MY grade-school niece wondered why I prized the Christmas gifts she made. ``Wouldn't you rather have something store-bought?'' she asked. I said, ``I like gifts with something of you in them.'' We all cherish the one-of-a-kind gifts of children -- that drawing taped to the refrigerator, the clay animal on the shelf. While we may not always continue to give handmade gifts as adults, we need never outgrow the ability to give the gift of ourselves.
``But,'' we may feel, ``I'm so ordinary. There's nothing special about me to give.'' Or even, ``I don't like myself, and I've got nothing to give that anyone else would like either.''
Such views are based on the notion that what material existence tells us about ourselves is all there is to know. Yet intuitively we feel that there is so much more to us than superficial traits of personality or the color of our hair or how much money we earn or where we come from.
The Bible provides a totally fresh view of identity -- the spiritual reality of existence. The very first chapter states that man is made by God in His image and likeness and that he is good and blessed with dominion.
Learning more about God, we learn more about man's true nature, about who we really are and how much we have to give. Since God is Spirit, as the Bible tells us, His likeness must be spiritual. Since God is Love, His likeness is loving and loved. Since God is eternal Life, His likeness is active and useful.
We may feel that at best this is simply a pleasant theory, unrelated to the ``reality'' of our life at the moment. But if we admit that God is good and the only creator, we have to conclude that our true being is blessed and valued and that we can come to see more and more clearly who we really are.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ``Man's genuine selfhood is recognizable only in what is good and true. Man is neither self-made nor made by mortals. God created man.''1
The picture of man as God's loved, spiritual offspring shows true identity to be anything but drab or unlikable. It shows identity to be blessed with abundant spiritual qualities to express. Goodness and ability are not humanly originated, personal possessions. Their source is God, infinite Love, who fully endows His offspring impartially and individually.
We see more of our spiritual identity and its inherent worth as we daily strive to express such God-derived qualities as honesty and unselfishness. While this requires discipline, its reward is the joy of spiritual self-discovery and progress.
This discipline isn't a mere human effort, for we are divinely empowered to progress. As the Apostle Paul discerned, ``It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.''2
The Christ, the divine influence in human consciousness, impels us progressively to put off discordant habits of behavior, ``the old man'' for ``the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.''3 The experience of St. Paul bears this out. The book of Acts recounts his divinely inspired transformation from Saul, the persecutor, to Paul, the healer and devoted follower of Christ Jesus.
In reality, man is governed solely by omnipotent Spirit. So material theories about character or personal history have no ultimate authority. We needn't, then, be locked into unproductive or discouraging patterns of behavior. Through humble communion with God we can begin to give up false, detrimental views of who we are. As we do, we find that we're giving increasingly of our true selves -- that is, expressing more fully the spiritual identity that has always belonged to man.
Referring to the demand to grow Godward, Mrs. Eddy writes, ``This scientific sense of being, forsaking matter for Spirit, by no means suggests man's absorption into Deity and the loss of his identity, but confers upon man enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace.''4
A growing understanding and living of spiritual identity strengthens peace and good will for the world's family at every season of the year. Spiritual identity is the gift God gives you to give.
1Science and Health, p. 294. 2Philippians 2:13. 3Ephesians 4:22, 24. 4Science and Health, p. 265.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:48