“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; . . . For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:9, 10).
“Many of the . . . ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy” (Ezra 3:12).
Zerubbabel was a governor of Judah, tasked with rebuilding the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem. But when the foundation was being laid, it appeared it might be a lesser structure than the original Temple complex built by King Solomon (which had been destroyed), and many of the elders of the people who had seen the original Temple were weeping—maybe because of the humble beginnings of the new one. Perhaps many who “shouted aloud for joy” were younger folks who hadn’t seen the first Temple. But those who were among the joyous were evidently so grateful that the Temple was being rebuilt that they rejoiced in the progress rather than weeping over the relatively modest start that would ultimately result in a significant house of worship. Had they begun to understand that small beginnings can grow—with patience and trust in God—into deeper and fuller expressions of good?
Over the years, I’ve found that dealing faithfully, diligently, conscientiously, with seemingly small beginnings or “small things,” prepares and strengthens me to handle bigger challenges with more confidence.
A cornerstone of this precept has been the effort to live, for decades—in many fundamental areas of my experience—the truth of God as the only cause and creator. And the first demand on us in practicing this understanding of spiritual causation is acknowledging God as our own sole origin. For years, waking up in the morning has meant affirming that I originate in Spirit, God—and have never been created materially.
One particular statement in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, has been especially precious and meaningful to me: “Spiritual causation,” it declares, “is the one question to be considered, for more than all others spiritual causation relates to human progress” (p. 170). The seminal idea of spiritual causation was the daily keynote of all the years of my professional life in the arts as I relied only on God for originality, creativity, and freshness.
Then, little by little, and for different reasons, the idea developed in my consciousness that I needed to extend this dedication to spiritual causation into other aspects of my life, into seeing actions and decisions, for example, as solely originating in God, and having no other cause. For example, going for a walk meant pausing at the door to know that divine Mind determined the direction in which I should go. And the more I practiced this dependence on God for direction in the little things, the more I clearly heard God’s direction in weightier matters where guidance and direction were needed.
The core idea of spiritual causation shaped my days to the degree that I grew in my understanding of its application—because the fullness of the profound truths of spiritual being don’t overtake human consciousness all at once. The idea of turning to God more and more often as the one—and perpetual—creator and cause, the one origin of my thoughts, ideas, and actions, just kept developing over the years until I finally realized that the common denominator of what I was doing was demonstrating my inseparability from God. I was moving toward the realization of my complete oneness with, and dependence on, the one Mind—and equally important and necessary, I was simultaneously making strides in giving up the belief in a personal mind and will.
Perhaps this is what alerted me to my need to understand the First Commandment more deeply and inclusively. Because that’s what happened. Mrs. Eddy tells us that the First Commandment—“Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3)—is her “favorite text,” and that it “demonstrates Christian Science” (see Science and Health, p. 340).
Pure obedience to the First Commandment would necessarily mean that not a wholesome, constructive thought, idea, word, action, or event could be linked to any cause or power but the one Mind. And it would bring the realization that God doesn’t create us, give us “free will,” and leave us to our own devices, but is the intelligent, loving cause of every effect, thus of every nanosecond of our existence.
And striving to consciously live our lives with this in thought would ratify the fact of our scientific relationship to Deity, in which not even under the smallest of circumstances could God’s individualities, Love’s spiritual offspring, think, say, or do something other than as the outcome or reflection of God Himself
—any more than a sunbeam, under any circumstances, could ever disconnect itself from the sun and be something other than the sun’s outcome. God alone is self-existent. If God were to disappear, there would be nothing left
—big or small—because God is the Mind, Ego, and Life of all.
I suppose one could say that I was now on the way to a more all-inclusive grasp of “the day of small things.”
I’ve found that dealing faithfully, conscientiously, with seemingly “small things” prepares and strengthens me to handle bigger challenges with more confidence.
As I began to watch my thinking more closely in relation to the First Commandment, I often caught myself assigning power, or causation, to any number of ordinary things rather than to God. Was I unintentionally despising the “day of small things”? Was I dividing the day into issues that were either important enough or not important enough to require obedience to the First Commandment? Divine Love corrected me in an incredibly simple, but sweet and awe-inspiring way.
As it happens, I’ve loved birds and bird-watching for many years. Some years ago, a pair of beautiful Baltimore orioles were passing through the area and stayed until they migrated south. In fact, they returned year after year for some time—and then vanished. I hadn’t seen them for at least five years and felt a great longing to welcome them back. I’d tried putting out oriole nectar during those years, not to mention oranges and jelly feeders, but the orioles never came. Nevertheless, I decided a couple of years ago to try again, so I put out all the oriole feeders—but to no avail.
