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Shaped by God, not society

From the September 21, 2015 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

There’s nothing more precious than our identity. It is our link to God. Our true identity is shaped by no time, society, genetic code, or material history. It is too sacred to be shaped by anything but God—or to be anything but spiritual.

Loving who we are is vitally important because it comes of knowing ourselves as God made us to be. If God is good and holy, by simple logic that which He creates must be good and holy. God, Spirit, could not possibly create anything flawed, illegitimate, inconsistent, unnecessary, or unloved. 

Our God-given spiritual individuality is altogether beautiful because God is expressing Himself in us freely and clearly. The form of this identity isn’t a material form, but an identity of spiritual character (the “express image” of God, reflecting the divine character, as the Bible indicates in Hebrews 1:3), shown to us in moments of inspiration, forgiveness, honesty, unselfishness, and love.

What we truly long for is our precious God-given worth. 

Today’s intense focus on material personality would cloud our ability to see the spiritual nature of our identity and make us feel unsure of who we are—for whatever is material inevitably changes, disappoints, and disappears, satisfying us only temporarily before a yearning for something more arises. What we truly long for is our precious God-given worth. 

More and more, society is demanding that a material body be worshipped and legitimized as our identity. This obsession has driven untold numbers of people to disparage, rather than love, themselves. It cannot possibly be who we truly are because it is not lasting. Our exquisite God-given spiritual individuality alone is true and real, and alone satisfies, because it is permanent. 

At one point Christ Jesus gave three of his disciples a glimpse of true identity in a moment that has since been called the transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1–8). What I love about the account is that there was nothing vague about the individuals whom the disciples saw, as they readily recognized Moses and Elias with whom the Master was speaking. 

Here was solid proof that the true identity of these men, who had lived hundreds of years before, could not be changed or altered any more than God could be. Most important, no one is without this radiant, immutable, and eternal spiritual individuality.

Some years ago, a young friend reached out to me for comfort because she was struggling with messy feelings of past mistakes, and she feared that these mistakes had had an effect on her children—or influenced their identity in some way. An idea that brought both clarity and comfort was that there is truly only one generation: God and His creation—blessed, not cursed; forever spiritual in nature and forever in divine Love’s keeping. 

In all cases, our understanding of creation must be given back to God. Every question about our identity must be seen as an invitation to understand and love more the God who made us—and to love ourselves as we have been spiritually made to be. And it is never too late to do this. 

The Master speaks of becoming as little children (see, for example, Matthew 18:3). This could only mean that we are free to expunge (remove completely) the godless beliefs of material origins and discover our pure, God-given selfhood. This “becoming” is inevitable, for it is already our being, which we do not create, but awake to. And this was the case with my friend whom I watched discover the joy of her unchanged spiritual worth, as well as the assurance that her children belonged to God “before the world was” (John 17:5).

Since that experience I’ve come to understand that not only does matter claim to usurp the power of God and be a creator, but inevitably questions what it has created. Spirit forever delights in its creation and the beauty of holiness. And so, I’ve found it helpful to declare daily that neither I, nor anyone, has ever been shaped or misshaped, held, hurt, defined, or described (at any time) by matter. We are purely and provably God’s own. 

The individuality of God’s creating, the Christ, was most clearly seen in the life of Jesus. But it will sooner or later be recognized as the true nature of us all. No fleeting sense of material personality can forever hide our spiritual nature, for this nature—and all the goodness, beauty, honesty, and love it expresses—is simply too real to be hid. 

The healing work of Jesus resulted in giving those healed a clearer sense of life in and of God. They must have glimpsed something of what the Psalmist wrote: “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalms 100:3). 

This truth is reiterated in a passage in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “Man’s genuine selfhood is recognizable only in what is good and true. Man is neither self-made nor made by mortals. God created man” (p. 294).

Science and Health also uses the term self-made in its definition of devil (see p. 584). It makes clear that whatever appears to be self-made is a belief—devilish in its claim that something other than God has the right, might, or ability to create or define us. The false, material sense of identity (and it is only a sense of identity, not a real identity) must give place to the real, to what God has made. 

We are purely and provably God’s own.

The point dawns slowly that we allow ourselves to be shaped by society and its standards, expectations, whims, and will. This is not only unnatural; it is at a tremendous expense—delaying the discovery of our God-given life and purpose, which alone give happiness. If we are following a merely mortal life model (however apparently popular and legitimate), then we are not following God and finding out what He has made us to be and do, and the result will be unhappiness. 

I was forced to learn this at one point when I found myself unemployed. Various careers and years of hard work had come to naught. Yet, I held on to the biblical promise that God “hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace” (II Timothy 1:9).                  

A wonderful, new opportunity for self-employment soon presented itself, but it seemed to require getting a loan. The thought of getting a loan and being in debt was of great concern. Yet, more important, I yearned to be God-directed and not humanly driven. I genuinely wanted to know what God intended me to do, and to feel that deep peace that comes from God.

A few days later I opened my Bible to the words, “Thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow” (Deuteronomy 15:6). A week after I read those words, a friend called. He wondered if I would help with a project involving a man from Bosnia—a journalist whose work during the Bosnian war was extremely valuable. The problem, my friend said, was that there was no money to pay me. 

However modest my help was, here was the first “nation” I was being asked to lend to. In obedience to the biblical directive, I never got a loan, and since that day I have worked continually in or with countries all over the world, with financial needs being met through prayer rather than through typical human means.  

Our spiritual individuality isn’t optional, changeable, or questionable. It’s beautiful, it’s purposeful, it’s from God, and it’s eternally ours. We cannot lose what God has made us to be, and we cannot be less than what God has made us to be, because we reflect the living God. Loving the God who made us is also feeling God’s love for us. It frees us to love ourselves, perhaps for the very first time. This very moment.

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