On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I was impressed by the beautiful choreography that takes place daily on the freeways.
In a city known for its intricate web of roadways that alternately make you think of a high-speed raceway and a densely packed parking lot, it is easy to miss the beauty that transpires. But if you gain even the slightest elevation on or above the roadway, you can see a ballet of sorts unfold. Dozens of red lights blink intermittently as turn indicators signal graceful lane changes, and brake lights flash with shifting speeds. It struck me as a very intricate and beautiful dance.
How often we approach a situation, or a person, with preconceptions. And we let reputations influence our thought. The list is endless—a notorious freeway system, complicated airport security checks, people who look or dress a specific way. In each instance, there is a choice to make. Do we allow prejudice, prejudging, to shade our view? Or do we choose the alternative and give our consent to view the scene with a bit of spiritual elevation to our thinking?
About 20 years ago, I made a decision to work daily toward a higher view by striving to catch some glimpse of God evidenced in each person I met during the day. I found it quite an interesting practice, but it wasn’t long before I was pressed to really make good on my commitment!
I had a choice of two checkout lines in a store. One line had a customer with a huge spiked Mohawk hairstyle. Today we have all seen this kind of hairstyle, and so it’s not so surprising, but then it was something I had never seen. Admittedly, it was a bit intimidating, but I chose to get in line behind this fellow. My motive was to consciously set aside preconceived notions, and look for qualities of God that I was confident I would find.
As I looked at the man’s hair, I realized how much care had gone into crafting this style. There was certainly artistry and creativity involved. The spikes rose at least eight inches from his head, so this wasn’t something you could do once and have it stay without maintaining it. Now that is devotion! When I agreed to set aside any point of prejudging and gain a higher vantage point, to look for beauty and evidence of divine Soul, I was able to recognize the spiritual qualities this young man expressed.
How often we approach a situation, or a person, with preconceptions.
That day there was a total change in my thought, which has remained ever since. It stands out to me as an example of the Bible counsel, “If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Each of us has the honor and responsibility to find virtue in another, no matter what we think we see. Embracing this attitude fulfills the demand set forth by the master Christian, Christ Jesus, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
In every situation, we do have the option to catch a glimpse of God. Now, I’m not suggesting we see God as a person, but we do have the opportunity to see some evidence of how God is expressing Himself if we will lift our sights and look for the good in each one with whom we come in contact. We may recognize pure joy in another, or perhaps we’ll witness thoughtfulness or intelligence. Sometimes we recognize God, our Father-Mother, expressing Herself simply by acknowledging that another fellow is alive and so expressing God as Life! Whatever Christly quality we recognize in another, it is a privilege to have seen it.
Actually this call for “lifting” one’s sights is counsel repeated throughout the Bible.
• “Lift up now thine eyes, and see” (Genesis 31:12).
• “Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold” (Isaiah 49:18).
• “For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God” (Job 22:26).
Practicing this with those we come in contact with or those we think about during the day, spiritualizes thought. It takes what the material senses present and turns it right side up, enabling us to see the spiritual nature that is there instead of being put off by appearances.
In her writings, Mary Baker Eddy invites us to embrace this higher, right side up, view: “Every material belief hints the existence of spiritual reality; and if mortals are instructed in spiritual things, it will be seen that material belief, in all its manifestations, reversed, will be found the type and representative of verities priceless, eternal, and just at hand” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, pp. 60–61).
Commitment to a higher view keeps our sights on God and helps us continually watch for His manifestation of love and grace. This daily practice truly is a love for God and man. And doesn’t that fulfill the Master, Christ Jesus’, teachings to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself? Jesus shared with all who would listen, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).
Victor Hugo, the French novelist, echoes this lesson for the ages in his classic novel, Les Miserables, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” It is pure love to look for evidence of God in everything and everyone. It really is a privilege!
Stephanie Johnson is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from Oakton, Virginia.