Breaking free of mental ruts

WHEN I'm convinced that I'm stuck in a rut with incurable habits of thought or action, I remember a pet my family had when I was growing up. He had come from the local animal shelter -- a lean spaniel (mostly springer), a small dog with a cheery disposition. I remember his adjusting easily to my mother's insistence that he be an ``outside dog,'' but he did have one odd habit.

While he had the full run of our ample backyard, he still preferred to get his exercise trotting around the oval perimeter of our flagstone patio. Oh, he would play eagerly with us kids if we were out, but when we left him alone we would peek out the kitchen window and find him pacing around the same path, always in the same direction.

As we look at our lives, are there habits that encourage us to repeat patterns of moral weakness, discouragement, hatred, or self-indulgence? How can we break free of the mental ruts and spring over the obstacles that limit our lives?

We have all felt the frustration of trying to curb appetites, temper passions, and alter routines, only to find things worse than they were before we first promised ourselves to do better. But Christian Science joins with the Bible in encouraging us to stop trying simply to reorganize the human mind and instead earnestly, humbly to put off limited, materialistic thinking.

As Paul wrote to the Romans, ``The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.''1 By its very nature material thinking is limited, defined by biological and environmental factors, perceiving existence in strictly physical, finite terms. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ``The human mind is opposed to God and must be put off, as St. Paul declares.''2 And she says, ``Entirely separate from the belief and dream of material living, is the Life divine, revealing spiritual understanding and the consciousness of man's dominion over the whole earth.''3

This dominion begins with not only admitting the inherent limitation of any supposed intelligence apart from God, but with prayerfully turning to God as the one infinite divine Mind. This includes committing ourselves to the higher desire to understand God, an understanding that includes the perception of man's inherent purity as His child.

Perhaps the greatest indication of our worthiness to be free of bad habits is the fact of God's great love for man. Jesus preached and lived this love with a clear perception of his own dependency on God. He said, ``The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For theFather loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth.''4

This perspective helped me in overcoming years of self-condemnation and feelings of inadequacy about my homemaking skills. I was spending countless hours trying to get the household organized only to have the order completely undone within days. Turning to God in prayer, I yearned to understand a higher order than the human mind's scrambling to be tidy. I glimpsed the fact of God's control over His universe and realized that every member of the household was tenderly embraced in His wise, unfailing care. I saw that the divine Mind truly governed through spiritual law and would meet every need. The peace I felt not only led to a noticeable increase of order; it has contributed to an ongoing buoyancy about housework, despite increased professional demands.

As we approach the deepest concerns of our daily life, how often do we really start from the assumption that God loves us enough to meet every need. Too often I make the mistake of thinking that I have to get my life together and then God will love me more.

Freedom from limitations, errors, and sins comes from the fact that God alone is Mind. It comes from the generosity of God's love, so fresh, so full, so satisfying that we willingly turn from the indulgences that would shrink our perspective of our dominion as His child.

The discipline we need isn't the effort of personal will. The discipline needed is the one of prayer in which we yield to the divine Mind and humbly align ourselves with God's will. The will of divine Love always brings grace, order, beauty, and an expansive sense of our God-given freedom.

1Romans 8:7. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 151. 3Ibid., p. 14. 4John 5:19, 20.

You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Submit yourselves therefore to God. James 4:7

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