When I was in my early 20s, just out of college, I felt a great pressure to make something of myself. I don’t just mean finding a career or job that I loved. It was more than that. I felt a deep personal responsibility to do something with my life that would make the world a better place.
I’d already had some successes as an artist, and now I felt a great pressure to live up to those successes. When I wasn’t succeeding at this goal, I felt afraid and uncomfortable. As a result, I moved frequently, felt almost constantly agitated, and as much as I tried, couldn’t find a place where I fit in and felt at home.
After a few years of this, I began to realize that I would never find my peace just from a certain place or career. I began to see that this could only come through learning more about God and my relation to Him.
This marked the beginning of my real journey. But I won’t pretend it was easy. I still didn’t have a clear sense of who I was, or what I was supposed to be doing. Some mornings I would wake up so depressed that I wondered whether it was even worthwhile to be alive.
But during this time, I felt guided by a spiritual conviction I had gained when my father passed on a couple of years earlier. Through my prayers to address the grief I felt at that time, I had heard this very clear communication from God: “Nothing has changed.” Even though the human picture had changed, I knew in my heart that to God nothing had changed – my father lived on because God was his Life. And I really felt the spiritual, eternal nature of life in a way I hadn’t before.
This absolute conviction that you cannot kill life because its source is God, infinite Life itself, protected me from falling prey to demoralizing thoughts that suicide could provide me with some peace. Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, sheds some light on this subject on page 291 in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “As man falleth asleep, so shall he awake. As death findeth mortal man, so shall he be after death, until probation and growth shall effect the needed change.”
This inspired a powerful reality check. Even if I ended my life, I would still find myself with the same need to work out the same problems – to realize that God, divine Soul, is infinite Life, and therefore our life is entirely spiritual and eternal. Suicide wouldn’t provide any escape at all.
Over the next few years I prayed and listened for God’s guidance, gradually gaining confidence. Many times I looked to this line from Psalms for comfort and support: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (139:14). That was talking about me!
As I prayed through this experience, I gained some valuable insights. First, that spiritual answers provide the only permanent solutions in life. Second, that trying to avoid problems rather than facing them is like being in school and refusing to do the homework. I would just keep staying in the same grade. I also learned that when I approached challenges with humble gratitude and joy, I was able to see, feel, and hear God much more clearly.
Slowly the depressing and dark thoughts receded, and I began to feel a real sense of joy again. I ended up moving to a new city, only this time I didn’t feel as though I was running from anything. I got an apartment, met some wonderful people, and saw how my original goal to make a difference through my career was taking shape in new, exciting ways. Painting murals, something I loved to do, evolved from a personal venture into a community venture, involving whole neighborhoods. This was a career path I could never have outlined on my own. But it grew very naturally once I accepted my spiritual, pure, Soul-inspired identity. And it’s a path that continues to be meaningful and fruitful today.
We can spend years and years searching out ways to give meaning to our lives. But until we see clearly that God, eternal Love, is our Life, I don’t believe we will ever quite be home. When we do arrive at that understanding, we’ll see more clearly that each life is eternal, precious, and very much worth living.
Adapted from an article published in the June 12, 2006, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.