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‘Fasting’ in times of economic crisis

From the October 29, 2018 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Those who are alert to news from Angola in the recent past can understand how the economic crisis has changed people’s habits in many ways, with regard to their professional lives, consumption habits, and lifestyles. Many companies or organizations have closed their doors and laid off their employees; many people have emigrated away from Angola for financial and other reasons.

On the other hand, those who study Christian Science know they can pray with the absolute truth, realizing that, as Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Christian Science impresses the entire corporeality,—namely, mind and body,—and brings out the proof that Life is continuous and harmonious. Science both neutralizes error and destroys it. Mankind is the better for this spiritual and profound pathology” (p. 157).

In 2016, I was let go from the construction company I’d worked with for five years. The company had no funds to settle accounts with suppliers outside of Angola, and consequently many of its important projects were being canceled by the central government.

When I received the news, I became very afraid because our family was already established in that province, in the city of Huambo in the south of Angola, and my wife’s business was beginning to flourish. We liked the city very much, with its climate and the humbleness of its inhabitants. After the birth of our second child we had bought a plot of land to build our own house. But with the cancellation of my contract, we were forced to interrupt the construction and to think of moving to another city. It was a very painful time for my wife, my children, and me. After almost a month of prayer and reflection, we decided to return to Luanda, the capital of Angola.

Once in Luanda, I decided to do what I know how to do: to “fast” for many weeks. Now before you think I’m talking about fasting from food, I’m going to tell you right away that I really like to eat and can’t stand to spend hours and hours without eating anything. So what about the fast—did you think that I was going to deprive myself of my funje (a typical food in my country)? No! From my perspective, fasting means to abstain from worldly thinking—in other words, to abstain from believing what the deceptive material senses report. 

I told myself that this difficult situation was an opportunity to prove that God, Spirit, is All, and that we are spiritual and no one is outside of God’s kingdom and His care. I needed to devote myself to acknowledging the truth that God is real, perfect, permanent, and perpetually active. To fast, in my view, is to make room for spiritual sense, which Science and Health defines this way: “Spiritual sense is a conscious, constant capacity to understand God” (p. 209). This conscious and constant capacity helps us see through the mortal scene and acknowledge the real, spiritual facts, given to us by God 24 hours a day.

When thoughts of sorrow touched my heart, Psalm 23 filled me with joy.

After starting from this premise, I decided to send many copies of my CV (or résumé) to various employment agencies and companies, knowing from experience that I should not outline a plan. Outlining means that we think we need to be in charge of coming up with a human plan, and then God can “operate” according to what we think needs to happen. But God does not fulfill human will. In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy writes: “The power of the human will should be exercised only in subordination to Truth; else it will misguide the judgment and free the lower propensities. It is the province of spiritual sense to govern man” (p. 206).

After realizing that much-awaited responses to my CVs were not arriving, I decided to help a friend organize the administration of his small business without charging him anything.

I was certain that God, the divine Principle, is the one and only supplier. There was no need for me to be sad or frustrated. When thoughts of sorrow touched my heart, Psalm 23 filled me with joy—joy to realize that because “the Lord is my shepherd,” I can want for nothing. I did not beg God to give me something, but I realized day after day that my family and I live within God, infinite Love, here and now, and in God all is harmonious and permanent. Christ Jesus revealed that the kingdom of God is present.

On the basis of these truths, I knew I was to understand all images and news of crisis as not coming from God, divine Love. In reality, they could be seen as pure lies and illusion. Troubles cannot be ignored, but in God, where we live here and now, there is no crisis, there is no unemployment, there is no terminated contract, there is no project cancellation. God is All-in-all, and what materialism suggests is a lie. 

My state of “fasting” allowed me to see myself as God sees me. God was not seeing me as an unemployed man or as a mortal full of responsibilities and worries, with a finite and mediocre personality. In Science and Health we read: “Whatever indicates the fall of man or the opposite of God or God’s absence, is the Adam-dream, which is neither Mind nor man, for it is not begotten of the Father” (p. 282). That page goes on to talk about the “rule of inversion” in metaphysics. 

So how did this apply to the crisis in my country and to my situation? My fast was about the rule of inversion: deducing error’s opposite (error being the finite beliefs that manifest themselves in bankrupt companies, unstable finances, etc.). The opposite is Truth, imparting the understanding that Mind is the only Life, that there is no other true existence separate from God, and that with God there is no lack.

I remember my wife’s reaction when I was called for an interview at a factory and whiskey distribution line. After the interview, I thanked the interviewers for choosing me for the position, but I declined the position on ethical grounds. My wife became very sad and a little annoyed with me, because that interview was the first in four months of waiting. 

After a long discussion, we talked about how spiritual understanding in the light of Christian Science had taken us this far, and we made the decision to read Psalm 18 every night; we realized that God alone is the source of good, and that good had never ceased to be provided for God’s child. I printed the words “There is no lost opportunity in the divine Mind” and “When one door closes another one opens” on some paper and attached these messages to the door of our bedroom.

I now consider this “fasting” from worldly thinking an art.

Not too much time had passed when one day an employment agency called me for an interview the next day. I showed up at the scheduled time and was selected. I then signed a contract with a salary that was three times higher than the one for my last job. This would help meet my family’s needs. And I was very grateful to discover that the place where I was assigned to work from Monday to Thursday was ten minutes walking distance from my house.

And to add to the blessing, when Second Church of Christ, Scientist, in Luanda, where I am a member, needed new Readers, I participated in the elections and was elected Second Reader.

This whole experience was yet another proof for me that God is always with us, that we coexist with God wherever we are, and that spiritual ideas are accessible and applicable to everyone. When the power of Spirit, of divine Love and Truth, fills human consciousness, proving Truth becomes inevitable. Mrs. Eddy tells us in Science and Health, “The question, What is Truth, is answered by demonstration,—by healing both disease and sin; and this demonstration shows that Christian healing confers the most health and makes the best men” (p. viii)—and this applies to abundant supply, too. 

Christian Science teaches us to cut error out of our thinking right away; Science and Health says: “The sculptor turns from the marble to his model in order to perfect his conception. We are all sculptors, working at various forms, moulding and chiseling thought. What is the model before mortal mind? Is it imperfection, joy, sorrow, sin, suffering? Have you accepted the mortal model?… 

“To remedy this, we must first turn our gaze in the right direction, and then walk that way. We must form perfect models in thought and look at them continually, or we shall never carve them out in grand and noble lives” (p. 248).

Every time I read this passage I see the need to be constantly “fasting” from error and welcoming the truth into my thoughts, and I also see the spiritual growth that this practice can bring. I now consider this “fasting” from worldly thinking an art. It is a way to glorify God; it’s not something to do for a while and then put off. And it’s a very enriching way of life.

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