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Who gets the credit?

My buddy Bill shared this quotation with me recently: “There is no end to what you can accomplish if (or when) you don’t care who gets the credit.” These are the words of Florence Luscomb, an American architect, women’s suffrage activist, and one of the first female graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ms. Luscomb’s words prompt me to act with greater unselfishness to accomplish more as part of a collective whole.

This idea of who gets the credit speaks to me as I find myself drawn to organize, plan, and gather people for social or cause-related events. It’s easy to let the details, excitement, and personal ambition of planning a successful event drive things. Sometimes I’ve hoped to get a “gold star” from friends or colleagues, instead of having the more gentle desire to love a neighbor and glorify God through every aspect of the event.

But I’ve been learning that God is the impetus, the spark, for all life. Life as spiritual zest underlies every cause and human activity – never tangled by a human ego vying for recognition. In relinquishing my ego or plan to God’s ultimate control, I see that there’s no limit to the good that He is capable of.

When I was in college, I was the head of a student organization. We shared bulletin board space with another organization that had a similar mission. One day, when updating our section of the bulletin board, I noticed our allotted space significantly reduced by the encroaching display of the other organization. Instantly I felt territorial and indignant. “How disrespectful!” I exclaimed to my friend. “How can our organization do its work if there isn’t a mutual respect?” Quite humbly, my friend reminded me that we were both working for the same cause. Ultimately, it didn’t matter who got the credit; what mattered was that the work was getting done. I got it.

I continue to learn that with every endeavor we can tag it back to God – give Him the honor and glory, as the Lord’s Prayer says. It’s more important to see the Divine at work than to latch onto a project and seek personal recognition. It’s not that our efforts are insignificant; they just carry a lot more weight when grounded in God – the great I Am – as Moses proved. When he was tasked with leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, God reminded him, “I AM THAT I AM” (Ex. 3:14).

More recently, I’d been talking with a friend about spirituality. We’d had many thoughtful exchanges on this topic. In fact, he said he’d long resented organized religion, though he now expressed an interest in finding a community of spiritual thinkers. Several months later, he found a church community that felt to him like a good fit. At first, I felt disappointed. “Why didn’t he choose my church?” – in essence, Why couldn’t I get the credit? But then I realized that he was making space for God in his life. And that was more important to me.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor and the Church of Christ, Scientist, echoed American abolitionist Wendell Phillips when she wrote, “Truth cannot be stereotyped; it unfoldeth forever. ‘One on God’s side is a majority’ ” (“No and Yes,” pp. 45-46).

It’s pretty amazing to see how big the impact can be when we are working on His side.

Originally published in The Christian Science Monitor, April 29, 2011.

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