I grew up playing with marionette puppets—jointed wooden animals, people, and mythical beasts controlled from above by long strings attached to their moving parts. By manipulating the strings, I could make a marionette walk, run, wave, bow, or move its mouth, while I, the puppeteer, did the talking.
Recently I brought some of these childhood marionettes to my Christian Science Sunday School class for my six-year-old students to get to know. It wasn’t long before the kids were taking turns making the dog bounce and wag its tail and the dragon cruise around the room flapping its wings.
Why did I bring puppets to Sunday School? To illustrate a useful spiritual lesson.
In the Bible, God is identified as good, the only cause and creator, the divine One and All, who is “of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Habakkuk 1:13). Man, God’s creation, is identified as God’s image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26, 27).
Christian Science explains that the relation between man and his creator is like that of a mirror reflection to its original. As God’s spiritual likeness, man (each of us) expresses all of God’s qualities, such as purity, love, health, intelligence, and integrity. Man’s true thoughts come from God and make up man’s being; they reflect the divine Mind’s consciousness of ever-present good. And God’s thoughts, as the Bible says, “are more in number than the sand” (Psalms 139:18).
But not every thought that pulls at the strings of our consciousness is from God, Spirit. Thoughts of disease, death, fear, hate, greed, lust, and so forth have no basis in reality because they don’t reflect Spirit’s infinite goodness. We can classify them as “error,” the same way we identify 2 + 2 = 3 as an error.
To live true to our spiritual selfhood is to think thoughts God is causing us to think—loving, honest, and brave thoughts. It is to be aware of God’s nearness and perfection and to let ourselves be governed by Him. The result of God-inspired thinking is health and harmony.
Entertaining erroneous thoughts—those that deny the allness of God, good—leads to all kinds of problems and unsatisfactory results. Mary Baker Eddy’s writings point this out. Her textbook on Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, says: “… an error in the premise must appear in the conclusion. To have one God and avail yourself of the power of Spirit, you must love God supremely” (p. 167). And her book Pulpit and Press states, “Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love” (p. 3).
To live true to our spiritual selfhood is to think thoughts God is causing us to think—loving, honest, and brave thoughts.
According to Irving C. Tomlinson, Eddy once told members of her household, “How plain it is that in our lives we are to bring forth the power of God and let this govern in all our thought, speech, and acts” (Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy, Amplified Edition, p. 106). Tomlinson also recalls her saying at another time, “You cannot be made to believe one suggestion that is told you mentally or audibly except the Truth” (p. 107).
Maintaining our God-given authority over our thinking takes alertness and resolve, but when we keep our thoughts in tune with God and obey Him, we’re able to resist the temptation to become error’s puppet. Not being error’s puppet means not believing any thought that comes to us except what reflects the truth coming from God.
Christ Jesus once asked, “How can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man?” (Matthew 12:29). Science and Health explains on page 400, “Mortal mind is ‘the strong man,’ which must be held in subjection before its influence upon health and morals can be removed.” And on page 219 it says: “Not muscles, nerves, nor bones, but mortal mind makes the whole body ‘sick, and the whole heart faint;’ whereas divine Mind heals.”
We hold mortal mind in subjection when we reject erroneous, mortal thinking. Wouldn’t it be great to prove our oneness with God by letting all our thoughts be Godlike? This goal is so important that Eddy made it a By-Law in the Manual of The Mother Church: “It shall be the duty of every member of this Church to pray each day: ‘Thy kingdom come;’ let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!” (p. 41).
I learned the value of obeying this By-Law one night during a business trip. My husband and I were taking a six-hour cross-country flight followed by an additional three-hour layover to catch a short flight home. This schedule was taxing enough, but halfway into the last leg of our journey the pilot announced that the plane had a minor mechanical difficulty, and with no mechanic at our destination, we were returning to the major airport we’d left. After we landed, several hours elapsed while we waited for the problem to be fixed.
By now I wasn’t exercising much control over my thoughts. They ran like this: “I’m so tired, I can hardly stand it. I feel like a zombie. I can’t sleep on planes or in airports. What’s more, I’ve hardly slept this whole week.” When we finally boarded the plane again, my nerves felt frayed. For the most part, the other passengers were subdued and quiet—except for two youngsters behind us crying inconsolably. I sat in the darkened cabin, tears rolling down my cheeks, breathing fast and hard. In short, I was allowing myself to be error’s puppet.
Not knowing that I was struggling, my husband asked me to pray for him, as he had begun to feel unwell. There’s nothing like a request for prayer to take your mind off yourself! I did pray for him, for those crying babies, for the safety of the flight, and for everyone on board.
When we keep our thoughts in tune with God, we won’t become error’s puppet.
And a wonderful thing happened: In about five minutes my husband thanked me, saying he felt well again, and the crying behind us stopped—both kids had fallen asleep. The plane took off. All that was left was for me to gain my freedom. While I’d been praying for others, I hadn’t felt my exhaustion, but now it was back.
All that came to me at the moment was this thought: “I am responsive to the Christ.” But it was just the truth I needed. Science and Health explains, “Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (p. 332). The Christ exterminates error by correcting erroneous thinking. In my case, I needed to let the truth that God is the source of vitality destroy the error I’d allowed to manipulate me—that I needed so many hours of sleep to feel refreshed.
Then I heard loud and clear in my mind an authoritative voice that said, “If you’re responsive to the Christ, then act like it.”
That got my attention. What a rebuke! Humbled, I thought, “All right. I can and I will.”
That was all it took for me to gain authority over my thinking. Just a moment of meek willingness to turn away from mortal mind’s whining and listen instead to God, and everything began to change for the better. I dried my tears; my breathing normalized.
What dawned on me was a peace more profound than any I had felt before, accompanied by a deep conviction that God was taking care of me, the plane, and everyone in it. The rest of the flight was uneventful, and we made our way home.
No matter what challenge confronts us, we can refuse to become error’s puppet. God has given each of us the ability to respond to the Christ, to live true to our spiritual selfhood. And when we mentally maintain our integrity as God’s image and likeness, we experience healing.
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