What do we need to figure out?

Originally published online on July 14, 2022

One of the most distinctive patterns of migration here in the United States is the giant V formation in which geese fly. If you’ve seen this, you’ve probably noticed that often one leg of the V is longer than the other. Do you know why that is?

Well, it’s because there are more geese in that leg.

Now, I apologize for breaching your trust with that terrible joke (whose serious answer likely has to do with aerodynamics). But you know, just because we’ve been presented with a question or a situation doesn’t mean we have to engage with it in the way it’s been presented to us. I’ve found this concept to be a really big help in my practice of Christian Science, and I like the fact that this joke is a gentle reminder of that for me. In other words, we don’t need to work out problems in the context or on the terms of those problems, which are based on false assumptions. Instead, we can rise above the false premise through a diviner perspective and engage with that true basis to eliminate the problem. 

You can’t solve a lie, but sticking with what’s true allows you to see the nothingness of the lie and move forward.

The other day, my throat was very sore, and I was coughing. But instead of praying as I’ve learned to do through the teachings of Christian Science, I was mostly just painfully wondering why I was feeling so bad, why this was happening to me, and why I wasn’t able to just not hurt.

But then that joke came to mind, and I realized that even though I was being confronted with discord, and the pain and frustration definitely seemed to be lodged within me, I still had the right to choose how I was thinking and how I wanted to spend my time. Right away, a favorite psalm from the Bible came to mind. Here are the first five verses of Psalm 148 as paraphrased in The Message by Eugene Peterson:

Praise God from heaven,
        praise him from the mountaintops;
Praise him, all you his angels,
        praise him, all you his warriors,
Praise him, sun and moon,
        praise him, you morning stars;
Praise him, high heaven,
        praise him, heavenly rain clouds;
Praise, oh let them praise the name of God—
        He spoke the word, and there they were! 

This was how I wanted to spend my time—not trying to figure out a painful riddle or merely wondering how to pray before I could get better! Instead, I could reconsider the entire premise underlying the situation. 

Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Man is spiritual, individual, and eternal; material structure is mortal” (p. 173). This, then, must actually be the starting point of a scientifically Christian approach, especially considering Christ Jesus’ continual insistence on the nature of man (each of us) as directly related to and defined by God, Spirit, who created all and is all good. And since this is the starting point, praising God is the perfect place to rest your thought, because then you’re not trying to sort out a discordant, and therefore necessarily false, presentation. You can’t solve a lie, but sticking with what’s true allows you to see the nothingness of the lie and move forward.

Well, I loved diving into the spirit of that psalm, filling my heart with pure praise for God. And very soon I realized that there was no pain or disruption at all in my throat or my thought. I was already really happy because of praising God, and the relief from pain just seemed to be a completely natural companion to that joy.

No matter how entrenched an error seems to be, we can persist in turning to God to show us what He knows and is doing.

There certainly may be times when we need to “dig in” more in our prayers, to really discover the fact that discord is unreal and illegitimate. But we never need to get down in the muck of grappling with discord as a reality before it’s healed. In Christ Jesus’ parable of the tares and the wheat, a landowner discovers there are harmful weeds in his field. But rather than embarking on a concentrated search-and-destroy mission, or apathetically saying, “It is what it is,” the landowner simply stated that it was the work of an enemy and instructed his workers to keep nourishing the fields. He knew that when it was time to harvest the crops, the weeds would clearly stand out so they could be easily gathered without damaging the wheat, and tossed in the fire.

When it appears that something discordant is going on, we don’t have to go on a massive hunt and try to eradicate error through our own efforts. I’ve found that the more I do that, the more likely I am to think the discord is real and somehow belongs to me. Instead, no matter how entrenched an error seems to be, we can persist in turning to God to show us what He knows and is doing. It’s what God has given, who God is, and how God made us that actually counts. Then error is destroyed through realizing that it’s never existed in the first place. 

I’ve also found it helpful to remind myself, “I’m not praying about a problem; I’m praying about God.” Spirit is what I’m praising; Truth is what I’m really interested in; Love is where I’m looking and learning to stay.

In her book Unity of Good Mrs. Eddy says, “To say there is a false claim, called sickness, is to admit all there is of sickness; for it is nothing but a false claim. To be healed, one must lose sight of a false claim. If the claim be present to the thought, then disease becomes as tangible as any reality” (p. 54).

We want to lose sight of the false claim as anything, even as merely a claim—to lose sight of it entirely. I’ve found such delight in realizing that we don’t need to waste time sorting out either bad jokes or mistaken, discordant concepts such as sickness. As children of God, we’re actually spiritual and whole, so even when we don’t feel that way, we can still avail ourselves of this innate relation to God and proceed from that holy, healthy vantage point.

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