Most of us are touched when we see individuals achieve outcomes that have required extraordinary dedication, particularly when they’ve overcome hostile predictions or overwhelming circumstances. We cheer teams that come from behind. We value co-workers, friends, and family for their persistence, especially when a goal is particularly challenging to achieve.
What’s the secret to such achievements?
One woman who moved mountains as a Christian healer, spiritual teacher, author, and founder of this newspaper – at a time when women were not welcome in the workplace or on the pulpit – was Mary Baker Eddy. She said, “The devotion of thought to an honest achievement makes the achievement possible” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 199).
Yet while many have proved that quality of thought makes a huge difference in the quality of outcomes, her teaching went well beyond the importance of human mental focus alone. It had everything to do with learning that God is the source of all ability.
In the push and pull of daily life, we can become convinced that the human “doing” of something is the test of our drive, dedication, and place in the world. But if effective devotion actually occurs first in thought, what kind of thoughts enable right outcomes, or “honest achievements”? What if, instead of aiming for a more prestigious job or more acclaim from others, we nurtured the deeper goal of demonstrating, in any endeavor, our unique selfhood as the spiritual expression of God?
To learn and live our spiritual nature requires a realization that it is God, divine intelligence, infinite Love, that defines our entire being. Christ Jesus had this realization when he said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). He was showing us that spiritually we’re all at one with God. The results of this knowledge are practical – and far beyond what sheer human focus can accomplish. When we begin to value our true nature as an expression of God’s nature, improvement comes in our day-to-day experience, too.
Some years back, I was admitted to graduate school, but shortly after that, my family needed to move away. I was excited to learn that there was a top-notch university in my new location, and I submitted my Graduate Record Exam scores, which had seemed high before. But I was rejected because I didn’t meet all the prerequisites, and my GRE scores weren’t high enough to compensate. I asked if I could retake the GRE. The admissions person rather impatiently gave me a target score that would be out of reach of nearly anyone, and I had just one month to take the test.
Because the exam is challenging to actually study for, I turned to prayer wholeheartedly. I realized that I had an opportunity to prove something I’d known since I’d first learned about Christian Science: that we each express God, divine Mind, and we don’t “own” personal intelligence, high or low. That intelligence flows forever from Mind to its own idea, man. I had to pray daily to silence the aggressive fear that I couldn’t possibly achieve the arbitrary score that had been set. I prayed deeply to acknowledge that each of us expresses the divine Mind that’s always present, always expressing in us every thought needed for development and right action.
I did receive the necessary scores. But even more, that experience opened me to a greater understanding that we do, in reality, express God’s nature completely.
Understanding what it truly means to commit oneself to “an honest achievement” – to gain the right view of what we are as God’s beloved sons and daughters – diminishes and can eliminate apparent limitations in intellect, health, physical capabilities, and even in moral weakness.
Prayer is the ultimate “devotion of thought.” And it’s through turning to God as the present source of our true consciousness, which expresses the divine nature, that we discover we are never just striving humans, but are truly what God has known us to be all along. We are expressions of spiritual freedom – including the freedom to achieve whatever it is ours to do.
This article was adapted from the Jan. 20, 2017, Christian Science Daily Lift podcast.