You receive an unexpected, wonderful gift, thoughtfully wrapped. Or a fabulous bouquet of flowers. A friend, a colleague, a family member is presenting it with gratitude and joy. The accompanying card expresses thankfulness for what you are and what you do. How do you respond?
"For me? Really?" or "You needn't have bothered!" or "You shouldn't spend your money and time on me, honey." or "I really don't deserve it".
Look again at these responses: You will have voiced them yourself or have noticed them from others. Do you see a pattern? It is all about "me", not one word about the gift, not one word about the giver. I wonder how a false sense of modesty, how shyness or a twisted concept of good education can cover for long this quite upfront self-centeredness.
Take the offer of our dignity and worth, our spiritual, safe, progressive being as a gift from God to you. How do you respond? After all, it is a priceless offer to have harmony and peace expressed in your human experience, to have physical and mental obstacles overcome, relationships released, supply demonstrated. Do you accept this divine gift with grace? Spiritual texts often describe the offer of a life in God and from God as a gift. Such as these words from a dear hymn #45:
"For this Thy gift unspeakable,
The beauty of Love's holiness,
We lift our hearts in grateful song
And would be always praising Thee."
I received a few months ago a brief e-mail from a patient describing a challenging skin condition. He was embarrassed by this visible handicap. The common treatment for this inherited condition involved high doses of a certain medication, which he was afraid to use. His question was: Should I have medical treatment or should I rely on Christian Science?
With gratitude for this open door to healing I wrote back that I couldn't counsel him, but that I would like to suggest this: Healing is not an achievement, the result of an effort in a certain direction, but a natural gift from God. The question then, I proposed, should be rephrased: Are you willing to accept the gift of healing?
Taking up the analogy of the gift he wrote back that he wanted to open the gift but didn't know where to find the end of the ribbon. In my second response I underlined that it wasn't so much the question of where to start taking the gift apart but what to expect from the gift itself. As with all kinds of gifts, expectation speeds the unwrapping and in the long run it doesn't matter where you start pulling the ribbon or how you open the gift.
The green light for spiritual healing went on. I opened my thought to listen quietly to a healing idea. It came to me in the form of a quote from that week's Bible Lesson: "In patient obedience to a patient God, let us labor to dissolve with the universal solvent of Love the adamant of error, — self-will, self-justification, and self-love, — which wars against spirituality and is the law of sin and death." [Science and Health, p. 242]
I rejoiced in the universal power of Love, embracing the universe, washing away and dissolving by its very nature anything unlike good. A week later I received the note that the very same afternoon the symptoms were suddenly completely gone. A stunning healing to him, an open door for much more to come.
So how do you accept a gift from now on? With grace and joy. And with the only honorable response which honors the giver and gift equally:
"Thank you very much!"
"Nothing matters more than what I want being achieved today." This is what we think often. Our work, tasks to process, harvest to gather, a paper to write, a healing to experience, a difficult relationship to mend, safety and comfort to be found in unfamiliar territory.
But there are exceptions, there is something that matters more than the result you seek. This is what I learned today from a teaching by Jesus. Here it is: "...if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and while there you remember that your brother has something [such as a grievance or legitimate complaint] against you, leave your offering there at the altar and go. First make peace with your brother, and then come and present your offering." (Matthew 5: 23,24. AMP)
I can see that the offering to be laid on the altar is something like the achievement or result that I seek. And Jesus, I think, is telling us, that this is not as important as the way we do it.
"Nothing matters more than what I want being achieved today" - has exceptions. Like: Kindness, the willingness to grow, community, how I drive to my next appointment, trust, real quality of the work, honest self-esteem, loving ourselves exactly in the same way and the same manner as we do our fellow sister and brother. Does the honesty of service lead to better and more diligent and peaceful work? Do kindness and peacemaking pave the way to healing?
While we think about "our day" it is actually "God's day" - a day belonging to continuous Life and unconditional Love. It seems that everything matters more than the result on the altar. Kindness. And the offering will bloom and glow as a bouquet of tulips, effortlessly.
