HOW TO 'LIVE IN THE SPIRIT'

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.—Galatians 5:25

To find out more about how one can live a Spirit-based life, the Sentinel's Rosalie Dunbar recently spoke with Marian English, a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

What does living a Spirit-based life mean to you?

When I was growing up in a Protestant Sunday School, I admired the minister for the way he lived, but I didn't see how that kind of living applied to my own life. Since then I've learned what Christian Science teaches about our identity as the image and likeness of God (see Gen. 1:26, 27), and to know ourselves as this likeness is where we can begin to lead a Spirit-based life.

As I did this, I began to understand how natural it is for everyone, as the likeness of Spirit, to actually live the spiritual qualities of God—such as compassion, affection, courtesy, kindness, patience. It isn't always easy. Every one of us is tested. (What about when you're in heavy traffic—are you willing to be patient then?)

Sometimes being kind to yourself is one of the hardest things to do.

People have a tendency to be pretty hard on themselves. We expect perfection! But Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy tells us, "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man ..." (pp. 476–477)—not a perfect human being but God's image and likeness. And when we begin to see the expression of these spiritual qualities in ourselves, we can be patient and recognize the beauty and grace that come from deep within. Kindness to ourselves draws it out.

So you're saying that we have to be willing to see ourselves as the image and likeness of God?

I don't think you can see anybody else that way until you begin to see yourself that way.

How is a Spirit-based life different from thinking of ourselves as mortal beings on Earth who are praying to Spirit up in heaven, hoping that God will help us?

In my early religious training, I was taught pretty much that way, but it didn't help me understand that there is a key to a Spirit-based life. And you know what the key is? It is knowing yourself as God's likeness by looking into God. Only that way can we see who we really are. The more we understand God, the more we understand ourselves as His likeness. That's much more than self-improvement. It's self-discovery. And one spiritual quality of God expressed conscientiously and deliberately throughout the day leads to another, until we begin to be who we are, the creation of God.

There's a statement in Science and Health that I've loved. It says, "The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus" (p. 25). Humanity is the quality of being humane, kind, benevolent. Jesus' example of a Spirit-based life made his divinity apparent in human affairs. It was his divine nature that healed the sick, raised the dead, fed multitudes, stilled a storm. When he told his followers that they could do the same, he was talking about the divine nature he expressed, his spiritual basis. We call it the Christ.

A Spirit-based life starts with our understanding of God and our relationship to Him, and moves us away from being self-centered to being God-centered. This statement from Mrs. Eddy's book The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany describes it well: "To live so as to keep human consciousness in constant relation with the divine, the spiritual, and the eternal, is to individualize infinite power; and this is Christian Science" (p. 160). To me this says that we are able to keep our thought in line with God, with the Divine, with the spiritual, the eternal. And in turn that gives us the Christly power that we need to have happy, productive, and healing lives.

Does a Spirit-based life actually make a difference?

Well, maybe I can answer with this question: Did Jesus' brief three-year ministry matter to the world? After all, he said, "I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:30). But his reliance on God, on Spirit, changed the world, and he told his followers to go and do likewise. In view of the world's need for a stable economy, and of the health, peace, and environmental issues humanity is facing, each of us can contribute to the solution instead of being captivated by the problem. And the starting point is to learn to live a Spirit-based life. That's not a theory. It's practical.

What would you say about Jesus' statement, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).

How many ways does the King James Bible emphasize the supremacy of Spirit over the flesh? Just from beginning to end! So when we go about following Christ Jesus' example to heal spiritually, we're not trying to make matter better. Why would Spirit do that? The entire thrust of prayer is to make apparent that which is true to God, to Spirit. Jesus made the perfect, whole man apparent in a heartbeat—and he raised the dead. Later, his faithful follower Mary Baker Eddy left a record of spiritual healing that put an exclamation mark to her discovery of God's law—the supremacy of Spirit.

So if you take seriously that Spirit is the power that "quickeneth," everything you look at and even the way you respond to your body, will be completely different?

Absolutely. It's a whole different perspective. When you're in the practice of having a Spirit-based life and you're doing the best you can to follow Jesus' directive to heal, you get requests from people who want to feel better. And it can seem like, "Here's a man calling me saying, 'I'm sick.'" But you know, that's not what it really is. It's sickness calling and saying, "I am a man." And when you're spiritually based in your thinking, you're not fooled.

