I HAD a couple of hours free during a trip to Washington, D.C., last year and decided to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Even though the monument is only about ten feet tall at its highest point, it's much more imposing than I had expected. Each of the 140 black granite panels lists hundreds of names of men and women who were killed in the war or who are still listed as missing. Reading this silent roll call, I found myself thinking of these men and women (for the first time, I must admit) not as an undefined mass of soldiers but as specific individuals -- as brothers, husbands, daughters, and best buddies. It's ironic in a way that a list should produce such thoughts. But judging by the accounts of others I've read, what I felt was not unusual. Perhaps the explanation is that I was reading actual names and not just statistics. Perhaps it's because I could read them at eye level, as one would actually see another person, rather than high above on an out-of-reach plaque. No matter. The point is that what had once been, to me, some huge amorphous group became a series of singular portraits; the chorus began to break down into soloists.
We all want to be known for who we are -- appreciated in our uniqueness. Nobody wants to be thought of as just part of a crowd, as an unessential fragment of the huge pie of humanity. And yet so much in modern life seems almost designed to promote these perceptions. It's hard, for instance, to think that a person is indispensable when he or she lives in a city with hundreds of thousands of other people. And when we consider the legions of people around the world whose days are spent fleeing enslavement or war or simply looking for food, it can seem all but incredible to remember that a single life has value.
Surely each individual's prospects are far greater than what the physical senses can tell us of man. It must be so, or there'd be no sensible explanation for the effect that the tragic scenes of famine and war have on people and for the compassionate actions so many of us take in response. Deep down we may sense what is, in fact, an unerring spiritual truth: that no one is insignificant in God's sight. Even the specter of death cannot end the God-defined value of an individual -- as Jesus' death-disproving resurrection illustrated for all time. We are -- each one of us -- precious and absolutely vital to God. And He never loses sight of anyone.
In fact, God, who is infinite Spirit, eternal Life, just wouldn't be fully Himself without us. As our parent Mind, He needs all of His ideas, His spiritual offspring, to reflect Him -- to bear witness to His infinite nature. We're important because He is all-important.
Certainly the creator of the universe, including man, couldn't Himself be insignificant, disposable. So how could anything He creates as His witness, or reflection, be less than utterly necessary, less than indispensable to the completeness of creation? In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy1 describes this inextricable union of God and man: ``If God, who is Life, were parted for a moment from His reflection, man, during that moment there would be no divinity reflected. The Ego would be unexpressed, and the Father would be childless, -- no Father.... But man cannot be separated for an instant from God, if man reflects God.''2
God has caused us to be, in reality, just like Him -- His image. Because He is Spirit, our actual nature is spiritual -- not the limited, physical entity we seem to be. Because He is indivisible, we each are whole. Because He is all substance, we are substantial. We are His very own offspring, His sons and daughters, and so He not only creates and knows us individually; He loves us dearly.
Christ Jesus showed his students in many ways their natural relationship to God by reminding them of how unforgettable they were to their heavenly Father. He once said: ``Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.''3
``Fear not.'' Here is the answer to what is often the root problem -- the fear that we are or can be forgotten, unloved, less essential to the doings of the world than the tiny birds that may nest in our backyard. But fear is not an intractable element of life. It's so far removed from true Christian living that fear itself is what is dispensable, for it can report to us only a mortal appearance, never the spiritual reality of things.
For the real state of affairs -- ours or the world's -- we must always turn to God. And through sincere prayer, in which we willingly lay aside mere flesh-and-blood perceptions of ourselves or mankind for clearer views of man in His spiritual image, we'll become more conscious of the nearness and tenderness of God's love -- and of our unique niche in His kingdom.
1The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 2Science and Health, p. 306. 3Luke 12:6, 7. BIBLE VERSE: Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. I John 3:2