The gift of ageless living
During my childhood, my mother lovingly planned fun birthday parties for me that included games, party hats, birthday cake, and ice cream shared with friends. While I have happy memories of those parties, as an adult I’ve realized that marking the passing years does not help me learn more about my actual immortal life as a child of God. I’ve been inspired by Mary Baker Eddy’s counsel in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Never record ages. Chronological data are no part of the vast forever. Time-tables of birth and death are so many conspiracies against manhood and womanhood. Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise” (p. 246).
On a recent birthday, it seemed more important than ever to claim exemption from the limitations that a mortal sense of life would impose on man. I was struggling with various challenges, and while I had no desire for a material gift, I felt that a spiritual gift would definitely be welcome. I asked myself, Why not accept the gift of spiritual understanding and healing? I decided to spend the day mentally sitting at the feet of Christ, listening for divine inspiration.
One of the first ideas that came to me was, How freeing it is to know that Life—a synonym for God—is not circumscribed by a mortal timeline. Instead of thinking of ourselves as checking off years within a limited allotment, we can let go of a sense of finite personhood and reach for a higher understanding of man as God’s eternal expression.
How freeing it is to know that Life—a synonym for God—is not circumscribed by a mortal timeline.
As we strive daily to learn of spiritual reality by studying and practicing Christian Science, this understanding blossoms into a more expansive view of our coexistence with everlasting Life. Science and Health says, “Men and women of riper years and larger lessons ought to ripen into health and immortality, instead of lapsing into darkness or gloom” (p. 248).
As God’s beloved spiritual expression, created in His image and likeness, man can never be reduced to a physical organism that enters a period of declining usefulness and limited resources. Contrary to this false, mortal concept of existence, man’s real being is embraced in God’s, divine Love’s, endless bounty of good. This good, which the human mind comprehends as food and other necessities, is actually spiritual in nature and unlimited; it is the eternal unfolding of man as the highest idea in creation. So man’s high destiny can never decline, but instead includes a fuller understanding and demonstration of his completeness as God’s image and likeness.
“God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis,” Science and Health tells us (p. 258). Therefore, contrary to the prevailing view of advancing years, we can expect to become more, not less, productive each day. Rather than being measured by the number of tasks checked off a to-do list, true productivity is found in making the most of each moment—thinking useful, spiritually accurate thoughts throughout the day. This spiritualized consciousness naturally blossoms into fuller expression of God’s attributes, glorifying Him and blessing others.
Investing more time in spiritual study and prayer has helped me become more spiritually disciplined at moment-by-moment thought watching. As a result, I’ve been able to express spiritual qualities more deeply than I would have thought possible—qualities such as creativity, artistry, poise, confidence, and love. And I have experienced more healings, too. I still have a long to-do list, but it’s clear that some tasks are not as essential as I used to think, and they can wait.
A statement about productivity in Science and Health points out what we’re capable of: “… business men and cultured scholars have found that Christian Science enhances their endurance and mental powers, enlarges their perception of character, gives them acuteness and comprehensiveness and an ability to exceed their ordinary capacity. The human mind, imbued with this spiritual understanding, becomes more elastic, is capable of greater endurance, escapes somewhat from itself, and requires less repose. A knowledge of the Science of being develops the latent abilities and possibilities of man. It extends the atmosphere of thought, giving mortals access to broader and higher realms. It raises the thinker into his native air of insight and perspicacity” (p. 128).
The common belief in personality types, however, tends to block our fulfillment of this promised freedom. It argues that because we’ve thought of ourselves as having certain character traits for a number of years, we’ll always be that way. But humble willingness to yield up the thought of a personal self apart from God can break through this seeming opposition. When I’ve prayed to see that God-given, spiritual individuality, not human personality, defines me, I’ve been able to overcome to some degree limitations associated with personality type, including what are considered to be inherited tendencies—and that’s a project I continue to work on!
As God’s beloved expression, man can never be reduced to a physical organism that enters a period of declining usefulness.
Rejection of a limited sense of personhood separate from God helps us recognize our inherent value, undiminished by passing years or changing roles in life. Since God doesn’t see us as mortals slotted into human occupations, we are worth just as much to Him unemployed or retired as we were at the peak of our career or in full-on parenting mode. All good and useful activity is the expression of immortal spiritual qualities derived from one source, God, no matter who is expressing them or in what context. Exchanging popular views of human achievement for this spiritual perspective makes our unchanging worth more tangible to us. And we find a quiet joy bubbling up within us, validating this realization.
The expectation of continuing good that Christian Science brings to our perception of our capacities and worth also encompasses our physical well-being. As Science and Health promises, “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (p. 494). And we can expect God to guide us in the right way to care for ourselves.
As these ideas came into focus for me on that day of quiet listening, I found additional inspiration in that week’s Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly. One verse from First John seemed especially relevant to the idea of a spiritual gift: “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (5:20).
How wonderful to realize that when we figuratively sit at the feet of Christ, earnestly desiring to let God’s Word permeate our consciousness, we can be confident that the Christ is imparting to us not only the Word itself, but also full comprehension of it. Every day, we can accept the gift of living in the consciousness of all-encompassing Truth, and Truth excludes anything unlike itself. So whatever form of evil claims to be part of our experience, it is not something we’re tasked with removing through our own mental effort; it is wiped out by Truth itself.
Gratefully pondering these ideas, I saw more clearly that universal Truth does not act randomly, helping some but skipping over me or allowing evil to encroach on my health or happiness. The feeling of being saddled with problems receded, and I felt physical and mental relief. And since that day, I’ve been striving to maintain this spiritually receptive attitude, often remembering these words from Mary Baker Eddy’s poem “ ‘Feed My Sheep’ ”: “I will listen for Thy voice, / Lest my footsteps stray” (Poems, p. 14).
Rather than passively accepting inharmonious, limiting thoughts about ourselves, we can firmly and persistently reject these mental intrusions and earnestly listen for God’s ever-flowing Christ messages. This spiritual activity comes more easily some days than others, but every effort strengthens our ability to demonstrate productivity, freedom, fulfillment, and conscious worth. We see more clearly that we aren’t finite human personalities inhabiting matter bodies for a certain number of years, but spiritual beings whose individualities forever reflect the fullness of our creator. This understanding is a gift that everyone can accept, every day.