Discovering our true worth
Having the approval of friends is nice, but the sense of self-worth that comes from acknowledging the truth about who you are, where you came from, and your real value as a child of God is more powerful and satisfying than any human approval.
God has created us for a purpose, and He needs every one of His beloved children to express Him, to glorify Him, and to give proof of His existence. Each of us has something wonderful to contribute, and it’s up to us to share that. Christ Jesus summed up this divine purpose when he said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
When I was 12 years old, I learned a life-changing lesson about letting my light shine. One day my three closest friends told me: “We’ve decided to drop you as a friend because you’re ugly. Your nose turns down and ours turn up, and you don’t really fit in with us!” With that, they turned and walked away.
Needless to say, I was devastated. I had already been struggling with puberty and the fact that my body was changing. I remember feeling like a freak because I was developing much earlier than other girls my age. I was convinced that I was ugly and uncool, so this meanness on the part of these girls hit really hard.
Feeling desperate, I went home, took a large knife out of the kitchen drawer, and tried to kill myself. But before I had done much damage, I suddenly stopped. I stood there in the kitchen absolutely frozen, unable to finish the job. I cleaned the knife, bandaged the wounds, and went off to swim practice. No one ever knew what had taken place.
Although I can’t fully explain why I didn’t go through with the suicide, I had been raised in the Christian Science Sunday School and was surrounded by family who practiced Christian Science. I had seen many healings and knew the effectiveness of prayer. Despite my anguish after my friends abandoned me, I must have felt an innate sense of obedience to a higher purpose.
A subtle but powerful change began to take place in me. I threw myself into my swimming with fresh motivation. I enjoyed my teammates, and we became good friends, but I began to care about swimming in a way I hadn’t cared before. I wanted to do well, and I wanted to improve.
I also began to see the relevance of Christian Science in my life. As a child, I hadn’t always attended Sunday School with enthusiasm, nor had I always felt inspired afterward. But I had taken in the truths taught there: that man is God’s beloved spiritual offspring, and that we can rely prayerfully on God to meet our needs. This gave me a metaphysical “toolbox,” and at this time of great turmoil, I was able to use those tools to recognize my true identity as a valuable, loved, loving, and essential spiritual idea of God.
Each of us has something wonderful to contribute, and it’s up to us to share that.
I started to pick phrases I’d heard read from the Bible or the writings of Mary Baker Eddy and think about them before a race. One of my favorites was a statement by Jesus, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). As I thought about that and spoke with my Sunday School teacher about it, I realized Jesus was saying that everything he was and everything he did was motivated by, enabled by, and done for the glory of God.
Well, I thought, if that was good enough for Jesus, it’s certainly good enough for me! Just as Christ Jesus knew he was empowered by God, I too could be confident that my talent, strength, and goodness came from God. God does, and always will, give us whatever we need, when we need it, to express Him.
The parable of the talents (see Matthew 25:14–30) illustrates what I was learning. Jesus explained that the kingdom of heaven is like a man who distributes his wealth to three servants. To one he gives five talents (a denomination of money), to another two talents, and to another one talent. Later he asks the servants what they did with their wealth. The first two, who used what they were given to gain further talents, earn praise from their master. But the third servant, who hid his talent in the ground and gained nothing, draws a rebuke from the master and loses even the one talent he had.
God does, and always will, give us whatever we need, when we need it, to express Him.
The lesson here is that God is the source of our talents, but He doesn’t bestow these gifts on us just to have them hidden away. No matter how simple or ordinary our abilities may seem, the basis of all true, constructive ability is God, and we are meant to use, develop, and share these abilities. Whatever we have to offer is needed and valued, but we must appreciate our gifts enough to let them shine.
I began to pray and acknowledge God, divine Love, as my Father-Mother and affirm my inseparability from Him. This led to improvements in my character and activities. Until then, I hadn’t understood how prayer, which is mental, could affect the physically tangible. Then I came across Mary Baker Eddy’s definition of Christ in the Glossary of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error” (p. 583). This made it clear to me that the Christ heals and harmonizes now, just as it did in Jesus’ day, and has throughout the ages.
I saw my talent for swimming as an opportunity to demonstrate God-given qualities, and in appreciation, I worked hard and credited God with my success. In time, I was competing at the state level, and when the Olympic trials were being held in our neighborhood, a few of us were even invited to participate in them.
I never missed those three friends I’d lost, but I will always be grateful for the lesson I learned from what seemed to be a cruel act. By praying in Christian Science to recognize that my real worth comes from God, I saw how valuable I was to Him and His glory. I went on to make new friends in school and continued to enlarge my circle of friends. Nearly forty years later, some of those relationships are still very dear to me. In hindsight, I realize that my growing awareness of God’s love for me made me more loving toward others and more enjoyable to be around. And I can honestly say I have never felt lonely or lacked friends in all the years since.
I credit my weekly attendance at our Christian Science Sunday School, along with my family’s prayerful support, with saving my life and giving me what I needed to flourish. Now that I am a parent, I cherish our children’s attendance in the Christian Science Sunday School. We talk freely in our home about God’s love for His children, and how that pertains to all of our lives.