THE ivy in our front yard made me think. It made me think because the damage had appeared irreversible. One day this past summer we had foolishly watered our ivy early in the morning sun, and the ivy had burned because of the extreme heat we were having. A whole patch just dried up and withered away. It looked as if all my hard work had been destroyed in just a few hours. A few weeks later, however, I noticed that underneath all the burned leaves new leaves were forming. Once I cleared all the dead ivy away I found that the ivy was reestablishing itself. The area was soon restored to its usual beauty.
Sometimes our experience seems to do the same thing. Something happens that we feel deadens or burns us. We may even feel that we might as well dry up and wither away as a result. Perhaps we're facing extreme difficulties at work or with our families. We may wonder if renewal will ever really come.
Permanent renewal and reformation are possible, even inevitable. But to experience them we need to gain a better understanding of God and of man's relation to Him. And this, in turn, takes prayer. Learning more of God as creator helps us understand what He has created. In other words, learning more of God, the great cause, helps us learn more of ourselves as man, God's effect. Prayer helps us look deeper into this relationship.
In the book of Luke we read how Christ Jesus brings home a point about renewal in his story of the prodigal son. The story counterpoints two sons. One son stayed with the father. The other son went his way and, as the Bible puts it, ``wasted his substance with riotous living'' (15:13). Besides foolishly spending his inheritance and bringing himself to the point of starvation and deprivation, the prodigal expressed many destructive qualities that we often see today. Among these destructive qualities were lack of wisdom and discretion, wastefulness, self-will, egotism. These destructive qualities, even more than the awful experience they produced, were what needed to be overcome in order for the prodigal son to experience the renewal that would purify and transform his life.
The Bible records that at his lowest point, ``he came to himself'' (Luke 15:17). Perhaps this is what we're needing, to come to ourselves. Awakening to our mistakes and the uselessness of destructive qualities helps us to overturn them. And as we reject whatever is ungodlike, we renew our understanding of our sonship with God, and this changes our experience for the better. Learning more of God and of man's relation to Him gently forces us to come to ourselves. It awakens us to man's true selfhood, which we all reflect from our Father, God.
Man's true selfhood is spiritual; it is God-created, God-maintained. We know this because the Scriptures declare God to be Spirit. They also declare God to be the creator of all. So, we can reason that the creator of good, Spirit, must have created His children in His own image--spiritual, not material.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, describes man in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She says, in part, man is ``. . . that which has no separate mind from God; that which has not a single quality underived from Deity; that which possesses no life, intelligence, nor creative power of his own, but reflects spiritually all that belongs to his Maker'' (p. 475).
Once we come to see that the spiritual qualities of goodness are inherent in the man of God's creating, we can then begin to renew our thoughts and actions on a spiritual basis. Materiality is not man's true basis, and it can't be the source of our thoughts and actions either. Thus it's natural to conclude that spirituality is the genuine source of man's thoughts and actions.
Prayer renews our lives because it renews our thoughts. It brings our thought, and therefore our actions, into line with God and His goodness. Then there's room for the new growth to take place. There's room for the budding thought to bloom.