“We’re getting married.”
It was the beginning of spring break when my dad broke the news. Our family had gone to Florida to hang out at the beach, and there he was, holding hands with his now-fiance. My stomach dropped; it was going to be a long week.
I didn’t dislike my dad’s girlfriend, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for her to join the family. Also, the engagement was a surprise to everyone, and some family members felt hurt. My mom had passed away when I was a kid, and some felt this decision was disrespecting my mom’s memory. Pretty soon, family members stopped talking to each other, and a rift began to open up. As for me, I kept either crying or getting mad and storming off every time my dad tried to talk to me.
I kept getting mad and storming off every time my dad tried to talk to me.
While I wished that everything could just return to the way it was before, I realized that a more realistic approach would be to try to think differently and find some peace about the situation. That’s when I decided to turn to Christian Science. I was looking through the Christian Science Hymnal for inspiration and turned to Hymn 192, which is one I’ve always loved.
The first thing my eyes landed on was the fourth verse, where it says:
Then, with my waking thoughts
Bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs
Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be
Nearer, my God, to Thee.
(Sarah F. Adams)
Even though I’d read this verse before, this time, because of what was going on with my family, I finally got what it was saying: Through our adversities, we can grow closer to God.
The word bethel is from a Hebrew word meaning “house of God.” I wanted to understand what it meant to “raise” bethel. I thought about how Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, uses the word consciousness as a replacement for the word house in the spiritual sense of the twenty-third Psalm given in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (see p. 578). Using that idea, I replaced bethel with “consciousness of God.” Now I could see that the hymn was describing how, when we go through a challenge (or “stony griefs”), we are impelled to raise our thoughts above the difficult or upsetting circumstances to the consciousness of God and His love. Challenges present opportunities to lift our thoughts higher, to the awareness of the unlimited source of good, which is God. This helps us feel closer to God and find peace, answers, and healing.
My dad and I began to have more conversations about how we were feeling. And with my new understanding that Love was governing, things started to make more sense.
The verse from Hymn 192 also reminded me of a passage from Science and Health that says, “Trials teach mortals not to lean on a material staff,—a broken reed, which pierces the heart” (p. 66). I loved this idea: that the trials we go through in life teach us to look beyond the disappointments and limitations of a material view of things. Here, the material view would say that my family could never go back to the way it was before, and that going forward, personal opinions, emotions, and family history would shape and dictate our interactions. But a spiritual view showed me a completely different version of the situation, with God, Love, governing and caring for all of us.
As these insights helped me become more open and willing to work through the problem, I stopped shutting down conversations with my dad. And I actually looked forward to leaning more on God and becoming stronger in my faith through this experience.
My dad and I began to have more conversations about how we were feeling. And with my new understanding that divine Love was governing, things started to make more sense. I stopped feeling my dad was selfish for getting married. And he stopped feeling I was unreasonable for struggling with it. Our relationship began to strengthen, and I enjoyed being with my family again. Soon after my dad got married, I was actually OK with my new stepmother, and we’ve gotten along well ever since.
Through this experience, I realized that we don’t have to be afraid of the difficult things that come up in our lives. When we see each challenge as an opportunity to grow closer to God, we can approach setbacks and obstacles more fearlessly—and look forward to the blessings that come from understanding God a little better.