I WAS in the desert alone, trying to deal with failure. I knew I had done everything I could humanly to prevent what had happened, but I was deeply troubled. I kept thinking that there must have been something more I could have done, and I hated myself for having failed.
In the midst of the anguish I was feeling, I reached out to God in prayer, asking for some insight into the situation and how I could go on. The answer I got was totally unexpected. It was a statement from Matthew's Gospel in the Bible: ``This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'' (3:17).
As a student of the Scriptures, I knew that the Bible attributes this statement to God at the time when Christ Jesus was being baptized by John the Baptist. I also knew that I wasn't on a par with Christ Jesus! But as I pondered these words, I realized that they were telling me about God's love for all His children and were also giving me an insight into how He sees us. Up until that moment, I had been thinking of myself as a well-intentioned, earnest mortal who had worked very hard to resolve a painful human situation and had failed. But God wasn't seeing me that way at all. God, being Spirit, knows His children to be spiritual, good, intelligent, and actually perfect--like Himself. No matter what seems to be going on in our human experience, God, divine Love, never changes His loving view of us as His beloved offspring.
What needs to change when we seem plagued by self-condemnation isn't God; it is ourselves. To accept the material view of conditions--that we are mortals, failures, losers, inept, stupid, worthless, or a host of similar false characterizations--may seem easy in the short run. Though we may say we want to do better, by sticking within this mortal outlook, we have plenty of excuses for failure.
To progress out of the swamp of failure demands much more of us. It requires us to quit believing that failure is our natural condition, and to start living as the sons and daughters of God. Christ Jesus' example shows us the way. Instead of accepting the material view, he insisted that man truly lives in accord with Spirit, with a totally good and loving God. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, brings out this point in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Speaking of the Master's work on behalf of humanity, she says, ``Jesus aided in reconciling man to God by giving man a truer sense of Love, the divine Principle of Jesus' teachings, and this truer sense of Love redeems man from the law of matter, sin, and death by the law of Spirit,--the law of divine Love'' (p. 19).
Humanly speaking, it is often easier to condemn ourselves than to change our thoughts and lives. But when we do condemn, we are refusing to progress. We are also closing our eyes to the presence of divine Love. Through prayer and an earnest desire to know God's will, we can gain a ``truer sense of Love'' that will free us from the fears that would hold us back.
How does this happen? The first step might be to look at ourselves honestly and to see if there is anything in our thought or behavior that would deny our heritage as spiritual ideas of God. Dishonesty, jealousy, fear, anger, resentment, and similar elements are no part of the man God created. This means they are not natural to you or to me as Love's children. And it is for this reason that we can cast them out.
Giving up such characteristics is sometimes difficult, especially if we have been hanging on to them for a long time. But it's helpful to keep in mind that they aren't actually a part of us anymore than trees have leaves with large pink and purple polkadots on them. Anyone finding such a tree would know instantly that either the tree or the dots are fake. And the same is true with these mortal elements. They may temporarily hide our true nature, but they can never supplant it. Omnipresent Love, God, defines who and what we actually are; and as we listen for and obey Love's direction, we can begin to move forward.
Gaining a ``truer sense of Love'' as omnipresent and irresistible does much to free us from self-condemnation. It certainly helped me that day in the desert. When I returned home, I felt peaceful, ready to do better and to listen humbly to God for His direction.
Feeling our worth as the beloved sons and daughters of God is not just desirable but inevitable because we really are spiritual and good. God's love will help us to prove this fact in our lives, enabling us to correct our mistakes and to face the future with confidence instead of condemnation.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. . . .
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. . . .
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.
Romans 8:1, 2, 14, 16, 17