The day after the Annual Meeting of The Mother Church last June turned out to be for me “big with blessings” (Science and Health, p. vii). Like many Americans, this past year has been fraught with financial challenges for me too. Frankly, it’s been pretty scary at times.
Where I live in southeast Idaho, there is no Christian Science church. So I enjoy attending church via webcasts from The Mother Church, and as I have for several years, I participated this year in the Annual Meeting live webcast. Given my financial circumstances, I appreciated Treasurer Ned Odegaard’s remarks concerning money—that if money is the Number One topic in conversation, it is almost never favorable. I enjoyed the definition of prosperity shared by Second Reader Marian English—to thrive, to grow, to increase. And what really resonated with me were Michael Pabst’s observations about change. He said that we should not be fearful of change, nor should we be fearful of no change. He summed it up by saying, in essence, that change should be the effect of spiritual growth—not a “savior.”
I realized that for some time I had been seeking change as a “savior” from my financial difficulties. I obsessed that I needed a new, better paying job; needed to move; needed to sell things; needed change.
I had already taken many practical human footsteps to improve my financial situation, drastically reducing my discretionary spending, applying for many higher paying jobs for which I was qualified, attempting to refinance my mortgages, and even looking into the United States government TARP options. But these so-called big picture “changes” just did not seem to be working out.
He was still a beloved son, still held in the same high estate.
Finally, last February, I was led to speak with the member services department of the credit union holding my VISA card account. I could not make my payment. I was beside myself. The worst part was I could not imagine when I would ever be able to make a full payment again.
I kept blaming myself—that it was my own fault that I had gotten into this jam. I kept playing over and over in my mind all the various financial decisions I had made in recent years. Had I “wasted my substance with riotous living” (Luke 15:13)? It didn’t feel like riotous living—no far-flung vacations, no flashy wardrobe, no fancy car. I don’t even own a flat screen TV! But apparently, at least to human sense, it seemed I had been living excessively, beyond my means. And if that was the case, maybe I didn’t deserve salvation or rescue from the pit I had dug for myself. Maybe I would have to face the shame and disgrace of bankruptcy, foreclosure, and a ruined credit rating.
Well, that was the state of mind from which Annual Meeting’s message rescued me. Because the first thing that needed to change, before my financial circumstances, was my thinking. The question “Who did sin, this man, or his parents?” (John 9:2) came to me. I realized that this line of thinking seeks to justify the “diseased” situation, no matter what it seems to be. In my case, I was attempting to justify my financial situation through blame.
I kept going back to the “riotous living” quote from the story of the prodigal son in the Bible. I realized for the first time that there was no loss of rank or status for the younger son when he returned to his father, despite his reckless spending. He was still a beloved son, still held in the same high estate. So if it was true for him, then it was true for me—I was still God’s beloved daughter.
Bless others by lifting any blame from them and seeing them as beloved sons and daughters of God.
This realization also helped me to have true compassion for others experiencing financial difficulties. In the past, when I saw people who had foreclosures on their homes, or who claimed bankruptcy, I sometimes wondered: Did they bring this upon themselves? I could now see the fallacy of that reasoning. I could see how millions of people around the world, not just here in America, might be struggling financially, and how I could best see them and bless them by lifting any blame from them and seeing them as beloved sons and daughters of God.
So if there was no human justification for my seemingly overwhelming financial situation, if I was not to blame, if I could see the truth of my spiritual identity first, then what human footsteps did I need to take?
Well, the next right step came. It unfolded in the form of the credit union extending to me an offer to make interest-only payments for three months. I did not really see how that would help me in the long run, or how I could even make those reduced payments, but I felt I needed to focus on each day, each blessing, that came. I successfully honored this interest-only payment agreement for the next three months while keeping all of my other accounts and mortgages current. When the credit union interest-only payment arrangement concluded, I wrote a letter explaining my entire situation and documenting the changes I had already made to improve my finances—including holding yard sales, auctioning items, and making many other reductions in spending.
Change should be the effect of spiritual growth and not a “savior.”
On June 7—the day after the Annual Meeting webcast—the credit union offered to rewrite my VISA into a seven-year personal loan contract that reduced my monthly obligation by more than 30 percent. Also on that same day, from what human sense would call “out of the clear blue sky,” I was contacted by the mortgage broker I had worked with several months earlier. She explained how their bank rules had recently been adjusted, and how we might now be able to apply again to refinance my two mortgages into a single new account, at a much lower fixed interest rate, which could reduce my payment by 20 percent—a sizeable amount.
Finally, I also received my contract for another year in my present work position, at the same pay level as recent years. While I had thought finding a solution to my financial situation would mean a physical change—that I needed to be swept up in the excitement of relocating and starting a more lucrative and rewarding position elsewhere—I could see that God was showing me how I could stay in my present position and still thrive.
Michael Pabst was right when he relayed the message that change should be the effect of spiritual growth and not a “savior.” There is only one savior, Christ Jesus, who showed us, and continues to show us, that God, Mind, is omnipotent, all powerful, in every situation. The only change we really need to make is to rely on this infinite Mind moment by moment, and any other needed adjustment will fall naturally into its proper place.
Gina R. M. Armer teaches at Eastern Idaho Technical College. She recently completed her Ph.D. doctoral dissertation titled “Mary Baker Eddy’s contribution to adult education.”