstance I could turn to that divine Source and would find support.

I was not free from challenges, but I was completely free from loneliness, confusion, injury, and lack. Opportunities for work, housing, and new friendships unfolded naturally throughout the season and the months that followed. Within a year I was already putting down roots in a place that has now been my home for almost two decades. It’s a place where I’ve had a steady stream of interesting and satisfying employment and where I met my husband and his sons 16 years ago.

This deeper sense of freedom has stayed with me ever since. It was a time of renewing my part of the covenant the prophet Jeremiah records: “[T]his shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33). This freedom is a gift I continue to cherish – both for myself and as a present possibility for all.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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