Recently I took a trip to Costa Rica with a good friend. It had been a long and cold winter, and I’d really been looking forward to finding relief in warmth and sunshine. Plus, I’d been feeling kind of down. Another friend had passed away a couple of months before, and I was still missing her and feeling sad. I thought that getting away and being in a beautiful location would be a great diversion from my feelings of sorrow and loss.
At first this seemed to be working. When we reached the beach, we were having a wonderful time enjoying the warm surf and playing on our boogie boards. The waves were really high and fun, and I could feel myself reconnecting with spontaneity and joy.
Then came the news that a teenager had been lost in the waves. My spirits sank again. My plan to go on a vacation to rejuvenate and turn my thoughts away from death didn’t seem to be working out at all.
Later that afternoon, I took a walk by myself along the beach. I realized I needed to sit down, be still, and really pray. I had prayed off and on since my friend’s passing, but always in the rush of daily routine and not in any heartfelt way. I needed to focus on God, not my own disbelief and grief, and open up to what God was saying to me.
So I sat down on a driftwood log and looked out across the expanse of ocean stretching toward the horizon. That’s when a question came to mind: “Can you imagine that the endless love of God is even bigger, broader, and deeper than this?”
Our friendship could not be changed from joy and sharing into loss and separation.
Then I recalled a passage from Psalm 139: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (verses 7–10). At that moment I felt in my heart that my friend—and that teenager—could not be lost to an all-knowing and all-loving God.
We were approaching Easter weekend, and ideas from that week’s Christian Science Bible Lesson, which was about Life and resurrection, nudged my thought. I pondered Christ Jesus’ parable about the shepherd who left his flock and went after one lost sheep until he found it and brought it home, rejoicing (see Luke, chap. 15). As I sat on the beach, I prayed along these lines:
“God is All-in-all, even in the depths. God’s idea—His reflection—cannot be separated from omnipresent, omniscient Mind, which is guiding each one of us to rest beside the still waters of Love’s directing. There is no fruitless labor in Love. The joy of Love, seen in friendship and family, cannot be turned into sorrow and loss. God loves and cares for His infinite creation, maintaining all individuality and freedom. Always.”
It was just a simple prayer, but I felt peaceful as I walked back to our bungalow. And that prayer stayed with me for the rest of our vacation, which proved to be a time of spiritual growth, including a deeper understanding of my own life from a spiritual perspective. I thought of the way Jesus comforted his followers after his resurrection. As I see it, he didn’t suggest that life would become easy for them, or that the practice of their faith would be anything less than hard work. But he made it clear that they would not be alone. And should they ever feel overwhelmed and sorrowful, the healing Christ would still be there to bring them comfort, hope, and joy.
After I got home, I realized how important it had been to take time to pray about my close friend; to accept that her life was still embraced in God’s infinite love, and that our friendship could not be changed from joy and sharing into loss and separation. Praying for others, and being clear about our relationship to them, helps us discern spiritually our own place in the kingdom of heaven.
How perfectly Mary Baker Eddy summed up all of this when she wrote: “This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death. The perfect man—governed by God, his perfect Principle—is sinless and eternal” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 304).
Kendra Nordin is a staff editor with The Christian Science Monitor in Boston.