A prekindergarten class for handicapped children that I visited recently has an extraordinary teacher. This strapping man is one of the most compassionate, patient, and gentle people I've ever met. In our discussion after the children went home he spoke of the program's frequently achieved goal to prepare these children for placement in mainstream classes. Many times, well-meaning parents had actually cut off progress by overly protecting the little ones with pity.
Out of his love for the children, the teacher sometimes has to give them big challenges, in spite of tears and tantrums that tempt him to take the easy way and pamper them. He told me, ``Tough love is hard.''
As a Christian Scientist I could appreciate the concept of ``tough love,'' because in Christian Science two of the Biblically based terms for God, Love and Principle, are frequently used in conjunction. For instance, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``Love, the divine Principle, is the Father and Mother of the universe, including man.''1
``God is love,''2 John assures us, and this brings to mind the source of genuine comfort, protection, compassion, caring, safety. Thinking of God as Father-Mother Love brings the reassurance felt by a small child held in his parent's loving embrace. And because God, Love, is always present, His ``arms'' are indeed always around us. We can't, in truth, be separated from Love, as Christ Jesus proved so conclusively in his healing ministry.
Nor can we be separated from Principle, which includes such elements as justice, order, law, and firmness. These may seem like tough qualities compared to the softer ones of comfort and compassion. Old-time stereotypes assigned the tough qualities to men and the soft ones to women. But people are coming more and more to see that both men and women can express the fulness of the divine nature.
Spiritual man, the real identity of each of us, whether we are male or female, is the reflection, the image and likeness, of Father-Mother God. This real man reflects all of God's attributes. Because this is spiritual fact, we each can express tenderness as well as strength. We can be wisely firm as we demonstrate compassion. We can employ reason without being cold. True love, backed by law, is powerful and effective. It heals and saves. It brings true satisfaction. Encouraging someone to surmount limitations is probably the most loving thing we can do, even if it seems hard at the time. But what triumphs it brings! Recently this newspaper told of a physically handicapped girl whose concerned, caring father ``wanted to send her to a special school and pamper her at home.'' But the spunky girl decided, ``I'm not afraid to break down barriers...,'' and she went on to earn medals in skiing and to become a Rhodes scholar.3
So-called love that limits freedom and joy isn't a reflection of divine Love, Principle. God's love, to which each of us has endless access and which we can unstintingly express, is at once strong and comforting, just and compassionate, protecting and liberating. It's love that heals.
1Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 256. 2I John 4:16. 3Quoted in The Christian Science Monitor, February 11, 1986. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?