RECENTLY, I FOUND MYSELF taking a long, hard look at my financial situation. I'd just decided to leave my job as a salaried employee, and it appeared that my reserves were running low.
I began my review by making a list of my debts (credit cards, car loan, etc.) and then my assets (savings and checking accounts, 401k plan, IRA, and so on). While the bottom line looked all right, the cash-flow situation seemed considerably less rosy.
The exercise reminded me of an important lesson I'd learned years ago about the nature and source of supply. One night when I was a teenager, my dad sat me down at the kitchen table and showed me a check he'd received from the US government—a check for one million dollars! He'd just been contracted to build a new post office, and the check was an advance to cover his startup costs.
As surprised as I was to see such an large sum of money, I was even more surprised to hear what Dad said next: "I want you to remember that this check is not the source of our family's supply. Our supply comes from the idea behind it."
He went on to explain that well before this check was written, someone had an idea to build a post office. This idea grew to include many people, from government officials to my father, who had always cherished the idea of being a successful building contractor. Eventually he put together a proposal—an idea—that garnered the necessary approval to be awarded a contract.
But where did all these ideas come from? Mary Baker Eddy answered that question when she wrote: "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies." Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 307. This was precisely Dad's point.
Although this conversation took place many years ago, it impressed upon me the importance of acknowledging God as an ever-present source of ideas and, therefore, of supply. While one's income may seem to wax and wane, the inspirations we get from God never cease. Whether we're impelled to write a best-selling novel, start a new business, or help a friend in exchange for a home-cooked meal, there's simply no end to good ideas—ideas when acted upon, end up blessing everyone involved.
Which brings me back to the present day. When I was finished itemizing my various debts and assets, the thought occurred to me, "Instead of looking at the situation from a limited, material standpoint, why not review my balance sheet from a more spiritual perspective?"
I started with a look at my "spiritual debt," asking the question, "What do I owe God?" The answer came in the form of another question: "What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul." Deut 10:12. To me, this meant that my spiritual debt to God could be summarized in three words—trust, love, and obedience.
I decided to take a more detailed look at these spiritual debts or obligations:
- To "fear the Lord thy God" meant, not to be terrified of God's presence, but to regard Him with profound reverence. Fearing the Lord involves acknowledging and trusting that His law, the law of good, is the only law governing the universe. It's trusting that this law is not arbitrary, but includes ample, constant, and universal provision for all of God's creation.
- The importance of one's love for God is emphasized in the teachings of Christ Jesus, who called this "the first and great commandment." He went on to say, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Matt 22:38, 39. It seemed to me that loving God and all that He created, including our fellow man or woman, is small recompense for all that He does for us.
- And what about the question of obedience? It's one thing to acknowledge that God is always leading His children in a direction that promotes spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being; it's quite another to be obedient and follow that lead. What does this mean in practical terms? To me, it meant being willing to "go with your gut"—to be responsive to your spiritual intuition—regardless of what another person or the circumstances might tell you.
Reviewing my spiritual debt—what some investors might call "good debt"—I thought to myself, "I can handle this." Why? Because the source of such love and trust and obedience is God Himself—the Creator of the universe. And that universe includes me!
Taking a look at the other side of the ledger, I realized that my "spiritual assets" were, and are, considerable. Of course, as God's creation, we all possess varied and inexhaustible qualities such as strength, intelligence, integrity, compassion, and so on. But to me two assets in particular stand out above all else.
- The first, as discussed earlier, are the abundant ideas from God that come to us in the form of inspired thoughts. These thoughts are communicated through Christ, which Mary Baker Eddy defined as "a divine influence ever present in human consciousness...." Science and Health, p. xi. Not only does this divine influence release us from financial fetters, it leads us out of emotional and physical bondage, as well.
- The second asset is our capacity to love and be loved. Many religious traditions teach that the best way to experience God's grace, or love, is to be gracious and loving to ourselves. And when we are the beneficiaries of another's kindness, it is equally important for us to see ourselves as worthy of that love and to accept it without condition or prejudice. According to the teachings of Christian Science, this exchange is described as Love (another word for God) being reflected, or made manifest, in love.
Seeing the light
As inspired as I felt about this new and spiritualized view of my financial situation, I was plenty ready to see some tangible results of my prayer. Fortunately I didn't have to wait long. I realized immediately that I could add a new column to my ledger, listing the unexpected blessings I'd already experienced since leaving my last job.
The list was long, and each line item fell into one of four categories—unexpected freelance employment; overwhelming generosity from my wife, family, and friends; immeasurable spiritual growth; and ample opportunity to be a blessing to others.
To me this list was proof that my prayer—my affirmations of God's goodness, presence, and power—were already bearing fruit, revealing to my now-enlightened consciousness what had been there all along. It was like discovering an unrecorded deposit to my checking account! Borrowing from the book of Psalms, I thought to myself, "How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! ... For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light." Ps 36:7, 9.
So what does the forecast look like? Even though my cash-flow situation itself hasn't changed considerably, my perception of it has. Spiritually speaking, I can see from my list of unexpected blessing that I'm already operating in the black. I have ample supply (ideas) on hand and the promise of God's continued presence in my life is assured. More importantly, I'm learning to be more trusting, more loving, more obedient.
I'm also learning to be more patient. "Never ask for to-morrow," wrote Mary Baker Eddy: "it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment." Mis., p. 307. With this assurance, my spiritual and financial outlook couldn't be brighter.
Eric Nelson lives with his wife in Los Altos, California, where he devotes himself to the full-time practice of Christian Science.