Persistence to take flight
A Christian Science perspective: In celebrating Aviation Day, one Wright Brothers’ fan admires their persistence.
When I give tours at the small aviation museum where I volunteer, I love to talk about the Wright Brothers – the men whose development of the airplane is commemorated on Dec. 17. They didn’t have big grants or rich investors, but they had an idea – and persistence. Many people, including those with more scientific expertise than they had, were working on the aviation puzzle. But these men chose to go against the “received wisdom” of the time, and as a result were able to succeed where the experts had failed. While some machines achieved liftoff in various ways, no one else came close to obtaining controlled, sustained flight.
Their success, after years of effort, literally changed the world, and all of us have benefited in some way from what they accomplished. For me, their work is an illustration of a statement by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science. She wrote: “Success in life depends upon persistent effort, upon the improvement of moments more than upon any other one thing.... If one would be successful in the future, let him make the most of the present” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 230).
Those words of wisdom helped me many years ago when I was asked to take on a writing project that involved producing a book-length manuscript. Some good preliminary work had been done, but I had never committed to a writing project of this length before.
Praying my way through the ups and downs of research, and actually writing the book, certainly required persistence, which is quite different from humanly willing oneself through difficulties. My study of the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings has taught me that the strength to persist comes from God, infinite Spirit (John 4:24). Each of us has unlimited access to qualities such as discernment, patience, intelligence, because we are all the ideas of God and are sustained by Him.
One statement in Mrs. Eddy’s book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” that meant a lot to me declares, in part, “self-denial, sincerity, Christianity, and persistence alone win the prize, as they usually do in every department of life” (p. 462). I saw this meant letting divine inspiration instead of intellectual reasoning alone lead me in the writing of the book. Keeping with this project was a rich and satisfying experience, and I was grateful for what I learned from writing it.
After the manuscript was reviewed, however, I was asked to revise it in a fairly significant way, and to have it done by the next morning. At first, I was convinced that the task was impossible. But as I prayed, this passage from Science and Health came to me: “The footsteps of thought, rising above material standpoints, are slow, and portend a long night to the traveller; but the angels of His presence – the spiritual intuitions that tell us when ‘the night is far spent, the day is at hand’ – are our guardians in the gloom” (p. 174).
This lifted feelings of frustration and resentment, and from that moment on, the work went quickly. I was hopeful that all would be well. But a few days later, I learned that the whole project had been scrapped. By then, however, I had realized that whatever the outcome, I’d been blessed by what I’d learned about persisting from a spiritual point of view. I knew I had put in a sincere effort, persisted through obstacles, and kept from being hopelessly frustrated. I knew that a faithful trust in God would result in the right outcome.
Sometime later, and unbeknown to me, another individual reviewed the manuscript. He felt my book would work well as a series of short articles, and I was asked to rework the manuscript along those lines. That series of articles was eventually published, and I was thankful that the work had proved useful.
This wasn’t anywhere near as significant as the invention of the airplane, but for me, it was a lesson in trusting God with outcomes, and persisting in prayer when difficulties loom. In their own way, the Wright Brothers won the prize with persistence after their first success in Kitty Hawk, N.C. And even after this triumph they persevered through other setbacks.
From my own experiences, I’ve learned that no effort is ever truly wasted if we are willing to be guided by God and to trust Him with the outcome. It also taught me that persistence backed by prayer always leads to a blessing.