Patience and the next step

A Christian Science perspective: How patient – and prayerful – waiting is a vehicle for progress in our lives.

When I was a child, I remember asking my mother more than once at the age of 8, “When will I be 9?” My eighth year seemed endless. I wanted to move forward, to get on with being 9.

Time does, on occasion, seem to stretch on – not only for the child but for the adult who might be waiting for a particular next step in his or her life. To be patient at such times may be challenging, but it can be a big help if patience is supported by a growing perception of the Bible’s inspired teachings. Then, waiting becomes a period of spiritual progress. I’ve always found this verse reassuring: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way” (Psalms 37:23). 

Sometimes, instead of letting God order our steps when we feel a legitimate need for change, there’s a tendency to want to make something happen immediately and to force events in a certain direction. Of course, change can come rapidly if that’s appropriate, as many have proved through the power of prayer. But personal will and human maneuvering don’t provide a genuine answer. 

A reading of the Scriptures in the light of Christian Science points to the wisdom of looking to our creator to show us the way. It tells us that God is unlimited Love, always providing good for His likeness, man; that His creation is actually spiritual and perfectly designed, expressing His nature as infinite Spirit, the one all-wise divine Mind. It teaches that God has established the well-being of what He created and maintains it throughout eternity. 

Yielding in prayer to such timeless truths helps quiet pushy human will and dissolve the false sense of having to engineer events. It helps us gain a conviction that these truths are true, as Christ Jesus proved so persuasively, so conclusively, in his healing ministry. This opens the way to experiencing any needed change in the right way at the right time. It ensures progress under the government of infallible divine law. 

The Bible promises, in the words of St. Paul, that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). How that will happen in a specific instance may not be readily apparent. Yet a few verses before that, Paul offers this counsel: “We are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (24, 25).

Early in my work experience I felt like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. For months I stewed about it, feeling the job wasn’t right for me. But one day, as a result of listening more closely to God in prayer, I had a simple spiritual insight. I realized that I wasn’t actually a dissatisfied, misplaced mortal, governed by circumstances – but God’s spiritual image, filling my distinct niche in His universe, always at peace, always where I belonged. That’s not how things appeared, but I knew it was how things really were right then, beyond the temporary, limited view.

As a result, I felt more at peace, focused on doing a better job right where I was, and was impelled to begin pursuing after hours some work I felt was more suitable for me. Eventually a job came along in an unforeseen way in a profession very much related to the work I was doing on my own time. God-inspired patience paid off, because I wouldn’t have been ready to do that job at an earlier point. God’s law of good was at work, not faulty human will, which sometimes rushes ahead unwisely.

Speaking of the importance of meekness and temperance, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, says in her autobiographical work, “Retrospection and Introspection”: “Restrain untempered zeal. ‘Learn to labor and to wait.’ Of old the children of Israel were saved by patient waiting” (p. 79).

To wait patiently, humbly, on God with a mental eye on the spiritual facts of creation isn’t to put up with or ignore some unhappy situation but to forward its resolution, leading to the right next step at the right time. 

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Dear Reader,

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.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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