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From the August 30, 2010 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

TIME. Mortal measurements; limits, in which are summed up all human acts, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, knowledge; matter; error; that which begins before, and continues after, what is termed death, until the mortal disappears and spiritual perfection appears.

—Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 595

If I were to tell you I misplaced my pen, and then asked you, "How long will it take me to find it?" how would you answer? Maybe you'd say my question doesn't compute. I'm asking the wrong question. Time isn't really the issue. Asking "how long" doesn't tell us the real "how"—how to find it. Well, we may think the question is "where." But whatever we've lost, the human mind is more worried at a deeper level about time, about how long.

If we've lost our financial security, we feel uncertainties about when it will be restored. If we've lost our health, we wonder how long it will be until we feel well. If we've lost a relationship, we worry about when we'll feel cared for again.

You may not have phrased it quite the way I did, but underlying any loss is the question of time. When will we once more be whole, happy, at peace, trusted, pure? We have the same thoughts the Psalmist had several thousand years ago when he pleaded, "How long. ... O Lord ... how long?" (Ps. 13:1).

Mary Baker Eddy introduced a radically different way to deal with this age-old question. She felt we needed to think of time from a profoundly fresh standpoint. In fact, she equated time with matter (see Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 595), and she consistently rejected matter as any part of God's, Spirit's, infinite reality.

When we puzzle over "how long," we are unwittingly wondering, "How much matter, O Lord?" Time and matter are two sides of the same coin—facets of the same concept, the concept of a mentality separated from God. Matter and time are limited ways of defining or measuring reality. They appear to the material senses to be substantial and certain. In truth, they are rooted in doubt and uncertainty. They are false states of mentality. They are distorted ways of trying to understand true existence.

"Matter," Mrs. Eddy affirms, is "a false form of mind" (Unity of Good, p. 32). She saw the perfection of God, Spirit, as reality and matter as a mistake, an illusion that would redefine existence as vulnerable. The good old days are gone. We live in a changing world now, where it's no longer adequate to think of matter, for example, as a wall and time as something kept by a clock that hangs on that wall.

Time and matter are false forms of mind. Real consciousness is immortal.

Let's look at some examples that may force us to think less superficially about the question of time and matter. Some of these illustrations may feel perfectly natural to you. Others you may resist. But however you feel about them, try to value the fact that each one of them has been deeply meaningful to the individual who experienced it. And ask yourself, "How willing am I, really, to begin rethinking the way I accommodate the common view of matter in my day-to-day life?"

  • It can be hard enough to find a lost item on land, but in this instance a fellow had borrowed an axe and the axe head had fallen into a river. Elisha was there to help (see II Kings 6). How long would it take to find the lost item? Wrong question. When I look at Elisha's whole life, it's easy to see that he didn't define this situation as an individual at first possessing some facet of matter and then figuring out how involved and how long the various steps would be in attempting to repossess it. The iron axe head rose to the surface of the water. It wasn't a question of time. It wasn't a question of gravity. It wasn't a question of searching for matter. It was a question of Spirit's supremacy—its harmony, orderly unfoldment of good, immediacy of meeting the human need.
  • Once, I had struggled with a physical problem for quite a while. I felt like I'd been robbed of my health. Then one day I realized I was relying on matter to help heal me. That is, I was feeling that surely the problem would take its course in time and that with my help in praying, I'd be fine. With the realization that I didn't want the aid of matter, any "false form of mind," even in the form of time, the symptoms instantly disappeared. It was startling. I hadn't lost my health after all. It was there all along, and I suddenly recognized its God-given presence. Christ Jesus set the example with healing after healing—each one clearly dependent not on time or matter but on Spirit and its perfection. He said, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63). I like to think of this metaphysical truth as fathering a point in "the scientific statement of being": "Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal" (Science and Health,p. 468).
  • A woman was getting ready for a swim. She took off her watch and laid it on a towel. When she returned, the towel was there but the watch was missing. She searched endlessly, but it was nowhere to be found. The Christian Scientist who prayed with her knew that Spirit was the reality. Time and matter were not. Days later the woman happened to glance down, and there was her watch—securely around her wrist. How long had it been there? Wrong question. Does the allness of Spirit ever make room for loss, discord, theft, illness? Never. Does our spiritual discernment of this powerful truth readjust human events? Absolutely.
  • I can recall seeing a gentleman walk spryly back and forth to work after having spent years paralyzed in bed (see his healing published in The Christian Science Journal, April 1955). His wife was asked why she thought the healing had taken so long. She paused and, as I recall her answer, said, "I don't think that's the point. The point is that he was healed."
  • A friend who lived alone told me how she'd left a vital set of keys on the kitchen counter. Later, they were no longer there. As days went by, she realized they had fallen into the trash basket, which had since been set outside and picked up by the garbage truck. But she understood something of the substantiality of Spirit and the insubstantiality of matter. Some days afterward, as she walked by the kitchen counter, there were the keys.
  • The human mind will always find ways to explain away or ignore profound spiritual lessons. But those who are spiritually minded will look deeper to understand divine law and what it means to physical, moral, and spiritual well-being.

The revelation of Christian Science clears away mystery and explains that the law of Spirit is the reality of God. This revelation shows the perfect harmony of true existence, including your genuine spiritual identity, with all substance maintaining its rightful and normal form, function, and place. When we understand our unity with this divine law, we can demonstrate it, as Christ Jesus practiced it and as Mary Baker Eddy explained it. Matter is not an entity that takes up space and has mass. It has no life or truth, no intelligence or substance. It is not fixed within the concept of time. Time is not a measurement of reality.

Matter/time is nothing more than shifting beliefs of a supposed mortal consciousness that is undependable and vulnerable to inharmony, lack, loss. No law supports such a consciousness. In a phrase, time and matter are false forms of mind. Real consciousness is immortal. Authentic healing solutions are not based on facets of mortality. Christ-healing is timeless. It rests in the understanding of God's allness, Spirit's perfection. We'll never find permanent good in erring forms of mind.

Spirit reveals the true form of consciousness or mind. In fact, Spirit is the substance of all form, outline, and color, and its perfect harmony found ultimate fulfillment in Christ Jesus' life. It is finding gradual fulfillment today in the lives of those who understand his teachings. And it is helping us turn from "How long, O Lord?" to "Thank you, O Lord."

While the real significance behind a healing is beautifully spiritual, we can still marvel when we see a surprising way divine Love reveals our health or peace, or even a watch or set of keys. | ♦

Nate Talbot is a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science, and is Clerk of The Mother Church.

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