Unconditional love: is it a myth?
Many of us are searching for love and belonging. But when we look to other people for love, we may find their affections lacking or dependent on a variety of "whens" or "ifs" or "buts." Even those who love us deeply and consistently may not meet our every need or always be at hand—no matter how willing they might be.
Are we headed for frustration and isolation on one level or another? No, not if we understand the Love that is God. God, Love, is present and always available, although we may not have stopped to consider what this really means.
The Bible is filled with stories of people who found God's love in the most desperate circumstances. In the book of Genesis we read of Hagar, the bondwoman who bore Abraham a son named Ishmael (see 16:15; 17:17; 21:1–20). Some time after, Abraham's wife Sarah, who was thought to be barren, gave birth to Isaac. But as Isaac grew, his brother Ishmael mocked him. So, Sarah demanded that Abraham banish Hagar and her son. And Abraham sent them off into the desert.
Alone in the wilderness, Hagar soon ran out of water. She became terrified and put her child away from her so she wouldn't see him die. She must have felt forsaken and terribly mistreated. But God was right there in the wilderness, caring for her and her son. In their moment of desperation, God heard the boy's voice and sent an angel to Hagar, telling her of His love and care for her and the boy. And the Bible tells us that Hagar then saw a spring of water. Both she and her son were fine, and he grew up to be the father of a great nation.
What had closed Hagar's eyes to the water right before her? Was it fear, frustration, resentment, self-pity, a lack of confidence in God as divine Love? Even the most dire circumstances can't stop God's goodness and protection. When Hagar heard the angel message of God's love for her and her son, her eyes were opened to His presence and blessings. Her doubts and fears must have melted because the Bible says she and her son found all their needs supplied.
Science and Health states: "The Christian Science God is universal, eternal, divine Love, which changeth not and causeth no evil, disease, nor death" (p. 140). If that is true, how can we feel the power of divine Love and bring it to bear in our own lives?
Through trust in the Divine—and prayer. Prayer, as Christ Jesus taught it, reveals to us God's nature as good and man's identity as His always loved, always perfect child—not a mixture of good and evil. And acknowledging our heritage as God's children, which literally has nothing to do with age or mortality, we experience healing and great joy.
The spiritual understanding of God as Love and man as His child has radically changed my life. When I was young, I had a strong belief in the existence of God. And yet, He didn't seem very loving to me. I thought of Him as a rather severe, manlike "giant," somewhere out of reach, who watched my every move and was intensely aware of my shortcomings. I felt I could never be good enough to deserve His love or respect.
This view of God and myself made me insecure and confused. As a consequence, I had very low self-esteem. By the time I graduated from college, I was miserable, uncertain of who I was or what I should be doing. And I suffered from many ailments, including chronic sinus congestion for which I regularly took medication.
Then, at the suggestion of a woman I worked with, I made an appointment to visit a Christian Science practitioner.
"God loves you," the practitioner told me during our appointment. This might not seem so remarkable, except that in the course of our discussion, I got a glimpse of God and myself in a completely new light. She talked to me of God as infinite love and goodness, and explained that I was God's precious daughter, always loved. God knew me as I truly was—spiritual, reflecting Godlike qualities, unfallen, perfect, pure, whole.
My heart lifted! I saw for the first time an all-powerful, all-good God, who is Love and who loves me unconditionally. This God is ever present—at hand, not far off. I didn't fully understand the implications of this just then, but I knew that I had found the truth about God.
I had thrown out a cabinet full of medicines and found I was healthier than ever before.
As I continued reading Science and Health and the Bible, my life progressed in a wonderful way. Within a few months I noticed that I was free from sinus congestion. In that time, I had thrown out a cabinet full of medicines, some of which I had depended on for years. I canceled what had been standing doctors' appointments, and found I was healthier, happier, freer from pain and sickness than ever before. Within nine months I also started a new career in another country. And this was just the beginning.
This experience awakened me to the always true fact of God's all-loving ever-presence and of my inseparability from Him. The Preface of Science and Health states (p. xi): "The physical healing of Christian Science results now, as in Jesus' time, from the operation of divine Principle, before which sin and disease lose their reality in human consciousness and disappear as naturally and as necessarily as darkness gives place to light and sin to reformation. Now, as then, these mighty works are not supernatural, but supremely natural. They are the sign of Immanuel, or 'God with us,'—a divine influence ever present in human consciousness and repeating itself, coming now as was promised aforetime,
To preach deliverance to the captives [of sense],
And recovering of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty them that are bruised."
What was different between the healing prayer and the many petitions I had made to God over the years? The healing prayer was entirely spiritual, grounded on God's laws of good, which always govern each of His children, including me. It was not a blind appeal to a distant deity who might or might not reply. Nor was it a request that God look down and save a miserable sinner from a very desperate situation. The prayer that heals acknowledges God as good, present, compassionate, and just, and affirms that we are His children, under His benevolent authority. Therefore, we must humbly do His will, and see and treat ourselves and others as His children, unfallen, whole, loved, and free.
It is possible right now for anyone to experience God's loving father-motherhood and to recognize that nothing can separate us from divine Love. And as we pray to understand God and our relation to Him better, we banish any thoughts that deny His authority or our spiritual selfhood. We will be able to tell others on the basis of firsthand experience—yes, indeed, God loves us!