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Guilty or innocent?

From the March 12, 2018 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Years ago, when I was a teenager, I had a relatively modest experience that taught me an important lesson about understanding my spiritual innocence. 

One summer afternoon, feeling sad and lonely, I decided to have a dish of ice cream. Comfort food. The large container was half full. I grabbed a big spoon, returned to my bedroom, and ate the whole thing.

Very soon my stomach hurt. Now I felt not only sad and lonely, but also guilty and in pain, instead of comforted. Yet, I also knew that suffering is never part of God’s plan for any of His children. So I reached out in prayer to God, our always-loving Father-Mother. 

My simple, heartfelt prayer, a wordless yearning to feel comforted, to feel God’s presence and love, was answered right away. Suddenly I felt completely well, as well as a sense of peace and of being wrapped in God’s love. The sadness vanished along with the stomach pain. An understanding of my inherent, spiritual innocence as a child of God dissolved the discomfort and guilt. 

Innocence had always been part of my true nature as God’s child! This came to light even in the midst of my struggle, not only assuring me of my genuine freedom, but affirming that I would always be loved and cherished, even if I made a mistake. 

As I pondered my healing, this spiritual fact from the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, came to mind: “Innocence and Truth overcome guilt and error” (p. 568). Going forward, I kept this spiritual lesson of my natural, God-given innocence at the forefront of my thought. And it motivated me to make sound moral choices, too. 

At the time of this healing, I regularly attended Christian Science Sunday School. The Bible and Science and Health had often provided healing inspiration, guidance, and correction. I had learned that God, divine Spirit, made man in His image and likeness, and that man is, therefore, completely spiritual—not a mixture of matter and Spirit, but an idea of divine Mind, forever known as innocent, pure, and holy. 

Following my quick healing, a relative unexpectedly made a kind effort to chat with me daily. Before this, he had been distant and cool. Gradually other friendships developed. And I soon had the blessed opportunity to take Primary class instruction in Christian Science.

One of the Beatitudes affirms: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Our goal can be to progressively demonstrate the spiritual qualities that constitute our true identity—qualities such as mental purity, holiness, innocence, self-discipline, self-control, and self-knowledge. This requires ridding ourselves of selfishness and squashing temptations. No small task!

Selfishness yields more and more to Love’s way as we learn to put God first. 

But as we walk with God, He gently guides us in the straight and narrow path of spirituality, of right thinking, right speaking, and right acting. Selfishness yields more and more to Love’s will—Love’s way—as we learn to put God first. We never lose one iota of good by doing so. Mary Baker Eddy provides this guidance on how to live a God-centered life: “The heart that beats mostly for self is seldom alight with love. To live so as to keep human consciousness in constant relation with the divine, the spiritual, and the eternal, is to individualize infinite power; and this is Christian Science” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 160). 

As I have learned over the years, even when we stray we can quickly get back on track, finding healing and reformation as we listen to and lean on God. We can let divine Love transform us, leading us from sense to divine Soul, from matter to Spirit, from error to Truth, and helping us abandon whatever is distracting us from Christly thinking and living.

The real power and authority in our lives is Truth, God, infinite good. We are ably equipped to resist and overcome selfishness and temptations that disguise themselves as our thinking; they are actually suggestions of mortal mind, or what the Apostle Paul termed “the carnal mind.”

Thoughts of sadness and guilt don’t come from God, but from mortal mind, the claim of a mind opposed to God, divine Mind, tempting us to believe a lie about God’s spiritual and perfect creation. God comforts and fills our hearts with a truly lasting and satisfying love and peace. We learn that in spiritual reality we were never truly burdened with inadequacy or guilt, never unloved or unloving, never shadowed by failure or rejection. This doesn’t mean we stop making valiant efforts to be and do good! And it certainly doesn’t mean that we are excused from having to reform. It just means that the focus of these efforts is to more fully understand and express our true nature as the eternal reflection of God’s purity and goodness. 

As our hearts are softened and gentled by Love divine, unloving thoughts melt away; the pure, loving, unselfish thoughts that come from God produce peace through kind words and selfless actions. 

Thinking back to my long-ago “ice cream lesson,” I am grateful for the evidence of God’s loving presence and power governing every detail of my life. God hears our prayers, and He answers them with healing and with the loving assurance of our innocence. In the Bible, Jude’s brief epistle confirming man’s stature as a child of God concludes with this doxology: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 1:24, 25). 

A spiritual understanding of our innocence washes us clean. Making progress along these lines can feel like a struggle, with many setbacks. And yet we can persistently affirm our divine right to divine Mind’s wise guidance and absolute control in everything we do as we go about our day. As we do this, we find increased harmony and joy, perfect timing, clear direction, a wealth of tenderness and patience smoothing our social interactions, and provision for every need when we need it.

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