A few weeks ago I attended a meeting at Lake Constance. At an early morning walk through the vineyards I paused for reflection and listening and started noting some gorgeous escargots. I watched them for a while, continued the grateful acknowledgment of God, something I love to start my day with, and then returned mentally to the escargots. But they had already moved on to a different spot. "Interesting", I thought. Never underestimate a snail.
There is actually a real Snail-Watching Society out there. It was founded in London in 1945 by Peter Henniker-Heaton --- a society whose very existence contributed to a healing of the founder of the society himself. (Here an article in Time magazine about the society). While being brought down by paralysis and confined to his home, friends encouraged Peter Henniker-Heaton to get to know snails better. These friends were truly friends! What started as a family joke contributed to the refinement of his spiritual sense. Peter Henniker-Heaton with the unfailing support of his wife Rose, prayed, listened, and fought diligently for his healing, also with the help of snail watching. The full restoration to health came after ten years of persistence and insistence on the supreme government of God and the ever harmonious state of God and man. He describes some of his insights here. His life as a Christian Science practitioner, journalist, editor, poet blossomed into a life of deep impact on the Christian Science movement and humanity.
Patience - the deeper spiritual meaning of patience is at the root of the miraculous strength of persistence, endurance, and resilience. From a spiritual perspective we know how it all ends. Or, as Alicia Keys recently at a performance shouted into the audience: "The King says: The last word must always be love."
So patience doesn't lead into the dark, but out of it. Patience doesn't hold us in a never ending labyrinth of troubles. Patience is building on a higher view, it enables us to move forward even if in slow-motion. But forward. Patience, you might say, is the new courage. "Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride," we read in Ecclesiastes (7:8, NLT).
This poem by Peter Henniker-Heaton works out the concept of patience, like only he could do. It was published in his wonderful collection of poetry entitled "Jubilee".
Not through the valleys lies the road
But over lofty peaks of right desire,
On every hand the wonder of God’s
And Soul’s serene and sun-bright
Not through the slough of tedium and
The road of patience runs, but on the hills
Of firm resolve and steadfast recognition
That man expresses God and never fails.
Not through the desert lies the road of
But cool and green the fields on either
And from the eternal Truth, its rock
Joy’s living fountains leap and laugh
Recent meetings and talks on a plane, in a Boston coffee shop, in the CS practice brought me back to the "Cool kids" by Echosmith - conversations about who we are and who we want to be. Someone wondered whether spiritual development is scary - changing one's identity in such a way that one doesn't fit in anymore. A student likes to find out what God knows already about her - but, she shared with me, she just hopes that she likes what she get to know then. And with someone else the topic was the pressure to fit in, to become part of "the cool kids". Is this really so great? In the song we hear someone, who evidently doesn't fit in, someone like a wallflower, observe from a distance: "They're driving fast cars, but they don't know where they're going. In the fast lane, living life without knowing. And he says, "I wish that I could be like the cool kids..."." And about a girl is being said that "they all got the same heartbeat, but hers is falling behind."
This song has been liked almost 70 million times on Youtube and peaked on number 13 of the US-Billboard Hot 100, and I feel that it is not "the cool kids" that pushed this song forward. But those who would like to be like someone else - or like everyone else, as the lonely thought tends to think. So the vast majority feeling unlike "the cool kids" and wondering how to progress from there. Most certainly at time those whom others regard as "cool kids", too. Everyone feels at least at one point that there is a difference between who we are and who we want to be. The need to get real - to dive below the surface of words and acts and find the real stuff, solid qualities, steadiness, something gentle and authentic. Authenticity and difference are two sides of the same coin.
