Maintaining Fruitful Progress
How natural it is to desire one's life to be fruitful, purposeful, and a blessing to others—to deeply desire that the fruits of spirituality, health, harmony, and expanding usefulness may appear in our lives as we continue to grow in spiritual understanding. But sometimes the growth that results from earnest study of Christian Science is not maintained. Why is this so? How can fruitful progress be sustained?
In his parable of the sower and the seed Christ Jesus depicts the types of soil (human consciousness) in which the seed of Truth does not flourish, as well as the soil in which it propagates and bears much fruit.
In his interpretation of the parable Jesus refers first to those errors that negate or retard spiritual growth. "Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved." Luke 8:12;
If we hear with the ear but do not listen with the heart, the Word of Truth may be snatched away by devilish suggestions before it can take root in our thought. But we will not be robbed of spiritual inspiration or of the fruitage that results from it if we rid our consciousness of anxious, self-centered thinking and absorption in material interests.
To keep our thought uncluttered by materiality, open to the spiritual ideas God communicates through His Word, we need to know daily that the real man has no Mind apart from God. This man, whom the Scriptures describe as made in the image of God, Spirit, is our only genuine selfhood. Man's individual consciousness is a reflection of the one divine consciousness. He is always attuned to spiritual Truth and expresses it.
In a paragraph referring to stubborn beliefs and theories in the minds of men, Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health, "Superstition, like 'the fowls of the air,' snatches away the good seed before it has sprouted." Science and Health, p. 237; Unless there is a willingness to exchange material beliefs, theories, and practices for the spiritual facts of existence revealed in Christian Science, our progress Spiritward will be slow. Childlike trust and a wholehearted, unreserved acceptance of Truth are essential to steady growth in understanding.
"They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away." Luke 8:13: The Word of Truth uplifts and rejoices the heart, but unless it is pondered, prayed over, and practiced, it does not put down roots into consciousness. Then when testing times come there is no depth of spiritual understanding to draw upon.
It is easy to rejoice in the truth when all is well and no demands are made upon us to prove our faith by our works. But to withstand the stress of physical discords or the pressures of immoral suggestions, strongly rooted spiritual conviction and steadfastness are required.
No falling away from Truth will take place in an hour of temptation if the soil of consciousness has been watchfully tended. Mrs. Eddy writes, "Warmed by the sunshine of Truth, watered by the heavenly dews of Love, the fruits of Christian Science spring upward, and away from the sordid soil of self and matter." Then she asks: "Are we clearing the gardens of thought by uprooting the noxious weeds of passion, malice, envy, and strife? Are we picking away the cold, hard pebbles of selfishness, uncovering the secrets of sin and burnishing anew the hidden gems of Love, that their pure perfection shall appear?" Miscellaneous Writings, p 343;
Watching our thought carefully day by day we will detect fears, dispositional flaws, or false attractions that need ejection. Through fervent daily prayer for ourselves, in which we establish the truth of our spiritual identity and refute the errors of material selfhood, we gain the Christlike understanding that resists temptations to resort to material means for healing or to lower our moral standards.
It is often the cares of human life that hinder, delay, or check spiritual progress. "And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." Luke 8:14; When one is confronted with the demands of a busy household, the care of small children or elderly relatives, the pressures of a career, the argument that there isn't time for deep study, daily prayer, or church activity may seem very plausible. Yet it isn't. By putting God first in our lives, recognizing that spiritual demands take precedence over all else, we not only find time for study, prayer, and participation in church but are also given the ability to fulfill our human obligations wisely and well.
What of the "pleasures of this life"? How do they choke the good seed? Is there anything wrong in having a good time? Of course not. The question is one of emphasis. When pleasure becomes a pursuit, when it occupies thought to the exclusion of all else, when it robs one of time for spiritual research, when it dulls even the desire for spiritual progress, then it is choking the good seed. As we pray for divine wisdom to guide us in the way we apportion our time and in the kinds of relaxation we choose, our recreation will be refreshing and rewarding. When we are willing to let God govern us in the minutiae of our affairs as well as in important matters, our lives become well balanced and fruitful.
Concluding his parable of the sower Christ Jesus describes the soil in which the seed of Truth is fruitful: "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." v. 15;
Honesty is fundamental to spiritual growth. Honesty means far more than being honorable in our dealings with others. It means self-knowledge. It involves self-examination, a turning of the searchlight within to uncover latent fears and errors that need to be eradicated. To maintain fruitful progress, honest self-examination must be continuous rather than sporadic, for erroneous habits of thought, like weeds, tend to reappear.
This is why patience is required in bringing forth fruit. No matter how stubbornly an error may cling to us, if we patiently persevere in realizing that there is nothing in man's God-bestowed, truth-filled consciousness to which error can attach itself, it will be thoroughly uprooted.
How important it is to be patient with ourselves! Such patience is not self-justification but a refusal to be discouraged if the pace of our progress seems slow or if mistakes occur despite our sincerest efforts. When we are patient with ourselves we learn valuable lessons from mistakes and disappointments—lessons that enable us to go forward more wisely and to bring forth fruit more abundantly.
Mrs. Eddy writes, "The natural fruits of Christian Science Mind-healing are harmony, brotherly love, spiritual growth and activity." The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 213. As we steadily assimilate the Word of God, honestly examine thought, and patiently uproot all errors that impede progress, these fruits will appear in our lives in ever-increasing measure.