I was on vacation in northern Maine a few weeks ago. It's the one family outing each year where we are together in a truly relaxing atmosphere, and we all enjoy it.
This year, I spent some extra time praying to understand God's direction in my life in general and also in my work specifically. In every part of my life, it seems, there is major change, and while I'm not afraid of change, there did seem to be a lot of it all at once.
One passage from Mary Baker Eddy's book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" that I've found really helpful is in the chapter on prayer. It says: "Thoughts unspoken are not unknown to the divine Mind. Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds" (page 1).
The "moulding and exalting" part of prayer is the place where I try to drop my plan for what I would like to have happen and really listen for what God is telling me.
From previous experiences, I have learned to know God's strength, intelligence, and mercy - and most of the time, I need all three! Sometimes, depending on what God says, I need to remind myself of God's tender care for every detail of His creation.
That helps me be more willing to let God work His purpose out at His own pace and to resist the desire to hurry things along. As one passage in the book of Psalms puts it, "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord" (Ps. 27:14). To me, this statement is saying, "You really can trust God, so stop worrying."
Gradually, as I prayed with these ideas and others that came to mind, I felt genuinely strengthened and a lot clearer about how God's power of good was working in my life.
With that feeling of peace, I felt moved to pray about other things, such as the many challenges in Africa, the uncertainties among the Asian countries, the war in Iraq. I felt sure that God's strength, intelligence, and tenderness were available for all people, everywhere, not just for me and my family.
While all this praying was going on, we were pursuing the usual outdoor activities - fishing, hiking, and so on. Because we have been to this campground so often, we have certain trails we make a point of walking. It's a bit like visiting old friends. This time, however, I found myself really wanting to walk a new trail that was quite a bit longer than the ones we had done before.
As things turned out, we ended up starting the trail fairly late in the day, and so we had to move along pretty quickly to make sure we were out of the woods before dark. The trail markings were far enough apart that they would have been difficult to spot in darkness, and some portions of the trail made for tricky walking.
Despite this feeling of urgency, when we got to the "official" end of the trail, I wanted to push on a little farther. So while my companion waited, I continued until I reached a truly impassable section. On the way back, I stopped to take pictures of woodland flowers. As I bent close to the ground, out of the corner of my eye I saw a beautiful watch, which looked as though it had just been dropped. Its only flaw was that the band had disconnected. But a closer examination showed that the band was undamaged, and it was easily reattached.
Back at the campground, we learned that the watch belonged to a man who had been helping the owners clear some trail in that area. He had dropped it almost a month previously, yet the watch was in perfect condition, despite rain, moose, and other wildlife. I am not a mathematician, but the likelihood of my seeing that watch seemed pretty slim. And yet, I did see it, and not only was the watch not seriously damaged, but it got back to its owner.
To me, the experience had a larger message: that I really could trust God with the details of my life, and that no loss would occur as I was willing to trust in Him. In essence, finding the watch wasn't as much about recovering a material object as it was about the spiritual fact that no matter where I - or anyone - might be, God's specific, loving care would be there for all of us.