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The town meeting began routinely enough. What soon occurred, however, was a dispute between a handful of residents and a land developer. Some pretty sour feelings came to the surface. Wide differences needed to be resolved. A few people were visibly disturbed over certain issues.
And yet, in spite of the differences and the strong statements, there was a point in the meeting when attitudes started to shift. Feelings warmed. There was greater resolve to end the disputes than to have them continue.
When the meeting finally adjourned, only a few minor issues were unresolved, and it was agreed they’d be easily addressed at a later date. In the hallway just outside the meeting room, you could sense a friendlier spirit among those who had attended. People were looking forward to the next step.
I don’t know if anyone could have pinpointed precisely when the mood changed, when the differences narrowed, and compromises emerged. I was there, and I couldn’t tell you of a particular moment or comment that suddenly brought a shift in attitudes. The turnaround appeared to be gradual. I’d say the change began when the people in that room were ready for progress—when they felt a greater conviction that it was time to go forward.
The larger lesson is that those people were responding to an impetus to advance that had been there all along, but that had been ignored or overshadowed by excitement over the issues.
This impetus to progress springs from a rousing, uplifting influence that’s present everywhere and that is always operating, even where issues seem enormous and deeply entrenched. Understanding more about this divine influence, and its infinite source, is the key to a change of disposition, to resolving disputes, to moving forward and establishing harmony wherever needed.
People find that when they open their affections and thoughts to a higher, holier standpoint, things begin to change. They improve. This is the influence of Spirit, God, in human consciousness, with its healing and transforming effect.
The Bible gives us a remarkable insight into the pervasive influence of God. The Psalmist said: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”1 The book of Isaiah speaks of the spirit of the Lord as “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”2 And a New Testament writer recognized the liberating power of Spirit when he wrote, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”3
The Bible’s inspired message convinces us that no one could ever be separated from God and His freeing and healing power. No one. This healing influence, the spirit of Truth and Love, is with everyone, always, as the true idea of God, revealing His love.
This spiritual idea acts to rouse human thought from apathy, and from fixedness on disease and mortality. It uplifts human consciousness by revealing the true nature of man as already reflecting the divine nature—always active and progressive, always loving, always healthy, entirely spiritual, and always at the standpoint of perfection—the very expression of Spirit, God.
There is something for us to do. As we subdue personal will – either to fixate on maintaining the status quo, or to push forward according to some personal plan — we will instead naturally want to know God’s will and follow only that. In Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy describes the attitude that forwards advancement: “Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear,—this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.”
When human thought yields to the divine, attitudes do change, including our own. That, in itself, is progress. Indifference is replaced with compassion. Where there was divisiveness we find unity of action. Cynicism melts when we cease questioning the sincerity and goodness of others and instead acknowledge the actual nature of every individual to be nothing less than loving and truthful, nothing less than what each one of us truly is—the image of God.
No matter how stuck things appear to be, these truths and the transforming power that reveals them are here for everyone to respond to right now. A willing heart and an open mind welcome them. This childlike disposition brings with it progress.
Edited for length from The Christian Science Journal, March 1995