There’s so much good that can be – and needs to be! – done. And for most of us there’s a place in our hearts where we desire to do more for others. But sometimes we feel as though we have to spend so much time on just surviving that it can be hard to think about thriving, much less helping others to thrive.
Soon after getting married, my wife and I moved to a beautiful part of Oregon. I quickly found a part-time retail job, and my wife began full-time self-employed work as a Christian Science practitioner – a professional who helps others find healing through prayer. I, too, deeply value this approach to healing. There are many ways we can unselfishly aid others, and this is the one that always meant the most to me. So I looked forward to a time when I also could commit my days to helping others in this way.
But I was convinced it wouldn’t be wise to throw all our eggs into one self-employed basket, so to speak. I thought that only upon reaching a certain threshold of money in the bank would I be able to also pursue my passion for this service.
In many other situations, though, I’d seen that insisting on a specific game plan without keeping thought open to other possible paths can be a slippery slope, no matter how good our intentions. Thankfully, in this case, my one-track mind got a wake-up call. At a family Thanksgiving dinner soon after moving to Oregon, I was asked by practically every family member present why I wasn’t yet doing what they could tell I really wanted to do!
When faced with major decisions before, I’d seen how helpful it can be to take a mental step back and consider things from a different, spiritual perspective. I like to remember, as the Bible says, “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, New International Version). I’ve learned with great joy that God’s will for His spiritual creation, which includes each of us, is entirely good. Whatever form of unselfish service we may feel drawn to, when a desire to express goodness inspires our motives, we see that it is not about us willfully trying to bring something to fruition. It’s about a willingness to keep following the prompting of God, good, and to see God’s boundless love and care evidenced in our lives.
The key, I’ve found, is to not just let God, divine Love, guide us when we start a job search (or even a conversation about career and purpose), but also to follow! Perhaps that sounds obvious, but it’s often in the effort of “doing” that we veer off the path we’ve been inspired to take.
Some words from a poem by the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, beautifully crystallize the idea of humbly following God. The first stanza reads:
“Shepherd, show me how to go
O’er the hillside steep,
How to gather, how to sow, –
How to feed Thy sheep;
I will listen for Thy voice,
Lest my footsteps stray;
I will follow and rejoice
All the rugged way.”
(“Poems,” p. 14)
Whenever we aren’t sure where to start – with anything! – we can confidently, humbly listen for where God is directing. And as God’s creation, we have the inherent ability to discern and bravely follow His loving call.
In this case, as the desire to listen to God took a greater hold on my heart, I gained a clear sense that the time had come to quit the retail job, which I did, with my wife’s blessing. The willingness to follow what I felt called to do has borne much fruit in work that I find deeply fulfilling, and our needs as a family have continued to be met.
For any of us, listening for, and following, God’s calling to any unselfish labor does not leave us on our own. Instead, it reveals God’s ample support for us as we take the opportunity to serve and support others – in whatever way that may be.