Spiritual identity and inherent generosity
A long time ago I heard someone comment, “May I always be ‘rich’ enough to be generous.” That comment has stayed with me as a sort of guidepost for my own actions and decisions.
As a student of Christian Science, I have asked myself, “How ‘rich’ is rich enough to be generous?” Well, true “richness” isn’t related to money or other financial resources; the essence of richness and generosity is deep within the heart. And our spiritually pure heart, and the heart of all, reflects infinite, divine Love, God, for it is most certainly the consciousness of divine Love in which “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28 ).
I have also considered this question: “What is the opposite of generosity?” Of course, I realized the opposite of generosity would be selfishness. But the question of being either generous or selfish is more than just a decision to keep something we have or give to another. It’s bigger because that decision comes from how we identify ourselves—either as limited mortals, separate from God, or as God’s cherished ideas, who reflect unlimited and infinite good.
Mary Baker Eddy states in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Jesus taught but one God, one Spirit, who makes man in the image and likeness of Himself,—of Spirit, not of matter. Man reflects infinite Truth, Life, and Love.” She continues, “The nature of man, thus understood, includes all that is implied by the terms ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ as used in Scripture” (p. 94 ; see also Genesis 1:26 ).
God’s image and likeness must be like God: spiritual, pure, good, the very expression of abundant Life. How incredibly freeing it is to replace the mortal perspective of an identity separate from God with the understanding that we are actually God’s own reflection.
In striving to reach a correct understanding of myself and why the quality of generosity is inherent in my nature, I asked myself in prayer, “What am I?” Do I go about my days identifying myself as an independent mortal, apart or separate from God, focused on collecting paychecks or other material things? Or do I embrace each day with the established, conscious affirming of my only identity as the very emanation of God, our infinite source of joy and abundance and all harmony?
God’s image and likeness must be like God: spiritual, pure, good, the very expression of abundant Life.
I realized that living each day with the second perspective—recognizing God as my foundation and the source of all good—is infinitely more satisfying. This foundation enables us to witness the harmony of God’s allness as present for ourselves and for others.
So, a mortal self or identity is not the spiritual individuality created by God. By gaining a bigger and more Love-inspired comprehension of our real identity, we realize that our character and nature reflect God’s own nature. We are the reflection of the infinite selfhood of Truth and Love. Through this recognition of myself as God’s own expression, I then perceived the abundance of good, which I could share.
With this as a spiritual foundation, I have witnessed numerous instances of the healing power of divine Love, God. Sharing the unlimited love of God, our Father-Mother, has made a real and positive difference in the lives of both others and myself.
While teaching school quite a few years ago, I encountered a student who felt bitter and sad about having moved through many home situations. She was especially anguished that she recently had to leave her horse and dogs with someone else.
My heart reached out to her. I knew that her fears and grief could be soothed by the comforting knowledge of God’s all-presence. This was an opportunity to be generous of spirit, which is the nature of God, and hence my nature as God’s reflection.
In a brief chat after class, we struck up a friendship, and she asked if we could talk some more after school. My heart reached out to this dear teen, and we set a time to meet. I knew that the consciousness of God’s presence was the harmony, comfort, and healing for her grief and anguish.
I was looking beyond material identity to spiritual individuality.
In later conversations, we talked about how both people and animals are God’s spiritual ideas, and that all of God’s ideas are eternally held in the infinite embrace and care of God, divine Love. She took such pleasure in showing me pictures of her beloved animals, and I began to see her smile again. I saw my young friend smiling more and more over the course of a few weeks. Around that time, her home situation changed once more. This time, she was reunited with her pets, and she was happy and grateful to be caring for them again.
My ability to share spiritual ideas with her came from understanding that we are both reflections of God and, therefore, capable of sharing the unlimited generosity of God’s care and compassion, His divine abundance. I was looking beyond material identity to spiritual individuality. I was following this instruction in the Christian Science textbook: “Mortals must look beyond fading, finite forms, if they would gain the true sense of things” (Science and Health, p. 264 ).
When we have a clearer comprehension of our own spiritual identity, we then realize that mortality and any claim of separation from God’s harmony is not the truth of God’s creation. By prayerfully looking into this larger, more God-inspired understanding of our real selves, we see man’s unlimited ability and capabilities as God’s own reflection.
We can prayerfully affirm for ourselves, with the humility of being Love’s own idea: “I am the true image and likeness of God. I am His clear shining reflection.” In affirming this truth of God’s creating, we know that no claims of mortality or discord of any sort can mar God’s reflection of Himself.
Mrs. Eddy describes God in part as “The great I am; …” (Science and Health, p. 587 ). Therefore, any suggestion of “self-ishness” implies a mortal “I am” apart from God. This suggestion has no foundation. Our identity is not a separate mortal “self” trying to be good or kind, but it is the very expression by God of goodness, purity, wholeness, and generosity.
Rightly knowing ourselves as the spiritual, perfect, shining reflection of God’s infinite selfhood, Love, eliminates all suggestion of any mortal identity apart from God. Being the true image and likeness of God, we confidently move forward, experiencing God’s nature of love and kindness and generosity in all things.