Last year I was a resident counselor for a college study-abroad program. It was a 14-week program that involved seven weeks on campus and seven weeks abroad. During these four months, my fiancé and I were planning our wedding, which would happen shortly after my return. It was a happy time to meet new people, travel abroad, and celebrate our upcoming marriage. Happy except for one thing, a sore developed at the corner of my mouth, and it hurt.
Each time I opened my mouth, the sore was re-aggravated. This went on for several weeks. In addition to the pain, I was embarrassed about this condition because I regularly met with students and faculty face to face for my job. I felt like people would be grossed out by my appearance or, worse, they would think I was a bad counselor if I couldn’t even take care of myself and handle my own problems. To top it off, some friends had organized a wedding shower and I felt far from a beautiful bride-to-be.
I prayed each day. At moments, my prayers were no more than a plea to just make the sore go away. I could tell this wasn’t the most genuine motive and that a wholehearted surrender to God was needed, but how?
At this point, I called a Christian Science practitioner. One idea the practitioner shared snapped my thought out of the “me, me, me” pattern of thinking. The practitioner talked about being “hid with Christ in God.” This idea comes from the New Testament letter to the Colossians (3:3). The Colossians had strayed from Jesus’ original teachings and their lives included pagan worship. Maybe these disciples had forgotten the unique power of Jesus’ ministry? They’d looked elsewhere for additional or “back-up” deities.
I saw that, for me, the real problem was not the physical condition but what I perceived other people thought about me. I was so tangled up by the idea of many minds and different personalities who were potentially judging me, that I wasn’t very open to God, the one divine Mind. Pride and vanity had become a “back-up” god. I think I had become accustomed to being in charge and making sure everything was running smoothly. I’d lost sight of the spiritual fact that good comes from God, not personal effort.
“Hid with Christ in God” helped me realize that I was Christlike. I could emulate Christ Jesus who devoted his life and work to God. I couldn’t make a decision, think a thought, or take a step on my own, without the Christ leading the way. Through this better understanding of my flawless connection to God, I felt safe and not judged. I saw that my identity and beauty were based on spiritual qualities, not found in a material body. Finally, I knew that what anyone else thought of me, good, bad, or indifferent, didn’t matter. It felt great to step back from listening to opinions and chatter, especially my own, and feel a beauty and confidence that was secure and divine.
It wasn’t long after that conversation with the practitioner that the sore cleared up. The mental shift was huge. I no longer felt bogged down by what other people thought of me, or even what I thought of me. I knew that there is one perfect man and that’s what God knows. God knows us as whole, balanced, and full of joy. The real victory was to be free from feeling influenced or hurt by human opinions and to be in tune with God.
I know that the ideas I learned from this experience are healing ones because they continue to bring comfort and remind me that I am not the driving force behind my work or relationships. God is the “main event,” to be more exact, the only “event.” Trusting God is not a waste of time or uncertain. In fact, it is the most practical thing we can do. For each one of us, our strength and ability to succeed are not based on mortal measurements or even self-assessment. God knows us and we are safe in God’s knowing.
Madison, Wisconsin, US
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