Innocent at every age
Originally appeared on spirituality.com
Several months ago, I left for a meeting one night, leaving my husband to watch our toddler and infant. When I returned home, the baby was asleep, but the toddler was still up and he ran to the door telling me about the scary show that he’d seen on television. I quickly attended to his needs and took him to bed, telling him that things on the television are just pretend and that he didn’t need to be scared.
Once he was settled, I found a rage bubbling within me. How could my husband –a person who should be protecting this child’s innocence as much as possible – do something so inappropriate? And what could I do to restore our son’s innocence?
As I thought about what to do, it suddenly became clear to me that innocence is God-given and eternal, always intact. It occurred to me that if I, as my son’s human mother, didn’t have the power to restore his innocence, then no one had the power to take away his innocence, either. Man, as God’s idea, cannot lose his innocence, because he is the constant reflection of the all-good God, and he is pure. With this healing message, the anger toward my husband started to dissolve, replaced by a trust that God—each person’s true Father-Mother—is always watching out for His children and no harm can come to them.
When our little boy woke up the next morning, he made one small mention of the scary show, but that was the end of it. Taking practical steps, my husband and I agreed together on a better plan for when bedtime doesn’t go smoothly.
While this was a relatively minor event, it impelled me to pray more actively for the innocence of all children. When Christian Scientists take up spiritual arms to affirm eternal innocence, we and others benefit. No matter what the scenario is that seems to threaten innocence, we can know that it does not have the strength of God behind it. “It is a law of so-called mortal mind, misnamed matter, which causes all things discordant” (Science and Health, p. 387). Mortal mind has no power to act on its own, and we cannot succumb to the temptation to give it power in our own homes or in the world.
My prayers about innocence reminded me of an experience I had just after college in which my own innocence was brought into question. At that time, I worked for an Internet-filtering company that made software to block inappropriate images such as sexual content and violence from young people’s Web surfing experiences. To determine what to block, someone had to manually review each website that would be filtered—and I was that someone. This meant reviewing hundreds of graphic images every week and answering phone calls and emails from people talking about the addictions, temptations, and suffering that came from viewing these types of websites. By all accounts, my innocence seemed threatened!
I had just become a member of a local Christian Science church, where I was given the opportunity to teach the first-grade class in Sunday School. I was very happy to do this, but wasn’t sure I was fit to teach these young children, given my current employment. Here I was, dealing with explicit material all week, and then teaching about God’s goodness on the weekend. What a dichotomy!
But I did end up taking the assignment. The Sunday lessons for that age were focused on Bible stories, and as a class, we became familiar with God’s loving guidance for humble Joseph, who was thrown in a pit and then sold into slavery; Moses, who guided the children of Israel despite doubts of his abilities; even the forgiveness that God showed to the followers of the idol named Baal. I prayed regularly to know whether I should continue teaching, and instead of quitting the post, I found that it buoyed me up. The stories we studied helped me see that my own innocence was protected. Each Bible story had something happen that threatened people’s self-identity as innocent, but they were all protected and redeemed by God.
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, writes, “The history of Christianity furnishes sublime proofs of the supporting influence and protecting power bestowed on man by his heavenly Father, omnipotent Mind, who gives man faith and understanding whereby to defend himself, not only from temptation, but from bodily suffering” (Science and Health, p. 387). By studying even the simplest Bible stories, I gained a stronger sense of my own innocence and God-protected identity as a pure child of God. I affirmed this for each student too, and our class always had a sense of joy in it. I continued teaching for several years and never suffered any negative impacts from my job at the Internet-filtering company.
Did those same promises of defense and protection apply ten years later in my home, to the situation with my son? Of course! They are present now, just as they were for the people in the Bible stories.
Affirming the ever-presence of God’s spiritual laws—all-good, harmonious, and ever in effect—invokes their existence and power, and as a result, we see and feel their impact in our lives and in others’ lives. Innocence is God-given and cannot be taken away by any person or experience. It is inextinguishable, inextricable, and is inherently part of each of us and is protected by God for every person. This reasoning frees victims and perpetrators alike, and ensures innocence for all.