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From grief and sorrow to genuine joy

From the October 16, 2017 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

I was sitting in a business meeting recently when the topic of mentors came up. One of my colleagues looked to me and asked who my mentor had been. I quickly answered that it had been my dad, and in that moment, I surprisingly became overwhelmed with grief. My dad had passed on six months earlier, and I thought I had moved past any feelings of sorrow or grief. My colleagues did their best to be supportive and told me that it would “just take time.”

My parents had raised me in the Protestant faith, and I had learned about Christian Science through my husband. But when my dad passed on, instead of deepening my understanding of Christian Science, I turned to easy platitudes as a form of comfort. 

It became clear after the incident with my colleagues that what I had been relying on was my own self-will to keep grief at bay. I simply refused to seem weak in front of my family and friends. This reliance on myself had not come from God; therefore, it had not lasted. What I really needed was to understand man’s relation to God. I could no longer just believe in eternal life; I needed to understand what it means to have eternal life.

I needed to understand what it means to have eternal life.

In the epistle to Titus we read, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (1:2). I understand this verse to be an affirmation that God’s creation, including man, has been promised and given eternal life, and that this spiritual truth has existed “before the world began.” Christ Jesus once referred to the “glory” that he was given by God “before the world was” (John 17:5). What a comforting thought to know that all life exists in God, in Spirit—not in matter—and is eternal. God’s promise of eternal life is not directed to any one individual; it is all-inclusive and a beautiful testament of God’s love for us.

As I committed to learning more about spiritual reality and what it means to have eternal life, the concept that all life must be spiritual began to unfold for me. God is Life, and He is ever-present, divine Love. The spiritual sense of life includes all mankind, and it certainly includes my dad and me. 

I reasoned that because neither of us can be separated from God, in reality, we cannot be separated from each other. This sounded wonderful, but I still had a personal sense of grief and sorrow that left me with a feeling of separation. That is not how I wanted to feel, and I certainly did not want it to “just take time” before I felt better.

In addition to the Bible, I knew that Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy would help me further develop my understanding of life as eternal. Mrs. Eddy wrote, “Eternity, not time, expresses the thought of Life, and time is no part of eternity” (Science and Health, p. 468). How refreshing to know that time is not a part of eternity. 

It is not necessary for a certain amount of time to pass before grief and sorrow go away. Clocks do not exist in spiritual reality to determine birth dates or times of death. Life cannot be measured on paper issued by a state agency or by tombstones erected in cemeteries.

As I looked away from what the physical senses claimed to say about death, and looked toward the understanding of eternal Life, I began to think of the qualities my dad reflects. I thought of his joy, intelligence, helpfulness, compassion, humility, independence, and I was beginning to see those qualities expressed all around me. 

Through my study, I learned that these qualities have their source in God, good; therefore, they could have no beginning or end. This also had to mean that there was no beginning or end to my dad’s ability to reflect those qualities. In God, my dad’s life is eternal because he is a distinct expression of Life, or God. 

It is comforting to know that the grief and sorrow I was feeling are no longer being suppressed by human will. Instead, they have been replaced with a gratitude for Life. I have a deeper understanding of God, and a recognition of my dad’s timeless qualities. I can freely talk about my dad with genuine joy, and I smile with sincere happiness when I am reminded of him. 

When someone we dearly love has passed on, we can take comfort and express genuine joy in knowing that God has given every one of us timeless qualities that will endure. We do not need to rely on self-will to get us through a grieving period; instead, we can understand and know with gratitude that we are each an eternal expression of God.

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