You can help that individual by knowing he's already perfect. God made him that way. The flesh can't do anything against him, and it can't do anything for him. And so your job is to make the reality of that person apparent right where it appears to be sickness. It's a perspective of the Christ, the divine nature that you're trying to live. You're not just using it as a theory. Trying to live it as a reality gives you a higher, livelier sense of what God has already done. The Bible tells us, "In Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15:22). That applies to every part of our lives: our careers, our supply, our health, our happiness. In Christ, the divine nature that we're living, shall all be made alive.

Then what we're striving for is to see the reality of Spirit and its "quickening" ever more clearly, and to see the flesh, or material conditions, as powerless before the allness of Spirit?

When we look at the flesh we see a body. We see a man, woman, or child. When we look at our lives, we see a lot of evidence of materially based experiences. But from the perspective of Spirit, we gain an entirely different view. We see life from the standpoint of the allness of Spirit—and then we're bound to admit the nothingness of its opposite, matter.

That may not be clear, at first. But it becomes more apparent as we bring out the Spirit-based qualities that show us God truly is supreme. It's not a mixture of Spirit and matter, of love and fear. Life is not a mixture of good and bad; it is based entirely on Spirit and Spirit's great goodness, and that becomes more apparent as we realize it's not a theory. It's a practical, demonstrable law.

How can understanding Spirit better help people who are struggling with the state of the current economy?

When they understand that Spirit is an inexhaustible source available to everyone, the state of the economy becomes much less fearful. Here's an example. My husband had passed on, and he was the major source of income in our family. Our children were just out of high school, and one was already in college. I wasn't making enough money to come anywhere near meeting the expenses. We had some savings and insurance, but it wasn't going to last. So I prayed for financial supply.

The more we understand God, the more we understand ourselves as His likeness. That's much more than self-improvement. It's self-discovery.

Praying for financial supply is an admission that you don't have it. It's saying that I'm not the image and likeness of an all-inclusive God. That I'm limited. That prayer certainly wasn't doing me any good. I was getting nowhere. I was almost consumed with grief and fear. My prayer would start out with "Our Father," but inevitably I'd be left thinking and worrying about the problem.

I knew I had to pray differently, and here's how my prayer changed: "Father, just show me how to stay with You in my prayer." Psalms 46:1 came to mind. It says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Well, I was in trouble, and I sure needed help. I decided to focus on God no matter what. Nothing but God. I simply affirmed that God was All. He was my refuge from fear and lack, from grief, bewilderment, and loneliness. God, not the problem, became the basis of every thought and prayer. I was focused on Spirit and its infinite, immediate, healing presence.

Whatever else I was doing throughout the day, I held my thought with God. I woke up one morning and was almost surprised to be free of grief. I wasn't afraid anymore, either. My work began to grow. Then money started coming in from every direction. You see, since God is everywhere, our financial supply can come from everywhere, although its source is one. That source is Spirit. And I considered the ideas I was getting about Spirit to be the source of my income.

Those ideas were becoming tangible in the form I needed—literally in financial supply—and they continued to come. I spent a whole year just practicing being focused on God and His allness. By the end of that year our financial status had stabilized, our daughter was still in college, our sons were getting the help they needed from home. That was over 20 years ago, and there's never been another time when I've been faced with such dire need for economic help.

Our security doesn't actually depend on how much money we have. And we can see from the state of financial institutions in our country and the world over that our security can't depend on institutions either. It depends on our recognition of God as a tangible, ever-present source in our lives, and that does not change. It is not subject to abuse or loss.

Here's one more thought: We don't use God to create wealth. He uses us to express His riches.

What would you say to people who are searching for ways to live less in matter?

I would tell them, with the conviction won of experience, that in proportion as we live a Spirit-based life to the best of our ability, we're being less dependent on matter and more confident in God's presence and His practical help. It's a process of resurrection. Jesus showed humanity that nothing could defeat his spiritual progress, his authority in Christ. Not even the cross, not even the tomb. His resurrection put to silence the fears and limitation of materially based doubts. His resurrection is spiritualization of thought.

It's the Christ that lifts us, and "in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15:22). It's the Christ that gives us the higher sense of God's presence, and as we live that divine nature as consistently as we can, we're being lifted above the limitations of matter and introduced to ourselves as the likeness of God, and the recipient of His great gifts to us. |css

FOR MORE ON THIS TOPIC

To hear Marian English speak on this topic, tune in to Sentinel Radio during the week of May 2–8, 2009. For a listing of broadcast locations and times, go to www.sentinelradio.com. To purchase a download of this radio program, #918, go to www.sentinelradio.com and click on Audio Download Store.

May 4, 2009
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