In the months following Hurricane Katrina, the levees around New Orleans were speedily reconstructed. But recent aerial photos of these levees show evidence of serious flaws. Several studies, including a National Science Foundation report as well as a $20-million investigation commissioned by the Department of Defense, suggest the risks are still high.
Reports of compromised public works projects are not particularly infrequent. Construction problems uncovered in Boston’s $15-billion “Big Dig” project-the most expensive construction project in US history-shut down part of the city’s new tunnel system for several months last summer, amidst allegations that substandard materials and workmanship had led to a ceiling collapse and the unfortunate death of a passenger.
Not everything seems to go according to plan. Cost overruns are common. Wasted time and materials are regular occurrences. But why should so much work need redoing? It’s inefficient and expensive-and the costs can far exceed the simply financial ones.
Most of us strive for a job well done. But models of success, based on the conclusion that we’re inherently imperfect and material, inevitably include flaws-impatience, dishonesty, lack of expertise, poor follow-through, and scarcity of resources can at any moment threaten to creep in and contribute to substandard work. On the other hand, adopting a spiritual model of who we are, built on the expression of our God-given qualities such as honesty, integrity, and principled behavior, enables us to complete our work beautifully and on schedule. Then we find true success and the results we seek.
Mary Baker Eddy addressed the issue of following appropriate life-models. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she asked: “Do you not hear from all mankind of the imperfect model? The world is holding it before your gaze continually. The result is that you are liable to follow those lower patterns, limit your life-work, and adopt into your experience the angular outline and deformity of matter models.” The conclusion: “We must form perfect models in thought and look at them continually, or we shall never carve them out in grand and noble lives” (p. 248).
What are these perfect models? In essence, they are patterns of thought, built on ideas of honesty, integrity, unselfishness, responsibility, persistence, thoroughness, precision, alertness, and love, to name just a few. As these qualities permeate consciousness, our work will be well done, effective, and lasting. And as we eliminate substandard considerations such as greed, corruption, undeserved enrichment, insufficiency, the work will increasingly prosper.
What about unexpected complications? They seem almost unavoidable, and yet not insurmountable. I once heard a statement that still rings true for me-something along the lines of “in the life of every problem, there is a moment when it is large enough to be seen and small enough to be dealt with.” If we remain alert and honest, we will detect complications early and address them completely. Encountering a problem is normal; refusing to deal with it, or seeking to hide it under words or beneath tons of concrete, is not.
Once in my career, I became aware of something questionable that had occurred within the scope of my work. I felt it was serious enough that it might be necessary to resign. Over that weekend I prayed about what to do. I decided it was not too late to bring God’s sustaining, supporting qualities to the situation-qualities such as honesty, clarity, forthrightness, and candor. I determined to pursue the truthful facts surrounding the situation regardless of where they led. When I went to work that Monday morning, things came to light very naturally and effortlessly, and the entire issue was thoroughly resolved. As stressful as this situation was at the moment, I saw that my response to it, the willingness to bring it to light and not hide it, actually led me into a position of greater responsibility and trust. By allowing integrity to gain its proper control-even a little late-things were set right, with no loss, and only gain.
Each of us has work to do, and we’re responsible for doing it correctly and completely. The projects we undertake, though they may seem insignificant, actually reach far and wide. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” Similarly, anytime we allow God to sustain our work, welcoming His model of goodness to support us, we strengthen the fabric of life everywhere.
Article originally appeared in the Christian Science Sentinel, June 11, 2007.
Republished with permission of The Christian Science Publishing Society.