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Break out of that shell!

From the September 3, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


Every prayer that seeks to break out of self-limiting fears and behaviors and to welcome a spiritual view—a God-view of unchangeable, spiritual good beyond the seeing, touching, tasting, feeling, and smelling of matter—expresses spiritual sense.

Just what is spiritual sense? 

To me, one answer lies in chicks and eggs. How does a chick know to peck out of the shell? He knows that something exists beyond his physical limits. This innate knowing motivates him to peck for something better. If he simply accepted a limited material sense of things, he might consider his shell to be his lot in life and stay inside. Perhaps he would settle for the most comfortable position possible in the shell. 

Does this sound familiar? Do we ever accept fear and limitation as givens? Do we simply accept illness or character flaws as our lot in life and adapt ourselves to cope with unhealthy physical, mental, or moral conditions? 

Settling for a material sense of things involves accepting the continual risk of limitation and degradation. Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures discusses the need to nurture and develop spiritual sense. “Mortals must emerge from this notion of material life as all-in-all. They must peck open their shells with Christian Science, and look outward and upward” (p. 552). 

I believe the demand to peck open our shells stems from the fact that we can do it. Spiritual sense is our natural built-in capacity to recognize what is beautiful, good, true, and liberating. Science and Health describes spiritual sense as “a conscious, constant capacity to understand God” (p. 209). 

To understand God is to recognize divine good. When you examine yourself and what is around you in the light of an understanding of God and His reflection of good throughout creation, you are exercising your spiritual sense. And this is powerful, healing prayer. 

Spiritual sense also “shows the superiority of faith by works over faith in words” (pp. 209–210). This means that expressing spiritual sense isn’t simply a “seeing” thing. It involves “doing” as well. The “works” of spiritual sense are seen in our efforts to break out of the shell of materialism that promises a personal comfort it can never deliver. The confines of our “egg” tend to become less comfortable as we grow. That isn’t a bad thing. Cramped quarters impel us to make the effort to peck our way to better views of God and man. 

Recently, I dealt with severe pain in one foot when walking even short distances. The pain persisted for several months, sometimes waking me at night, until I became worn down by it, and accepted that perhaps it was a given, the new “normal.” I started to accommodate the pain by limiting or avoiding walking. 

Then one day as I was praying, an inspiration struck me. God didn’t limit His creation to invalidism and restriction. As the image of God, who is Spirit, I could no more be confined by a pained or deteriorating material body than light could be sealed up in a rusty barrel. I saw the present possibility of freely moving like an unrestricted beam of light. This spiritual sense of my true being, perceiving God as Spirit and myself as spiritual and unconfined, led to a decision. I would no longer treat myself as an invalid. I stopped avoiding walking, and even began to run, in an effort to peck out of the limitation I had accepted and to express my freedom. Within a short time, the pain was gone and I was healed.

Spiritual sense opens us to clearer views of God and of man as God’s perfect image and likeness. Science and Health explains: “Fixing your gaze on the realities supernal, you will rise to the spiritual consciousness of being, even as the bird which has burst from the egg and preens its wings for a skyward flight” (p. 261).

If you are seeing the good in your life as permanently sourced in Spirit, God, you are probably feeling closer to the infinite All. Spiritual sense is showing you what’s outside of the shell. These clearer views lead out of limitation and fear to a larger and happier life. 

So here’s what I think we can learn from chicks and eggs. We must (because we can): 

Peck: Emerge from the belief that material life with its problems, fears, and limitations is our lot or our only choice.

Preen: Let spiritual sense open us to the enduring, the true facts of God, and see the divine qualities reflected in and around us.

Fly: Spread our spiritual wings. Let new views of divine Life and good carry into how we live, how we love. 

Birds do fly. And so can we!


Michelle Nanouche is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher in Paris, France. She’s also a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship.

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