The woman in line at the bakery commented rather grimly, “It’s going to be a miserable week.” It was the kind of remark you overhear without giving it much attention. Yet it came on the heels of similar negative comments I’d heard over the weekend. One had to do with inevitable deterioration, one with imminent personal loss, another with injustice that was to be expected. Taken all together, it was a gloomy outlook.
As I recalled the comments I’d overheard, a couple of other statements came to thought, as if to give me a counter-perspective. Both were made by Jesus. One is “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” The other is “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
We don’t tend to think of predictions picked up in random conversations as prophecies exactly. Still, the definition fits. One definition of prophecy is “any prediction.” Perhaps the casual, innocent way these predictions are made is a kind of “sheep’s clothing,” causing them to appear harmless.
But are they?
People have known for some time that persuasive suggestions, intentional or unintentional, can have a mesmeric effect. In the late 1800s Mary Baker Eddy described the effects of mental suggestion in unmistakable terms. In an article included in her Miscellaneous Writings, referring to the difference between right mental practice and wrong mental practice, she wrote that if “… people believe a man is sick and knows it, and speak of him as being sick, put it into the minds of others that he is sick, publish it in the newspapers that he is failing, and persist in this action of mind over mind, it follows that he will believe that he is sick….”
In the light of what Mrs. Eddy observed about the effects of mental suggestion, it’s important to be guarded over what we take in as legitimate, regardless of how harmless or trivial the comments appear to be.
A man I know found himself feeling less and less cheerful over a period of a couple of weeks until he finally became quite depressed, and for no apparent reason. He’s a student of Christian Science and prayed to know what he needed to know and do in order to end the depression and be happy again. It occurred to him how complacent he’d become about watching what he was taking in of the gloomy predictions he’d picked up throughout his travels and in various conversations. Although the comments he heard hadn’t necessarily been shared with him directly, nonetheless he found himself subtly influenced by what he had heard. It felt like a spell he was under.
Yet a clearer understanding of the allness of God, good, broke through the mental darkness and quickly freed him from the gloominess.
It’s natural to want to go about our normal activities, talk to friends, meet new people, free from the concern that a negative comment or a dreary outlook will drag us down. As my friend learned, we have to watch carefully what we take in of all that we see and hear. We can do even more to maintain our peace of mind by understanding the spiritual basis for a sound and genuinely brighter perspective.
This basis is found in what Jesus taught about the kingdom of heaven at hand. This heavenly mentality is the perception of the spiritual truth that creation must be the outcome of its all-good, all harmonious Creator, God. Even a glimpse of this spiritual fact begins at once to improve our expectations and outlook. It counteracts any drag of dark, human views.
Does it take some kind of a prophet to see this? In one sense, it does. Science and Health describes prophet as “a spiritual seer; disappearance of material sense before the conscious facts of spiritual Truth.” As the textbook of Christian Science explains, each of us has the capacity to be a spiritual seer—that is, to discern more of God’s presence, wherever we are, whenever we turn wholeheartedly to God.
Spiritual perception isn’t limited to a particular time or location. It doesn’t matter if we’re on a mountaintop or mowing the lawn. We have the God-given capacity to perceive more of the intelligence and order of all that God made, and to feel His ceaseless care. This perception isn’t merely some Pollyanna outlook, ignoring tough situations or overlooking human suffering.
Quite the contrary. We need to face up to difficulties. And through exercising our spiritual perception we’re doing so in the most effective way for the purpose of healing. It is sometimes in the midst of wrenching human struggles, when we’re doing everything we know how to do to find an answer, that we actually make our greatest effort to see more of God’s harmonious government in action.
In those moments when we perceive more of the spiritual facts of being, we learn the healing effect of being a spiritual seer.
Such an outlook, far from superficial positive thinking, will have a concrete, healing effect because it will bring to light the spiritual reality of God’s goodness, always at hand.
Not a bad message for us to hear.