Exile from a spiritual sense means being at home in God. Keep calm and read on. There are three powerful insights I gained from revisiting the story about Daniel and his friends at the Babylonian court as recorded in Old Testament of the Bible. Daniel are there in exile, in captivity. You might remember the slavery of the children of Israel in Egypt before the exodus - this is another round in the history of oppression of the Hebrews. Under the king's order young men are picked to be trained at the kings' court for three years in order to serve Nebuchadnezzar. It is a story about power, exile - and resilience.
Daniel and his friends give up resistance against the ruling class and cooperate, under one condition: to keep their kosher food standards. After ten days they are healthier and wiser --- and receive this special recommendation: "And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm." (see the book of Daniel, chapter 1).
In our practice office rest the beautiful, thick volumes of the Interpreter's Bible, smelling like wisdom and tradition, and I opened the Daniel commentary for further insight.
Take away the framing of the story, forget the historic setting and the concrete allusions to food rituals, Babylonian and Jewish culture. Suddenly the story has a spiritual dimension, is not longer irrelevant for us today, and links us with Daniel's spiritual biography in a meaningful way. Here are my three insights.
First, we can all picture ourselves in Daniel's shoes. Can we imagine being at home not quite where we are right now? What we all have in common whether we acknowledge it or not, is the journey of discovery to a different kind of identity, of home, the home where we are from originally and where we want to get back to. The more closely we see our connection to this true home, the freer we become to act where we are. The challenge and glory of this sense of "detachment" to our immediate surrounding is that the standard of your life is not set by others, it is set by you. Daniel didn't swim with the currents of his time but had to swim against them in order to preserve his allegiance to his true identity. Loyalty to a standard needs to be demonstrated when it is challenged. That is a good thing.
So, second, often the best work is being done by someone feeling more at home in an inner world than floating along with the times. It is a truism that in order to see the interconnectedness of life we must sacrifice a sense of belonging. There are artists who move to a different country in order to be forced daily to perceive and work on the alert. We often see clearer when we are coming a little from the outside. Can we bring to an inharmonious setting the spiritual perspective of divine peace, coming a little from the outside? Can we stay outside the frenzy? Can we keep a standard drawn from our spiritual understanding and keep it even if this is inconvenient?
Third, the resilience to shape a current difficult situation into something meaningful is truly a life saver. Daniel's stand for what is right prepares him to overcome a much larger threat later on - when facing death in a lion's den. The take away for us is to keep a standard of love in smaller issues in order to be prepared for the larger ones. Everything matters - and the way we live our days is the way we live our life.
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, the Science of being, moved in her lifetime more than sixty times. She discovered and founded something for all mankind, for everyone, in an breathtakingly unselfish and resilient way. Her discovery is open for all, it is a gift to humanity. Following along the Biblical message, she encourages us to embrace exile as a spiritual powerful position, and turn exile into pilgrimage. In Science and Health she writes opening an even larger window on deep spiritual reasoning:
If you venture upon the quiet surface of error and are
in sympathy with error, what is there to disturb the waters?
What is there to strip off error's disguise?
If you launch your bark upon the ever-agitated but
healthful waters of truth, you will encounter storms.
Your good will be evil spoken of. This is the
cross. Take it up and bear it, for through it
you win and wear the crown. Pilgrim on earth, thy home
is heaven; stranger, thou art the guest of God. (p. 254)
We are free to doing and thinking right. Which is to honor Truth as God, to upholding the unconditional worth of every individual, to respect self-government, reason, and conscience, to love the individual expressions of talents, creativity, integrity, to speak and act with kindness and decency, to be generous without a reason, to discover more of the one siblinghood of man under one Father-Mother God, to reward patience, to lend a hand, to develop empathy and be increasingly aware of the weak, needy, and overlooked, to grow in grace every day. We are linked in one infinitely complex and wonderful fabric of being, Love's being.
This poem by Samuel Longfellow (also a hymn in the Christian Science Hymnal) is something like a theme song for our pilgrimage:
O Life that makes all things new,
The blooming earth, the thoughts of men;
Our pilgrim feet, wet with Thy dew,
In gladness hither turn again.
From hand to hand the greeting flows,
From eye to eye the signals run,
From heart to heart the bright hope glows,
The seekers of the Light are one:
One in the freedom of the truth,
One in the joy of paths untrod,
One in the heart's perennial youth,
One in the larger thought of God; --
The freer step, the fuller breath,
The wide horizon's grander view;
The sense of Life that knows no death, —
The Life that makes all things new.
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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