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Less willfulness = More grace

Primed for a second serve, I stood at the baseline and raised my tennis racquet. Double faulting had become my forte, which felt so aggravating. Why couldn’t I just get the ball into the service box the first time? But that particular day, it hit me, “Hey, at least the rules of tennis allow for more than one serve!” Right then, instead of resenting my lack of skill and my failure to quickly execute the perfect serve, I started to see that I could let the forgiving rules of the game nurture my progress.

I can’t say I’m now ready to take on Nadal or Federer. But after that day on the court, I began to relax and play with greater confidence and more humility.

Similarly, I’ve learned that resistance to growing in grace sometimes feels like that first serve that won’t go into the right box. We’re left disappointed when things take too long or don’t work out how we plan. But I’ve found this is just stubbornness or pride trying to wreak havoc in our lives—and it’s based on a confining, human perspective. Looking to God’s authority instead, based on incorruptible and universal laws, always supports our spiritual development.

I’ve been guided time and again back to the idea that God’s goodness is steady and constant. The Bible promises, “I am the Lord, I change not.” Understanding God’s nature helps me see the structure and divine order that’s always present. Since God is all-powerful, there is nothing that can challenge or dethrone divine law, not even aggravating thoughts or human will. Sometimes, it’s easy to understand this right away, while other times it takes longer.

An experience I had illustrates how surrendering to God’s law of love makes room for healing. For about four years, I had a very ugly and embarrassing growth on the back of my heel. I’d come to feel like this abnormal growth was my Achilles Heel (literally and figuratively!) In all other areas of my life, I felt spiritually progressive, while this growth on my heel felt like something that might plague me for the rest of my life.

But I knew that this problem needed a mental, a spiritual, cure. The medications in the store touting solutions were only temporary—not really getting to the root of the problem.

That’s why I decided to rely on Christian Science treatment for healing. I found great encouragement from Christian Science practitioners who prayed for me at different points throughout this time. Already in my life, I’d seen and felt the healing effects from a total reliance on God to restore health and peace. I remembered a time from my youth when I was healed of a wart on my finger. But this growth on my heel somehow seemed different and more permanent.

As I continued to pray, I eventually began to see that the problem wasn’t incurable at all.

But what was required of me was a relinquishment of human pride. I realized that ever since I’d gone through a pretty hard break-up with a boyfriend, I’d been almost determined to think of myself as unloved. And being single, I often felt like I had to overcompensate by willfully proving that I was a can-do woman—not weak, vulnerable, or needing much help.

The growth on my heel felt like the outward manifestation of stubborn and rigid thoughts I’d been having of myself. A helpful quotation from Mary Baker Eddy, the woman who founded Christian Science, says in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Whatever is cherished in mortal mind as the physical condition is imaged forth on the body.” If I felt vulnerable or unappreciated, I reasoned, those insecurities really had nothing to do with what God knew about me. So I began to practice seeing myself as His reflection, radiant with spiritual inspiration, full of graciousness, and willing to express more love.

I realized that human pride could not hinder me from having a healthy relationship with God who loved me unconditionally. I didn’t have to prove my worth—I was already worthy, because of my spiritual identity. It became clear that I also didn’t have to be a victim to bitterness and regret towards my former boyfriend. And soon I learned to appreciate the lessons we’d learned while we were together, even as I looked forward to discovering new and broader ways to experience God as Love.

Right away, I started to see new friendships develop in unexpected ways. Asking for help from people became easier. With this more contented spiritual self-awareness and humility, I also noticed one day that the growth on my heel was gone! And it didn’t come back. The deeper implications of this healing allowed me to see that whether I was dating, married, or single, I could always feel the fullness of divine Love.

Deriving spiritual meaning from a tendency to double fault in tennis may seem like a stretch, but not when the need for stepping away from willfullness is so greatly needed in every area of life. It’s a concept that transcends sports analogies and can help us outgrow aggravating, muddied-up ways of thinking. It doesn’t really matter what the source of frustration claims to be. Learning to recognize God’s changeless and perfect nature, and my relationship to Him, helps me remain unfazed; never disqualified from growing in grace.

Originally published in the Christian Science Sentinel, July 24, 2008.

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