Even if you are not accustomed to approaching life's questions from the Bible perspective stick with me still - and see whether you can go along with this observation: Christ Jesus, can we agree, was the one individual that shaped history the most by presenting to humanity God is no one has ever done before and after him. Christ Jesus truly showed the world at the same time what it means to be an individual. The first and only Christian at that time, with a small, though engaged following. People accepted long hikes, engaged in impressive efforts to see or meet Jesus, did everything they could to encounter him. Because they realized how individual and special Jesus was, an individual who stood out and was different. At the same time Jesus insisted that all questions find an answer as we get to know God, Truth. We all have the same Father (Christian Science is adding the motherhood, too), which makes us siblings to the uniqueness of Jesus. He could do nothing without God, his divine source and the reason for his existing. And likewise can't we. You could say that Jesus' individuality was demonstrated beautifully in humbly understanding where everything comes from. He was the finest metaphysician - like a spiritual mathematician, who proved: The more ego or human sense you substract the more individuality you have. The more God is in your thought and life, the more real you are. More individuality, more God, less human ego. This is the mathematics of spiritual sense, you could say.
Mary Baker Eddy speaks about Jesus' own progress as an individual and writes: "This spiritual idea, or Christ, entered into the minutiae of the life of the personal Jesus. It made him an honest man,
a good carpenter, and a good man, before it could make him the glorified." (Misc. 166)
So was Jesus a cool kid? Definitely yes - with authority he took an individual stand, did the right things and the good things. And did many things for the first time, living a fearless life, an honest life, a life dedicated to healing and comfort.
Was Jesus a cool kid in the modern sense? Definitely no - he didn't aim at fitting in and didn't want to have a special place in God's world without everyone finding this special place, too. Jesus' place was everywhere, with everyone, most often with the outcasts and marginalized, persisting in the understanding that no life is complete without everyone else's life being complete, too. In God's new world - the world of spiritual authenticity, equality, safety, and individual worth - the rule is love and affection without conditions. We cannot enter this new world of Spirit without our honest desire that everyone has a place in it, just like we already have. In God's world no one is "in the background", as a line of the song goes, everyone is in the front row. In the full spotlight of Love. Happy - and just right. God says: "Come as you are. I love you all. My wonderful, cool kids."
What a revelation, what achievement of abstract thinking, my husband recently exclaimed, to consider God, Spirit, to be a rock. This is more than a simple conclusion by analogy, he mused: "Of course, God is not the rock over there," (pointing at rocks we had collected at a trip to the Baltic Sea), "but God is solid and real. God as a rock, this concept is coming straight from the realm of ideas. Pure thought, it exchanges a material object for a spiritual idea - leading our thought onward and upward." Indeed, the Bible often speaks about God being a rock: "He is the Rock, his work is perfect..." we read in Deuteronomy 32. Abraham, the first individual on this planet, who truly grasped this idea, built his life on it as a clever builder would build his own house on a rock (not on sand). Abraham stands on revelation alone,
on spiritual observation and reasoning.
How can we describe God? What does spiritual sense perceive?
God is like a Rock. Mary Baker Eddy beautifully elaborates this comforting truth and writes:
"Thus founded upon the rock of Christ, when storm
and tempest beat against this sure foundation, you,
safely sheltered in the strong tower of hope, faith, and
Love, are God's nestlings; and He will hide you in His
feathers till the storm has passed. Into His haven of
Soul there enters no element of earth to cast out angels,
to silence the right intuition which guides you
(Miscellaneous Writings 152)
Nothing seems to be more real to human eyes and hands and feet with hiking boots than solid rock - and yet few other comparisons in the Bible occur more often than this one: That God, Spirit, is a Rock. So what is truly reliable, substantial, a sure foundation?
Life on a rock feels sheltered and safe.
This is a poem you will love. It is by Robert Lowry, set to music beautifully by Robert Rockabrand in the new Christian Science Hymnal Supplement (#449):
My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation;
I hear the sweet though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation:
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing,
It finds an echo in my soul,
How can I keep from singing?
What though my human comforts die?
The Lord my Savior liveth;
What though the darkness gather round!
Songs in the night He giveth:
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that Rock I’m clinging,
Since Love is Lord of heav’n and earth,
How can I keep from singing?
I lift mine eyes, the cloud grows thin,
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths
Since first I learned to love it:
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing,
All things are mine since I am His,
How can I keep from singing?
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and as a writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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