It is the prerogative of the spiritual view to see that everything from God's perspective is very good. When something in the human experience isn't good, it is not the end of it. It never ever happened that eternal Truth yielded to limited belief. God, Truth, has always the last word, because it was the first and only word in the first place.
In the last weeks I noticed a little word, that I have come to appreciate and love even more than before. It is the word "effort". It has to do with attempting something, with struggle, with humility and following - but also with work, exercise, resolution, and achievement. Effort tells us that work matters, not just inspiration or feeling. In the healing practice of Christian Science every case is healed. Often healings are quick and permanent. But sometimes a case is tenacious, the healing takes longer, and then effort kicks in. Especially when the mental muscle to carry on seems to have disappeared. It is all about thinking.
In the healing practice this effort is not something you do; it is something you don't do, and that is: Give up.
When recently a friend shared with my husband and me insights into the nature of the cross and the crown, as beautifully displayed on the textbook cover of Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy, the interpretation of the cross as symbolizing "a spiritual effort" stood out to me. And when this week's Bible lesson, which Christian Scientists study diligently, included the term "effort", I felt I had found a gold mine. What is effort? What distinguishes effort from human will? How is effort linked to "effortless being"? I know that healing is not a human accomplishment but a divine gift. But then: How are the cross and the crown linked?
In his second letter, Peter writes:
"In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God's promises." (2 Pet. 1: 5. NLT)
To make an effort is all about honesty, about the desire to put the ego out of business, about the willingness to learn. Effort needs understanding, f.e. that homework is for you, not for the teacher (that is why cheating doesn't really help). Effort needs love. Effort is different from human will - it is trying, really trying, and resisting the temptation to giving up too early. Honest spiritual effort is the opposite of skepticism, hopelessness, negativity, and cynicism. It is moving forward and willing to let go of past views and learn something new about the goodness of God. It is also not pushing failure into God's camp. The basis of a true effort is a deep and unflinching love for God and man - and a resilience to let this love shape every aspect of our experience. Buddha is reported of giving this advice to the spiritual seeker: "There are only two mistakes one can make along the road of truth; not going all the way, and not starting."
Many Christian Scientists will tell you, that the healing of a tenacious physical problem, a torn relationship, a disastrous financial situation, messy circumstances at work or at school came shortly after they felt they had reached the end of the rope. But willing to go, with Buddha's words, all the way. I remember finding a location late a night, alone in unfamiliar territory in a different country, precisely the moment when I felt I was totally lost. Often the healing comes when we continue to to cherish gratitude, humility, and good just one minute longer, not giving up. Meekness steps aside, expecting to see Love, and only Love at work, and the spiritual laws of Truth and Life carry the day.
We are not alone - there is a mighty power supporting each one of us. There is hope and a sure reward to goodness. Here are two pieces of advice by Mary Baker Eddy - out of many in her published writings:
"Success in life depends upon persistent effort, upon
the improvement of moments more than upon any other
one thing." (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 230)
"Let us rid ourselves of the belief that man is separated
from God, and obey only the divine Principle, Life and
Love." (Science and Health, p. 91)
The illustrations to this blog are from the famous Rutland Psalter, a sumptuously illumined manuscript produced ca. 1260. They remind me in the unique and for me very moving medieval way that spiritual life is about effort - and about joy at the same time. Because we know how it all ends.
My husband and I could demonstrate in a humble way what difference it makes when human thought is brought under the gravitational pull of divine Love and its order of events, the basic law of the powerhouse of Love. We were in search for the right buyers of our condominium and for a new condominium at about the same time, and at the proposal of a Christian Science practitioner we looked at the concept of home in the Bible. We were encouraged to pray with the story of the woman of Shunem. In this story as related in the fourth chapter of 2 Kings, a spiritually minded woman prepares a place for a prophet, for Elisha, who occasionally comes through her village. She tells her husband: “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”
(2. Kings 4) This story is about divine perception and about spiritual attraction at the same time.
This lamp my husband and I understood for our situation to be the expectancy of Love as expressed in gratitude, spiritual sense, willingness to follow. Light in "the window" of thought - our task! There is something wonderfully meek and gentle about putting out a mental light – while at the same time looking out for a light which will draw us home. The acknowledgment and perception of spiritual truth enable us to see the specifics of good for our experience, but also enable us to become visible to good in a specific way. Spiritual understanding is this light on the candlestick. I actively included in my prayer everyone without a home, refugees, poor and lost people on the go, addressing homelessness as a terrible imposition on humanity which Love’s embrace rectifies.
In Isaiah (chapter 60) we read: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee.”
What we perceived was the double action of the powerhouse of Love: There is the light marking home and there is the capacity and guidance to perceive this light. Spiritual sense is the effect of Spirit on us, the effect of the will of Love to be felt and known – it marks the attraction of Love and makes Love visible. “Arise, shine; for thy light is come.” Our house found a family after our commitment to Love’s design became honest and sincere, but I remember one moment when being shaken with the prospect of selling our home, leaving our beloved family home behind. It was again a comment by my husband which broke through my sadness. “We are never selling or leaving home, dear; we are just selling a house.” In order to sort through step two of our experience, finding a new home for ourselves, we had gone for a few days to the seaside to pray and listen and sort this out.
The finding happened a few hours later, when my husband closed his Bible with vigor and declared an end to searching as opposed to finding. A phone call from a realtor reached us. We went directly to this gorgeous pre-WWII residential building in a historic area of our town which our family cherished for a long time, and learned it had been filled with classical music concerts for decades, something we deeply cherish, too. We can confidently say that the understanding of home as a powerhouse brought with it the ability to see and perceive its concrete expression in our experience. It also strengthened us to replace a limited sense of home for the expansive view of home as the consciousness of divine Love.
Now in other areas, too, I find placing a mental lamp (announcing the demand) and at the same time looking out for the answer (the supply part) is a powerful tool. God's love is providing the inspiration for both.
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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