And then it happened. In a flash of inspiration, I realized that instead of seeing Spirit as the only causative power and force of attraction (in obedience to the First Commandment), I was attributing causation to nectar, jelly, and oranges! The realization was so striking, so simple, that I immediately saw the error and replaced it with the truth underlying the First Commandment: that causation and its effects belong to God alone.
The textbook explains, “There is but one real attraction, that of Spirit” (p. 102). Through attraction, Spirit classifies and harmoniously relates all of its infinite ideas. Through the Holy Ghost—Spirit’s dynamic law of action—Love’s infinite creation is intelligently synchronized and coordinated.
Even in this modest matter, I could see the immense importance of getting the Science right in order to demonstrate our unbroken unity with God. It was evident that we indulge the illusion of separation from God—and fail to glorify Him—each time we ignorantly or willfully disregard Him as the sole cause. In a key teaching point that underscores divinity’s uninterrupted coincidence with humanity, the textbook declares, “The scientific unity which exists between God and man must be wrought out in life-practice, and God’s will must be universally done” (p. 202).
Just a day later, I was in my office looking out the window when a streak of bright orange flashed in front of me. I hurried down to the kitchen window, and there, drinking from the hummingbird feeder—not the oriole feeder that was only a couple of feet away—was a stunning oriole! For the next few days when I went for my walks, he was in every place I went. He and his mate came to drink hummingbird nectar and bathe in my birdbath every day all spring and summer, and they were back again the following year.
The question is, Was this just about seeing orioles? I knew it wasn’t. It was a pointed lesson on understanding the all-inclusive Science of the First Commandment. It was a lesson in how scientific obedience to it—living spiritual causation in the smallest details of my daily experience, not just in what seem to be life’s complex bigger challenges—demonstrates our seamless oneness with our Maker and gives us more confidence in God’s love and care for us in all things.
Could despising “the day of small things” possibly reveal an ignorance of the symphonic nature of true being? Beautiful symphonies aren’t only made up of soaring, crashing, powerful passages of music, but are balanced throughout by passages expressing an endless array of intensities, from the very tiniest “ping” of a triangle to the peacefulness of a harp to the frolicking of a flute. Their beauty is in the unity of the simple and complex, the small and great, the obvious and subtle. Like the garment of Christ, each day is undivided, a complete movement in Soul’s eternal symphony.
Science and Health tells us, “Physical causation was put aside from first to last by this original man, Jesus” (p. 286). Not only was no problem too big for Christ Jesus, but also . . . nothing was too small. He never despised the “day of small things.” He saw God’s presence, love, beauty, and care for humanity and for flora and fauna in the glory of the lilies of the field and the sustenance of the fowls of the air. He taught one of the greatest of all lessons—the eternal value of each individual—by pointing to the life of a dear little sparrow: “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” (Luke 12:6).
Believing we can, or should, deal with the seemingly small issues on our own without God—that we shouldn’t “bother God” with the infinitesimals—is a denial of our scientific, indestructible unity with our Maker. It suggests not humility, but rather an unwillingness to denounce and renounce the entire false, unreal, personal sense of self that our great Master, Christ Jesus, proved to be an illusion of the material senses, a counterfeit version of the true man and woman of God’s creating. His humble statement, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30), expresses with such beautiful simplicity the Science of being, the indivisibility of the small and great elements that constitute the tapestry of individual and collective being. His statement illustrates so completely the fact that God is the continuous and sole Life and substance of all creation—as the analogy of sun and sunbeam exemplifies.
My oriole experience etched more deeply into my consciousness the demand to be watchful about assigning causation to anything—whether small or great—other than the one Mind. On the side of some of what seem to be greater things, how often do we attribute causation to, for example, age, the body, heredity, personalities (whom we identify as either virtuous or wicked), the economy, the government, money, conditioning, a pandemic, the weather, ragweed and goldenrod, luck, chance, or any of the endless things that claim to compete with Spirit as the only cause? We shortchange and victimize ourselves when we assign causation and power to something other than God. No matter how much power is claimed by that which is not Spirit and spiritual, God, the All-good—right here, right now—is demonstrably the infinite and only power and presence.
The rewards of watching thought and striving to obey the First Commandment are so rich—among them, a growing sense of oneness with the Father, God, that was the common denominator underlying Christ Jesus’ teachings and practice. Science and Health declares, “Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man’s oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him endless homage” (p. 18).
Whatever we’re doing—no matter how mundane it may seem—is holy and glorifies God when we’re consciously moving as reflection. The least awareness of the divine All-power helps us to understand Jesus’ description of the kingdom of heaven:
“It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: but when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs” (Mark 4:31, 32).
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