My childhood friends and I loved to go climbing in the local foothills as often as we could. I recall how vigorously we would scale the jagged rocks. During one of our trips, however, my confidence was shaken.
Having climbed fearlessly to the top of a large and very high rock, I positioned myself to leap across to another. The space between the two was narrow enough, perhaps a couple of feet, so it seemed pretty simple. What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was landing on a small section of gravel that immediately gave way. With no edge to latch on to I began a steep slide down the rock, and for a moment believed it would be a hazardous one. Suddenly my feet hit solid ground. Although I hadn’t seen it from my jumping off point, the two rocks were fused together about three feet below. I landed safely on solid ground.
It’s difficult to describe the surprise and elation when I discovered I wasn’t in danger after all. I look back with wonder at how quickly a perception (or misperception) of circumstances can affect us, and turn out to be the reverse of what we believed they were. The climbing experience was suddenly frightening until there was a shift in my viewpoint and I could see there was nothing to be frightened about. If only I’d been aware of that solid ground at the outset.
It’s sort of like that in the midst of our everyday lives, if we haven’t made certain we’re well-grounded as we go forward, banking everything on initial impressions and physical appearances. Familiar as our surroundings may be, would we say they will suffice as the ultimate foundation for a secure life, a life of substance and happiness and health, especially if circumstances unexpectedly go bad.
Even Jesus warned of seeing alarming changes in the world around us. He told his listeners, “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.”
Yet, to stop reading at that point misses what I believe is the crux of his message. He continues, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” He didn’t say your destruction draweth nigh, even though it might look like that.
From a different perspective, seeing events around us in the light of Christian Science, we learn that the appearance of upheaval can indicate the fulfillment of God’s law, not the absence of it. The effect of divine law on the human scene isn’t simply smoothing over the rough spots, making everything more comfortable within an inherently unstable physical universe. Mary Baker Eddy saw divine law as a powerful, transforming influence. She wrote: “The breaking up of material beliefs may seem to be famine and pestilence, want and woe, sin, sickness, and death, which assume new phases until their nothingness appears. These disturbances will continue until the end of error, when all discord will be swallowed up in spiritual Truth.”
The prospect of material disturbances happening and continuing for a period of time can be unsettling. But the teachings of Christian Science give us the spiritual view so necessary for stability, healing, and spiritual growth in such times. They reveal God not as the creator or absentee caretaker of a chaotic universe, whom we plead with to put everything back as it was, but instead as the divine, omnipotent Principle of harmony. God is Spirit, the one supreme Cause who is all good and whose creation is also good and totally spiritual.
To have a spiritual outlook is to acknowledge the good God gives to each of His children, to every individual without exception. It’s to have, as first in our affections and aims, the spiritual sense that reveals the universe, including man, as moving in complete accord with good, as governed by Truth and Love. It takes only a glimpse of insight into the universal activity and supremacy of God to change how we look at our world.
To cultivate a spiritual perspective isn’t to shut our eyes to any agony or destruction on the human scene. It’s to subordinate the material picture to what we perceive spiritually of the truth of being, and to what we learn of God’s will when we turn to Him in prayer.
A friend of mine told how his viewpoint changed as the result of prayer when he found himself moving to a community he had known for many years to be in pretty sad shape. Almost everywhere he looked he’d seen houses in disrepair, few signs of renovation, and new development scarce. Now he was part of this community.
He knew the easy thing to do would be to resign himself to living within the dismal surroundings. But as he prayed something kept urging him to look again, to see what he hadn’t seen before. That impulse, he realized, was the redeeming, divine influence, and the effect it had on my friend was to inspire him to look beyond the surface of things to the presence and activity of spiritual good. That, he realized, was the vibrant foundation of life that was there and that would always be there. He felt determined to see the good that was right there and to draw inspiration and strength and a new perspective from it.
A gradual and noticeable change took place. Instead of the deterioration he had come to see, evidence of repair, rebuilding, and new growth became more obvious. Over the next couple of months he was amazed at the transformation taking place in his community. People were thinking differently about their surroundings. Long-neglected structures were being cared for or replaced. Attitudes among neighbors were improving. This, he felt, was because people there, including himself, were responding to the inspiring, redeeming influence of God.
Christian Science compels us to turn our attention from unstable, shifting, material conditions to a truer, more spiritual view, to what God has created and is expressing. In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy writes: “Spiritual causation is the one question to be considered, for more than all others spiritual causation relates to human progress.” This is how we learn what’s really going on in changing times. This is how we remove fear and uncertainty, drawn from material conclusions, and see more clearly the divine influence redeeming human lives.