It is no small matter to stay the course of unselfish living, to have effortless access to the soothing impact of divine Love, to find the stillness for the next step, to experience genuine healing.
Mary Baker Eddy has words of assurance for us:
"That tomorrow starts from today and is one day beyond it, robes the future with hope's rainbow hues. In the battle of life, good is made more industrious and persistent because of the supposed activity of evil. The elbowing of the crowd plants our feet more firmly. In the mental collisions of mortals and the strain of intellectual wrestlings, moral tension is tested, and if it yields not, grows stronger. (...) There is no excellence without labor; and the time to work, is now."
(Miscellaneous Writings, p. 339/340)
Christianity as Jesus introduced it, wasn't called Christianity originally. It was called The Way, I learned. I get from this: It is a practice, not an object of admiration. Jesus himself talks about life as a way:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it."
If you have no Bible background and are unfamiliar with this quote and can't make sense of "everlasting", think "continuous", and if "life" is too abstract, think "being". So living in sync with continuous being is living the good life - the real life, the only existence that truly is. It is here.
But, Jesus says, beware of the danger zone, the "wide gate", opening to a destructive path. The good life is to found only behind the narrow gate. Why is it narrow? How many ways are there to go wrong, how many chances to give in to "the elbowing of the crowd" (Mary Baker Eddy) and elbow back? Millions, of course. Because there is only one way to do it right. So what makes the gate narrow is, I find, its precision. We have to hit the mark. The "narrow gate" is a hand-forged master piece, because there are many wrongs, but only one right. The divine way.
Narrow is in its original meaning also another word for tailored - it is really fitting and clear, not restricting. It is narrow, because it is made FOR YOU. It feels right like a custom-made dress. Who are you truly, what defines your being? What is true individuality? The answer is specific and it is glorious. It is unlike the path of anybody else.
Difficult to find this gate and to travel this path behind it? Yes, says the couch potato, the poor little me, that can only understand a limited life-span. In order to find it, to daily and walk in it, I have pinpointed those small thoughts that lead me right into the danger zone in which it is impossible to life the real life. We can detect those thoughts quickly and know: "I am not going there. My thinking is private, it is the reflection of Goodness and intelligence, of generosity and humility. I will not let one of my thoughts be used to jeopardize the divine plan of justice, health, and peace for all." You will notice quickly that the danger zone is no fun, although it feels justified to stay there. The danger zone is really dangerous, not at all like Kenny Loggins' energetic "Highway to the danger zone, gonna take you right into the danger zone". The danger zone is hazardous, it erodes strength, takes away meaning, and makes healing impossible.
So now it is time: The curtain rises. Drum roll! Its time to present to you:
"The infamous d-a-n-g-e-r z-o-n-e."
Look around, behold its ugliness, its unnatural allure, see its bottom covered with sludge, beware of the tar on the side, look at the dust covering the walls, ash and cinder everywhere --- and hear what the voices hidden in its obscure recesses are whispering:
Quickly jump out of the danger zone, take a deep breath, take a bath in the sunshine of goodness - and make a healthy plan: Own your life and take responsibility. Get to know Good. Find the narrow gate and walk right through it up the good path. Note how it becomes wider at every step. You have avoided the danger zone, the ego cascade, thoughts recurring to your needs 24/7, the "me first" nightmare, the story of desperation. Discipline and love will keep you on the right track and will make your life complete, less lonely, boring, or stressful. It will teach you how to live the good life, the abundant life. Good, God, enables you to do your mental homework every single day and work within God's master plan for all.
Write something on your personal banner as you march on. Perhaps a poem? A spiritual idea? A Bible verse? A wise counsel? Or this hymn. It will boost your confidence, encourage you to stay alert - and keep you safe and sound out of the danger zone, complying with a divine standard. It is fixing you right in the middle of Love's comfort zone:
"Is the heart a well left empty?
None but God its void can fill;
Nothing but a ceaseless fountain
Can its ceaseless longings still.
Is the heart a living power?
Self-entwined its strength sinks low;
It can only live in loving,
And, by serving, love will grow."
(Poem by Elizabeth Charles, Hymnal #360)
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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