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If you asked most anyone what things they do every day, some things perhaps repeatedly throughout the day, you can imagine what would make the list. Handling demands at work, running errands, having or preparing meals, cleaning, reading, caring for family members, chatting with friends, being online, watching TV – pretty routine stuff. A priority for Christian Scientists would be prayer no doubt, as well as any specific responsibilities related to church.
What would not occur to most people (and may not always be top-of-mind for some Christian Scientists) also deserves a place on the daily list. It goes hand-in-hand with something we all want – to live a fuller and more satisfied life. It also represents the value we put on a spiritually-centered life. What’s needed is to persistently resist the pull in the opposite direction, the pull to drift along with the common conception of life as purely material, a conception with built-in limitations, inherently changeable and subject to suffering and loss.
Part of what enables us to do this is prayer. Such prayer is based on an understanding that all good comes from God—from Spirit, not matter; an understanding that man isn’t truly a creature of the flesh, vulnerable and lacking, but God’s very image, spiritual and complete.
The material conception is reinforced constantly through pop culture and mass marketing. The barrage of messages tell us of the material products we can’t resist, the material symbols we can count on to enhance our lives, the material conditions that ail us and the material remedies that will cure us.
Buying into this material framework may seem unavoidable. It may at times seem full of promise. Yet below the surface one might also feel something of a vacuum, an absence of inspiration and meaning that can only come as we begin to let go of strictly material dependencies and attractions and commit ourselves to valuing the things of Spirit for the deeper meaning and betterment of others as well as ourselves.
This is a mental shift that takes place as one’s thought opens to the opportunities and guidance derived directly from Spirit. Our wholehearted desire to live a better daily life causes us to question if a materialistic outlook on life can ever fully satisfy us, remove anxiety, dissolve selfishness, and leave us feeling inspired by the infinite possibilities for accomplishing good.
Living a freer, better daily life turns out to be central to the teachings of Christ Jesus. I think of Jesus’ hearers and followers as not all that different from us today, people coming up against all kinds of can’ts and don’ts and don’t-know-how’s, people tired of shortcomings and suffering who have hit rock bottom and are looking for a way to be free. Jesus wanted them to be free and broke the shackles of their conventional, materialistic life-view by introducing them to a new idea of life, an abundant life that is entirely whole and substantial and that already belongs to each one of us – a selfhood that is the image and likeness of Spirit, God.
This spiritual origin and image of life that underpinned Jesus’ teachings is at the heart of the Science of Christianity, discovered by Mary Baker Eddy, and it changes how we think of ourselves and of what we’re able to accomplish. In the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mrs. Eddy tells her readers how they can find greater freedom and a more accurate view of themselves: “The admission to one’s self that man is God’s own likeness sets man free to master the infinite idea.”
That freeing admission, made wholeheartedly day in and day out, serves as a reminder of our connection to God, and it helps us give up thinking constantly of ourselves as the exact opposite, a selfhood apart from divinity, embedded in a matter, with its mortal history and destiny, its inabilities and emptiness.
What we think about and agree with (or disagree with) day-after-day makes a huge difference over the long haul. It’s determines the dominant influence of our thoughts – increasingly spiritual or material — which in turn governs the course our lives take.
By resisting the assumption that material living can somehow save us from the endless troubles and limits of material living, we’re challenging whatever would place limits on the presence and expression of Spirit. That, in turn, makes it easier to see a greater expression of the life and love, the beauty and intelligence that flow from God and that are here to be expressed in our lives. We realize that our real selfhood isn’t in matter. Being the image and likeness of God, it couldn’t be.
Catching even a glimpse of this great spiritual fact is inspiring, and very naturally improves our mental and physical condition. We find that we have the ability to experience more of this improvement as we accept more and more of the true idea of man as God’s likeness and live more in accord with the moral and spiritual laws found in the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Christ Jesus. This is what Christian Science explains as the spiritualization of thought.
That doesn’t mean some down-the-road single event that’s beyond our reach right now. It means the step-by-step change of view that occurs moment-to-moment as we turn from mistaken assumptions about a material sense of existence and keep our thought open to so much more of Spirit, God.
This is about setting and advancing on a course Spiritward. It’s a natural, practical way to go about living a daily life filled with opportunities for doing good for all.