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‘Gather out the stones’

From the August 3, 2015 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


Backpack
— HAYLEY COOKE

Two teacher friends I know, Todd and Jeff, enjoyed hanging out together, but they were also competitive and often played creative tricks on each other. 

Once, Todd tied a lot of forks and spoons under the hood and on the radiator of Jeff’s car so that when he started the car in the morning to go to work, it would sound as if the engine were clanking and falling apart. Jeff got back at Todd by rearranging his whole classroom, turning all the desks upside down, and adding dozens of plastic flamingos all over the place.

Many times, they went on hikes or played sports together. On one particular hike, they decided to pack into the high country and peak a mountain. Todd, who was very athletic and taught physical education, was surprised at his lack of endurance on this hike. He kept needing to stop on the mountain and rest, and had a slower pace in comparison to Jeff. 

Todd finally arrived at the top, really exhausted. When Todd and Jeff unpacked their backpacks, Todd realized that he had been carrying quite a number of large, heavy rocks, which Jeff had added to Todd’s pack at every resting place along the trail! Todd hadn’t checked out what he was actually carrying, and this made his hike really difficult. 

Isaiah 62:10 encourages us to “gather out the stones”—which is a great metaphor for being active in identifying and removing whatever would drag us down, make us neglect our duty, or inhibit our spiritual growth. 

Just like carrying those rocks, plowing on through our days, without examining what we’re mentally carrying, can limit our forward movement. Heavy thoughts can be added to our daily mental journey without our realizing it, unless we are being alert. 

We might, for example, start to feel burdened or really stressed out. We can start to feel like a victim, or become afraid that something bad is happening (or bound to happen) in our lives, friendships, or bodies. We might think we don’t have what it takes when it comes to school or a career. We may worry about not finding the right relationship that will last. We may even feel the world in front of us is out of control and there’s nothing we can do about it. Heavy burdens to carry, for sure! These fears are all based on mental suggestions that don’t come from God, Mind.

An experienced hiker once said that it’s just as important to know what not to take on a long hike as what to pack. How do we identify early on what we’re mentally accepting for our journey ahead, and assess whether it’s helpful or not? One way is to commit to being a disciple, disciplined in giving time and attention to spiritual preparation. Mary Baker Eddy uses the phrase “in proportion” many times in her writings. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she says, “We approach God, or Life, in proportion to our spirituality, our fidelity to Truth and Love; and in that ratio we know all human need and are able to discern the thought of the sick and the sinning for the purpose of healing them” (p. 95). Also, “The human mind acts more powerfully to offset the discords of matter and the ills of flesh, in proportion as it puts less weight into the material or fleshly scale and more weight into the spiritual scale” (p. 155). 

Proportion is related to the ideas of balance, coherence, consonance, orchestration, harmony, symmetry, and unity. Think of all the ways those concepts are important to your learning, to your relationships, and to your daily victories. Think of how putting weight into those areas can make a difference. Here are a few ideas young students of Christian Science have shared with me, ones that have helped them in praying and listening to God. 

—Wake up just a little bit early and give yourself the gift of spiritual nourishment in prayer before you even get out of bed. Let refreshing thoughts of Spirit’s omnipresence be your first thoughts. 

—Write a note about a spiritual concept that you want to apply through the day. Read it when you can. 

—Stay alert to claims of limitation, oppression, materialism, or contagion in their various forms—from images of hopelessness in the news to celebrity chatter, to coughing and sneezing overheard in class. You can flip the scene, knowing what’s spiritually true with the purpose of healing. Your prayers can contribute to clearing up misconceptions of who we really are. 

—Before sleep, take a few minutes to immerse in the spirit of God’s loving embrace, safety, and comfort. Feel it. Claim it.  

These types of habits promote spiritual growth. Just as we wouldn’t participate in a soccer tournament without giving time to practice, we have to give adequate and consistent time to our spiritual growth.

Think about what you’re carrying that doesn’t serve you, and “gather out the stones” that are weighing you down. Enjoy praising Mind, Life, Soul, in your daily walk, making sure heavy burdens are not imposed on you. Then you can more effectively meet challenges along the way.

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