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Victory over 'that's just the way I am'

From the May 27, 2013 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

—Matthew 5:48, English Standard Version

Have you ever had a picture taken of you that was awful? We all have. It makes you wonder if that is how you look to others. The answer to that nagging question is likely “No!” because the photo is static and you are animated. Others have the opportunity to see you moving instead of that frozen state represented in the photograph.

In this world, there are many who believe that you are the way you are and that you are never going to change. There are even established religious and psychological schools of thought that embrace this philosophy. This view of life is sort of like believing we are that static snapshot! However, it’s very hard to buy into this line of thinking if you have ever witnessed even one individual burst out of the cocoon of old ways of doing and thinking. Seeing evidence of change in oneself or another debunks the notion that man is preordained to traverse continually the same mental and physical ground. 

Let me give you an example. In high school, I dated a guy who was learning to scuba dive. He thought it would be great if I did, too. It didn’t sound very appealing to me. But since we lived near the shores of the Pacific Ocean, he enthusiastically took me snorkeling as an introduction to this underwater world. To be honest, I was scared silly, and long remembered that day as an experience not to be repeated. 

Today, it’s a different story. I am scuba certified and have had many adventures that scared high school girl never dreamed of! I absolutely love to dive down to the underwater communities of marine life and be a guest in their aquatic home. I love the weightlessness you experience, as well as the quiet beauty. 

“What happened?” you might ask. The change in thought came as I began to recognize my indivisibility from God, good, claiming no other identity than what pours forth from God’s nature. I began to understand that my identity is God’s nature uniquely expressed, so I am the evidence of joy, expansive being, poise, agility, and the freedom of peace. The change in my attitude and experience came from understanding myself as God’s animation, and not a personal selfhood with this fear or that limitation.

So, what is it that animates us, causes us to grow, refine, and progress? This irresistible animating influence is the Christ. It is what enables us to move forward in our careers; forgive and heal the wounds we harbor; love in the face of adversity; comfort the unlovable. This same Christ is what washes us clean of jealousy, resentment, and trepidation. And it is what shows us the path away from busyness, excuse-making, and procrastination. 

Mary Baker Eddy shares in her textbook for healing, “Hold perpetually this thought,—that it is the spiritual idea, the Holy Ghost and Christ, which enables you to demonstrate, with scientific certainty, the rule of healing, based upon its divine Principle, Love, underlying, overlying, and encompassing all true being” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 496).

Acquiescing to the common notion of “that’s just the way I am” is like bowing before the old theology of predestination. Statements and thoughts like “My mom (or dad) was just like this, too,” mirror the ancient biblical curse that “the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2). And the root of the thought that someone is “just the way they are” and is never going to change is tied to the belief in eternal damnation, which is the antithesis of the Christ-idea. To believe that someone, ourselves included, is hard to get along with, hardhearted, unchanging, or unyielding—is actually to further the false concept that someone is preordained and forever cursed, or “damned,” to be a certain way.

To find our freedom from old habits of thought, including how we perceive others, it is important to be awake to these false ancient creeds that try to infiltrate our thinking and shape our perspectives, and to see their powerlessness. We can, and ultimately must, identify each person as fundamentally the expression of all that God is, pure good, forever appearing in infinite progression.

Give your consent to the freshness of the animating Christ.

Viewing the idea of change from a wholly spiritual perspective, we are not changing as much as we are polishing our real nature. Our innate being as God’s precious expression, animation, is always present even when hidden by the mess of mortality. But we all have the ability to respond to the biblical direction to “mark the perfect man, and behold the upright” (Psalms 37:37). We are, in fact, waking up to who we have always been as the image and likeness of perfect God, good (see Genesis 1:26, 27). We are shedding the limits of mortality and discovering our real nature as the very outcome of infinite God. We all have the ability to use the harder experiences in our days to polish our God-given nature instead of allowing them to hide our real identity or wear us down.

Growing up, I watched my mom do just that. My mom began to study earnestly the Scriptures and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy when I was a very young child. She was in her late 40s, recently divorced, working as a secretary. What she found in those books was just what was needed to change her perspective about who she was and her relationship to God.

As the years went by, I watched my mom change as a result of a maturing sense of God. I saw her becoming more confident, healthy, and increasingly joyful. The difference was remarkable, even viewed from the close proximity that I had living with her. But this refreshed sense of identity and her embrace of progress was so pronounced that it made me want to study Christian Science and experience the same ever-expanding sense of life. 

There is not the thinnest wedge of separation between you and God, and so there is not the thinnest wedge of separation between you and the action of the Christ. Not one of us needs to fret over what we see in our experience at any given moment. If it is not inspired and animated by the glory and eternality of God, then it is not the real nor the final summation of your life. Your life is the river of God’s being, pouring forth continuously. This new view enables us to ditch the rigid and limiting “that’s just the way I am” mentality and perhaps try a new assignment in church; purchase some fresh produce at the market and discover how to cook it in a new way; or find new ways to lay claim to inspired spiritual study. Maybe it means you greet someone you think you don’t care for with kindness, or give your consent to allow the Christ to move you to stand on new ground with a new attitude.

I love this little quip by Bruce Barton, an American author, “When you’re through changing, you’re through.” Well, I certainly don’t want to be through, and I know you don’t want to be, either! So, do give your consent to the freshness of the animating Christ, instead of clinging to the tatters of yesterday’s supposed limitations. We are each God’s animation. This is the absolute ideal of our being, and can be increasingly claimed in the day-to-day by each of us.

Stephanie Johnson is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from Oakton, Virginia.

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