Waste places and heaven
`AIN'T no wastebaskets in heaven.'' It was mainly the down-home sound that caught my ear. But I remembered the simple wisdom when I saw so many struggling to believe they could have productive futures -- the permanently laid off, the prematurely retired, even the long homeless. Must some of us fear that our lives are wasting away in spite of our sincere efforts? The Christian answer is no. There couldn't be places in heaven, in God's kingdom, where there are useless or unneeded individuals.
The difficulty, we feel, is right here and now. Too often men and women find hope worn down and their lives on hold.
But a God who inhabits a perfect realm somewhere else wouldn't be the allinclusive Love of which the Bible speaks. Neither can His children truly be inhabitants of a bleak world in which even earnest striving is fruitless. God's kingdom is omnipresent, and our actual being is never outside His perfect presence. Yes, the very opposite sometimes seems to be true, but a perception of the spiritual reality of our being can open the way to progress. Each one of us, now, has an indispensable purpose in God's kingdom.
Doesn't Christ Jesus' parable of the workers in the vineyard imply this?1 Those hired at the eleventh hour (idle because, as they explained, no one would hire them) received payment equal to those who had worked a full day. Surely Jesus wasn't advocating unearned earthly rewards. He must have been illustrating the fact that God's goodness is impartial and that everyone has genuine value whatever his human situation. As the parable concludes, ``The last shall be first, and the first last.''
That we can have substantial merit even if inactive by default may not be uppermost in our thought. Yet prayer that perceives something of man in God's image, wholly spiritual, can make this fact primary to us. We can see it as actual law that governs our lives.
When I didn't recover quickly from an illness, I was permanently laid off from the somewhat unusual position I had held while studying for a degree. The program, in which I had invested considerable time, wasn't yet complete, and as the months went by, the job market in which it could be used completely disappeared. Even if my health were restored, I thought, my future would be as blank as the ceiling I stared up at every day.
After this sentiment had aired itself at great length, I began to feel I had heard it before in another context. Hadn't even friends who looked quite accomplished sometimes said, ``What do I have to show for these years of marriage (or employment or parenthood)? I've contributed nothing. My life has been wasted''?
It occurred to me that my hopelessness wasn't really an emotion drawn from the human circumstances as much as it was a feeling of separation from God -- a feeling that a purposeful life must grow from earthly soil, from economic or educational opportunities that can be had and lost or never had at all. Such thinking has no basis in God. Emptiness is its very nature.
We can always express qualities such as diligence, unselfishness, and trustworthiness. Doing so makes the law of heaven foremost in our thought. It replaces the sad view that something beyond all control can victimize us. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains, ``Science so reverses the evidence before the corporeal human senses, as to make this Scriptural testimony true in our hearts, `The last shall be first, and the first last,' so that God and His idea may be to us what divinity really is and must of necessity be, -- all-inclusive.''2
Eventually I found that those weeks which seemed utterly barren were the beginning of a more purposeful life. It wasn't just that I returned to productivity with a completed degree and unforeseen employment. It was that God's boundless goodness became more concrete to me through the spiritual healing I experienced -- and the quickening of spiritual sense that came with it.
The prophet wrote, ``The Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord.''3 God loves us all. None of His children is ever left in a waste place.
1See Matthew 20:1-16. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 116. 3Isaiah 51:3.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32