The lady by the lake

I learned a spiritual lesson about not accepting illusions as reality.

Behind our house there are woods with tall pine trees. Beyond that is a meadow with a lake. Where the woods and meadow meet is an old picnic table. I love to sit there in the evening and watch the birds return to roost for the night after a busy day of foraging.

One night I was taking in this lovely scene when I noticed a lady several yards away. I didn’t want to disturb her solitude, so I quickly looked away. After ten or fifteen minutes, I looked back, and she was still there. She was wearing a white shirt, black shorts, and white sneakers. Long blond hair hung down her back. And she was standing in the same position as before, with one foot tucked behind the other. I was surprised that she could stand in that position for so long. 

As I continued to glance back every few minutes, she never moved. I decided it must be a mannequin or a trick someone was playing. At that point, I snapped a picture with my cellphone before going home.

The next evening I returned with binoculars. Using them, I couldn’t find the lady by the lake, but when I looked without them, I saw her. Then I lined the binoculars up with a fence post so I could get her exact location. Much to my surprise, I discovered that the “lady” was a rotten tree stump! 

Over the next few days, I showed the picture I had taken to family members and friends. Everyone could see the “lady,” and they were surprised to hear she was actually a tree stump. I even brought some neighbors to the meadow, and they saw her right away. But when we walked closer, the truth was revealed.

I knew there had to be a lesson in this for me—a spiritual lesson about not accepting illusions as reality.

A few days after showing the tree stump to my friends, I put the following concepts into practice: “When the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and His idea. . . . Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of life harmonious—as Life eternally is—can destroy any painful sense of, or belief in, that which Life is not” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 495).

I had been exposed to a disease that was thought to be very contagious. Soon I was experiencing some of the symptoms. As I spent quiet time alone, I thought of my lady by the lake. I could see her, and so could my friends and neighbors. She seemed so real! I realized that if I had not discerned that she was a tree stump, everyone would have gone on believing, as I had initially, that she was a lady. 

I saw that disease, a belief in the absence of God’s goodness, could be no more real than that lady. And even a strong belief in disease does not make it real. I needed to “let neither fear nor doubt” cause me to believe in the illusion that God, good, is not supreme and that mankind has to suffer. My symptoms quickly disappeared.

My “lady by the lake” lesson can be summarized in this idea from Science and Health: “Let Christian Science, instead of corporeal sense, support your understanding of being, and this understanding will supplant error with Truth, replace mortality with immortality, and silence discord with harmony” (p. 495). What a service we do for humanity when we see things for what they really are.

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