FOR all the beauty of close friendships, marriages, and other family relationships, we may find ourselves greatly challenged by the demands of the closeness involved. We may even start to feel that our thoughts and acts are determined by how a friend or family member acts or how they're feeling at any particular moment. Sometimes it may seem we're more vulnerable to the strengths and weaknesses of other people than governed by God, our very creator. Yet our primary relationship to God is the only secure basis for right thinking and acting.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, includes a By-Law in the Manual of The Mother Church entitled ``A Rule for Motives and Acts.'' It begins: ``Neither animosity nor mere personal attachment should impel the motives or acts of the members of The Mother Church. In Science, divine Love alone governs man; and a Christian Scientist reflects the sweet amenities of Love, in rebuking sin, in true brotherliness, charitableness, and forgiveness.''1 An experience I had several years ago continues to help me remember the importance of preserving a feeling of spiritual freedom under Love's government.
My husband had gone on sabbatical leave from his job. I had decided it was best for me to stay home and care for our young son. At other times when my husband and I had had to be apart I had been able to find strength and refreshment. But this extended period was filled with unhappiness and self-doubt. The mental darkness turned everything that had been pleasurable to me into an excuse for anger, self-pity, and hate.
The turning point came one Sunday after church. I was reading Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Three verses stood out to me: ``Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.... Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.''2
Poor in spirit, mourning, and hungering were a perfect description of how I felt. But what intrigued me is that Jesus linked those states of thought with blessing. A point central to his teachings is that the kingdom of heaven is within, never subject to outward circumstances or emotional ups and downs. The kingdom of heaven points us to the constant control of God, lovingly governing man.
Despite appearances to the contrary, God is always present and providing man with everything he needs. The evidences of good in our lives are not the source of God's good but rather confirmations of His love. Even if the confirmations don't seem to be as abundant or as obvious as we think they should be, God's ample provision is always at hand.
I realized that while it was natural to want to be with my husband, I didn't have to suffer such discontent. I could turn my thought to God for a better understanding of the fullness of my true identity as His likeness. Instead of looking at myself as a lonely wife suffering nervous ill health, I began to feel a stronger, more spiritual sense of individuality. To me the kingdom of heaven promised in the blessing of the Beatitudes included a sense of purpose, the knowledge that I was loved, and the ability to love others. I felt my complaining yield to a greater humility and gratitude.
Soon after, a college student called to ask if she could stay with me for a couple of days, and I welcomed the companionship. I didn't mention the problem I had been having but kept trusting that God was bringing forth the healing in just the right way. The morning that the student left, the thought came, ``God loves you just as much when you're by yourself as when you're with others.''
What a precious revelation this was! If God loved me just as much when I was by myself, then I could expect to experience as much peace, joy, inspiration, affection, and activity as when I was with my husband. That was the end of the darkness. During the remaining months of his leave I was joyful, productive, and at peace. When we finally were together again there was a newfound strength in our marriage, less vulnerability to each other's challenges, and greater tenderness in supporting individual growth.
The saving law of Christ enables us to exercise the clarity and purity of thought that are everyone's heritage as the child of God. It enables us to discern our direct relationship to God and the completeness of our spiritual identity as His offspring. Then our relationships with others are without danger and are free to be the sweet blessings they're meant to be, upheld by God's law.
1Church Manual, Article VIII, Section 1. 2Matthew 5:3, 4, 6. DAILY BIBLE VERSE The Lord hath been mindful of us: he will bless us. Psalms 115:12