I grew up wondering, What’s the worst thing that could happen? because I believed that if I anticipated the worst-case scenario, I could brace myself for it. It would take two health challenges, years apart, for me to expect the best.
My parents survived the Great Depression but never lost their fear of lack. The experience colored their worldview. They felt deprived and worried, and they demonstrated their belief that impending misfortune was always on the horizon. Plus, my religious upbringing taught me to fear God and not expect any reward until I reached heaven.
Growing up, I embraced my parents’ outlook. I anxiously projected which terrible thing could befall me and felt relieved if it did not happen. If something bad did happen, I did not see it as a learning opportunity or a springboard to something better. Instead, I accepted it as inevitable.
Looking for the Best-Case Scenario
At 17, I tore my knee ligaments and needed multiple surgeries. My doctors and parents told me I would never completely heal. Accepting their prognosis, I was fearful of playing sports and other physical activities.
Years later, my now-husband John suggested I explore releasing my confining outlook. He invited me to join him at the Unity church he attended. He also recommended two books: Lessons in Truth by H. Emilie Cady, which advised setting aside my old philosophy and picturing a new way of living, and The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, which suggested exerting the same amount of energy and practice into envisioning the best scenario to replace envisioning the worst.
As I joyfully devoured this material, my new faith focus shifted my thinking to expecting the best.
I was now blissfully working two nursing jobs and excitedly approaching completion of my master’s degree in nursing, while also serving as caregiver for two older family members. My husband was about to leave for Unity Village in Missouri to complete his ministerial education as I was preparing to embark on a career as a nurse practitioner.
As positive as these developments were, I felt conflicted about my next steps. Should I accompany John to Missouri or remain in Michigan to pursue my nursing practice? What kind of nursing practice would I pursue: traditional Western medicine or a holistic approach?
In prayer, I asked: What could I learn from this situation? What could I release that would bring me health and peace?
John suggested I take my questions into meditation. There, I heard a voice say clearly: Be still. I would soon learn how prescient this guidance was. One morning, I awoke with muscle soreness, which progressed throughout the next six months to severe pain in all my joints. Diagnosed with a debilitating inflammatory process, it was difficult to move.
My worsening symptoms kept me in bed and gave me time to process. I realized this illness was not merely a physical condition but a metaphor of my life. My inflammation and exhaustion resulted from carrying around the weight of my responsibilities.
Finding Healing Through Stillness
In meditation, I imagined releasing the weights. In prayer, I asked: What could I learn from this situation? What could I release that would bring me health and peace?
After I discerned my guidance, I asked family members to help me with my caregiving responsibilities. And they did. My meditation practice bolstered my faith. Faith in this new guidance led me to a capable physician, who respected my belief that prayer was essential to my treatment.
The call to be still would become even more clear. The doctor prescribed rest in addition to medication. Gentle guidance nudged me to accompany my husband on his journey to Unity Village. “Be still” became not just a voice in meditation, but a healing mantra for my new approach to living.
In Missouri, I found a hospital certification program in parish nursing. This opened a spiritual path for my continuing education, which would allow my husband and me to be partners in ministry. I was blessed to receive training as a prayer chaplain while at Unity Village.
I prayed for answers and received direction and a more fulfilling use of my nursing education and skills. I saw this as an opportunity to examine what good could come from the experience rather than what the worst outcome could be.
Leaning into my newfound understanding that I am meant to live in joy and wholeness, I found unfailing support in partnership with Spirit. When I stand in this truth, I see all situations truly do have a best-case scenario.