Does knowing God matter? Recently, a friend confided in me that he hasn’t spent much time praying or trying to understand God better over the last few years.
“To be honest,” he said, “I’m not sure God matters.”
We all have to confront the question of whether God matters, and whether it’s “worth it” to spend time on things of a spiritual nature. The constant distractions, the pace of our day-to-day lives, and a general lack of interest in spirituality can make God seem irrelevant. But consider this. What if every challenge boiled down to a misunderstanding of God? What if our entire ability to move forward, to find healing, and to help the world hinged on having a more correct view of the Divine?
Part of understanding God better involves clearing away misconceptions about God.
Mary Baker Eddy saw the critical importance of gaining the right understanding of God even in an era when God was still mostly “in fashion.” In a talk she gave over a hundred years ago, she told her listeners that our concept of God determines our experience, and our ability to make progress. Likewise, she pointed out that a small, incorrect view of God “limits human thought and action in their goodness, and assigns them mortal fetters in the outset” (The People’s Idea of God, p. 3).
“Mortal fetters” may sound old-fashioned, but basically Eddy is just talking about the limitations we all face, no matter how good or successful our lives seem to be. Maybe they’re the limitations of being labeled as a certain personality type. Maybe they look like limited abilities, our family’s economic status, or even more general limitations like time and age. However those constraints appear, it’s empowering to realize that every single one of them will drop away in proportion as we get clearer, more correct views of God.
Part of understanding God better involves clearing away misconceptions about God that most of the world holds as true. For example, the belief that God is sort of like a human being can creep into our view of God in subtle and deceptive ways. Take one really basic one. One of the first things I learned in the Christian Science Sunday School was that God is the creator and we are His creation—created spiritually in God’s own image and likeness. This means that each of us includes all the qualities of God—like intelligence, strength, grace, and beauty.
At the same time, though—and without even being aware of it—I must have been thinking of God more as a person, bestowing qualities on each of us as He chose. Because it was all too easy to look around at people I admired and to think they’d gotten more of this, or more of that, than I had. I had this flawed sense that maybe we each include all of God’s qualities, but we don’t include all those qualities in equal measure.
This wasn’t even a conscious thing—and I couldn’t have told you that my occasional feelings of inadequacy had anything to do with a misunderstanding of God. But one day, as I was praying, this amazing feeling of God just being God came over me. It was just divine Love being all Love is. Divine Mind being infinite Mind. God as pure Truth, expressing itself everywhere, in everyone, equally, and without limitation.
Every challenge we face can be solved and healed by a correct view of God.
And I suddenly got it: Just as we can’t keep some part of our image from showing in a mirror, God doesn’t pick and choose the aspects of Himself that are reflected. God is being all He is and the outcome of that is us. There’s no partial doling out of qualities, no creation process where something could get left out. “Man is the expression of God’s being,” Eddy explained (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 470). A correct understanding of what God’s infinite being is helps us see the true, infinite nature of what we are.
If we truly knew that every challenge we face could be solved and healed by a correct view of God, how would that change our feelings about spending time with God? Wouldn’t it be like an engine for our prayers, impelling us to go deeper in our understanding, and to allow God to open our eyes a little more each day to all He is?
The busyness of our lives, or the belief that God is irrelevant, may try to lull us into thinking that knowing God doesn’t make a difference. But I’ve seen evidence in my own life that our individual and collective progress depend on our understanding of God. You might even say that knowing God doesn’t just matter. It’s what matters most.