What intelligence really looks like

Originally appeared online in the teen series: Your Healings - February 16, 2021. 

I was in the last semester of my senior year in college, taking a final exam for a math course. The class was for my major, so I was required to do well in it. But I’d been struggling all semester.

I’d been praying about the class the way I’d learned to in the Christian Science Sunday School—trying to understand more about God as the one, infinite, all-intelligent Mind and about myself as the expression of that supreme intelligence. Well, I was about to see the fruition of those prayers in a very unusual way.

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All the students were in one room, taking the exam on the honor system, while the professor was in his office. The exam consisted of just a few problems. But each had several parts, and it was important to tackle them all. One of the problems stumped me completely. 

After struggling with it for a bit, I walked to the professor’s office to ask for some clarification.  

“Draw a picture,” he told me. 

I was confused and tried to restate my question two more times before he asked, “Do you know the story of Naaman?” 

Now I was even more confused. What did the story of Naaman in the Bible have to do with my question about a math problem? 

He asked me yet again, so I briefly recounted Naaman’s story, explaining that he was a commander of the army of Syria who was afflicted with leprosy. Naaman’s wife had a young maid who suggested that Naaman visit the prophet Elisha for healing. Naaman did, but when Elisha told him to wash in the river Jordan, he was insulted, and thought there were nicer, cleaner rivers to wash in, rivers that fit his status better. So at first, he didn’t do it. Naaman’s servant urged him to listen to Elisha, which he eventually did—and was indeed healed (see II Kings 5:1–14). 

I hadn’t even gotten through the whole story when the light dawned: I realized that the professor was asking me to humbly be obedient to his suggestion, whether or not it made sense to me. 

I walked back to my desk, drew a picture, and was able to understand how to approach the problem. 

Now if I had been attending a religious school, this might not have seemed so strange. But I was at what was considered the most liberal university in the state, and it was highly unusual for this type of discussion to come up in a math class! How did the professor know I would even be receptive to this biblical prompt? 

Maybe he knew, maybe he didn’t. To me, the more significant lesson was the importance of listening. You might call it listening spiritually—with spiritual discernment. Not relying on our own sense of things—even our best sense of things—but relying on Mind to show us what we really need to know.

Seeing ourselves as the expression of divine intelligence is actually about what God knows, what God is showing us.

So often we think about intelligence as relating to how much we know or are able to figure out on our own. But that exchange with my professor taught me that seeing ourselves as the expression of divine intelligence is actually about what God knows, what God is showing us. In this instance, the story of Naaman helped me see that I could follow the professor’s directions, even if initially I couldn’t figure out what they meant. And as I humbly listened to that insight, the path forward became clear. 

I ended up doing well on the exam and passing the class. What has stayed with me, though, is the insight that real intelligence is a spiritual quality. And the more we listen to God, the more intelligence we’ll find ourselves expressing in everything we do. 

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