Learning the not-so-hard way
To navigate our way through life by looking to God for ideas and wisdom is not always easy, but it is not half so hard as losing one’s mental dominion in a fog of angry reaction.
I seem to have been very good at learning things the hard way, but I am beginning to see that the not-so-hard way is better! By “things,” I mean life lessons in how to behave—how to respond in a wise way to the ups and downs of everyday life. Reacting, especially angrily, has never served me so well as responding to situations with wisdom and thoughtfulness, with calm, poise, and dominion.
Take, for instance, the occasion when, as a mother of young children, I came into the kitchen one day, and in the walk space between the wall and the kitchen table, I saw a pair of sneakers randomly strewn on the floor. I was so upset, I “saw red.” I thought, “Honestly, how inconsiderate! Right where someone could trip over them!” I seized those shoes and flung them angrily out of the side door onto the path leading to the garage.
Some time later, as it was getting dusk, I needed to go to the freezer in the garage and—
you guessed it—tripped over those same shoes! I limped inside with a badly sprained ankle. It did not take much pondering for me to realize I had not handled things in the best way.
After a couple of days of prayer and sober reflection, which helped me wake up to the value of expressing humility, order, and grace, I was again walking freely. Ringing through my thought had been this very wise instruction I’d been given: Never react; only respond.
That element of thought which resists learning things the “not so hard”—or gracious and prayerful—way, is the human ego or a personal sense of self. And it can make our thoughts get lost in anger, indignation, self-justification, resentment, and even a desire for revenge. Until remorse or greater enlightenment subdues these impulses, we may have a hard time of things.
Thank goodness such thoughts are redeemable. Or rather, they dissolve into nothingness as the light of spiritual understanding exposes them for what they are—a false, inverted sense of individuality. In reality, this egotistical sense is impersonal. It calls itself “he,” “she,” “they,” “you,” and especially “I,” but it does not, in truth, constitute the individuality or identity of anyone. It is simply a false sense of a mind apart from God, the divine and only Mind, which is infinite and forever expressed in each one’s spiritual individuality.
Turning to this perfect Mind to know how to think and act, pausing to listen to wisdom in place of the impulses of a mistaken sense of self, we steer clear of the minefield of reactionary, negative behavior and learn and live more of the divine nature that we, as sons and daughters of God, are designed to reflect. To navigate our way through life by looking to God, divine Principle, Love, for ideas and wisdom is not always easy, but it is not half so hard as losing one’s mental dominion in a fog of negativity or angry reaction.
Silencing this false sense of a selfhood separate from God takes alertness, self-awareness, and mental work. It may try to sneak in disguised as our own thinking, with thoughts such as “I am annoyed,” “I am afraid,” “I am confused/indignant/proud/lacking in confidence/super-confident/incapable/ultra-capable,” and so on. Is that really the divine Mind or Mind’s self-expression, man, talking? No. True identity, yours and mine and everyone’s, declares substantially, “I am God’s reflection, and my thoughts come from God.” And then we listen for what the divine Mind is communicating through Christ, which Mary Baker Eddy explains in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as “the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (p. 332).
Christ Jesus, whose remarkable accomplishments included teaching, preaching, and his supreme healing work, was very clear that these accomplishments had nothing to do with human personality. He said, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Mark 10:18) and, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). And he promised his followers that they would be able to do the same, and even greater, works (see John 14:12). No doubt, in our endeavors to do such works, we need to start with the same humility, recognizing God as the source of all good.
Ongoing progress, which a humbly receptive attitude ushers in, is not handed to us on a plate. Rather, such progress takes regular, heartfelt prayer, and consistent effort to become better acquainted with God’s nature, in order to respond to the direction of wisdom and Love with “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10). The more we learn of the divine nature, the better we are able to understand and put into practice the thoughts and qualities that belong to us as God’s image or reflection.
I am grateful that, through studying daily the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings and striving to put their truths into practice, I am learning the not-so-hard way to live and to love. So, when human ego seems too ready to raise its illusory head, I can deal with it by seeing it for what it is—an illegitimate claimant to my individuality. Then, I replace this falsity with the thoughts and impulses impelled by the guiding Principle that is Love, God, always near to the listening heart.
Effort and dedication are required to attain the spiritual growth and progress that enable us to rise above materiality to the pure consciousness of divine, spiritual reality and of our true identity as God’s, Spirit’s, perfect image.
Learning the not-so-hard way can be demanding, but not half so hard as stumbling along according to unenlightened, matter-based personal sense. And I’m very grateful for that!