Redeeming the Past
FOR years, every time I thought of him I felt troubled, unhappy, embarrassed. We'd been good friends, close friends. We'd shared serious talks, a lot of laughs. But when he felt we should be more than friends, I wasn't able to sort through the confused emotions I felt. Instead of dealing with the situation with poise and maturity, I ended the friendship. I just felt bad whenever I thought of how poorly I'd handled the circumstances, spoiling a good friendship.
One day something reminded me of him again. At first the familiar feelings of regret and remorse washed over me. This time, though, it occurred to me that I didn't have to settle for thinking and feeling this way. The thought came to me very clearly, ``You can redeem this situation. You can heal the past.''
It may sound ridiculous to suggest one can heal the past. And yet from my study of the Bible I knew it is possible to correct and redeem mistakes even in those circumstances in which we felt victimized. What happens goes deeper than just apologizing to someone or forgiving one who wronged us. Gaining a spiritual perspective actually transforms our lives.
God, good, is the all-seeing, all-acting power governing His creation, man and the universe. He is the only creator; there is no other creator or power to change God's creation or introduce an evil element. Therefore, the completeness and unlimited goodness of God's creation remain unchanged. Whatever is true of man and the universe is eternally true. To me, this is what a Bible passage from Ecclesiastes indicates. It states: ``Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past'' (3:14, 15).
The original perfection of God's creation is intact right now. We don't need to fear the future, because God's creation is always perfect. And we must bring our understanding of the past into line with spiritual reality, too, for ``God requireth that which is past.'' This doesn't mean that evil really did occur or that God required it to happen. Just the opposite! God requires that we yield up any belief that evil ever took place. We must see that, in truth, God alone governs and maintains the goodness and harmony of His creation. Any other sense of being--whether we're thinking about the past, the present, or the future--is a dream, is founded on false beliefs about God and man.
After all, an all-powerful, loving creator simply can't create or permit evil or allow His child to harm or be harmed. We can only imagine this to be the case and then suffer the effects of this false belief. The dream that man is material, selfish, sinful, does bring suffering. But, as Christ Jesus taught and illustrated, such suffering is unnecessary and can be healed when we recognize that it is not God-created. God created man spiritual and sinless in His own image.
The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, perceived that the material sense of man is a false belief. And she saw that we can find freedom from suffering by giving up this false belief and learning more of God's loving government of His own perfect likeness, spiritual man. This includes freedom from believing that man--our genuine selfhood--was a sinner in the past.
Mrs. Eddy describes some tragic circumstances in her autobiographical work, Retrospection and Introspection, and then goes on to write, ``It is well to know, dear reader, that our material, mortal history is but the record of dreams, not of man's real existence, and the dream has no place in the Science of being.'' She adds, ``The human history needs to be revised, and the material record expunged'' (pp. 21-22).
In those few moments while I was recalling the incident with my friend, I realized that I needed to revise the history of our relationship by rejecting the material aspects and acknowledging the spiritual facts. I knew that because man is the image of divine Love, dwelling in God's all- harmonious kingdom, there cannot be discord or conflict or even a loss of affection between fellow children of God. I saw in that instant that this friend and I were eternally held in a harmonious relationship by our heavenly creator. This was true at that moment. And it had always been true, despite the material ``record of dreams.''
Just a few days later, when I picked up my husband from a meeting, whom should I see standing with him and chatting amiably but this very friend! I was so grateful when we quite naturally and genuinely greeted each other with an affectionate hug. I learned that, even though he'd been a member of this same organization for years, he'd never met my husband before. And I certainly hadn't noticed him after prior meetings. He said that during a break in the meeting, he'd felt impelled to approach my husband and ask him if he knew me!
We all went to dinner together and had a wonderful, laugh-filled time. It feels so good to have that friendship redeemed.