FEW things are as discouraging as lack of progress. We have all kinds of phrases for it -- running into a brick wall, spinning our wheels, being stuck in the mud, going nowhere fast, being dead in the water. Sometimes it can look as though everything were conspiring against legitimate forward steps. This can seem especially true in terms of one's moral and spiritual progress. What can we do when we aren't moving forward in this respect? Is there a way to break out of old, habitual ways of thinking and acting and make real progress? Or are we doomed to be what heredity, environment, education, circumstances, and personal temperament appear to have made us?
The answer to these questions lies in seeing just what it is that claims to resist moral and spiritual progress and then getting a clearer vision of what enables us to overcome this resistance and go forward.
Like you, I've had many discouraging periods where I simply wanted to give up on myself. Despite my best efforts at reform, certain ingrained or habitual ways of thinking and acting just don't seem to yield at times. But what I've found out through my study and practice of Christian Science is that these apparent obstacles aren't the real culprit.
The actual enemy of progress is something more fundamental -- the unregenerate carnal, fleshly, or mortal mind. By this is meant the entire belief, or sense, that mind can be in matter, that intelligence is biological and instinctual rather than based in something higher than matter.
Christian Science, contradicting materialistic explanations of consciousness, asserts that God, the divine Mind, is the actual source of identity. The sense of ``I,'' or self-existence, that you and I feel did not originate in matter. It ultimately derives from God, the Bible's great I AM, who expresses this ``I-ness'' in His spiritual creation, which reflects, or mirrors, His individuality and being.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, explains it this way in her major work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``The spiritual man's consciousness and individuality are reflections of God. They are the emanations of Him who is Life, Truth, and Love. Immortal man is not and never was material, but always spiritual and eternal.''1
Now, the human sense of ego is very far from being this divine reflection, and this is our problem. We know very little of ourselves as the real man, the reflection of the one Ego. The material ego or personality is little more than what material science says it is -- a collection of impulses, selfish desires, and self-assertive (so-called) intelligence, coexistent with the brain. This is the enemy -- a sense of intelligence and life in matter and apart from God.
So long as we live in the belief that we are independent, self-existent egos who can do as we please, without regard to God and His laws, we will constantly run up against limitations of this false sense of mind. We will be prisoners of the physical senses, slaves to emotions and human will. We will find ourselves saying with the Apostle Paul, ``The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.''2
The only permanent solution I have found to this predicament of wanting to do good and not seeming to be able to achieve it is the one Paul himself came to see. He intensely wanted to do good but found it impossible to achieve real progress until he realized what he called ``the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.''3 This spiritual law gives one dominion over the carnal mind and its supposed law of sin and death. He found that ``to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.''4
When we find our spiritual progress at a standstill, despite our best efforts, what we are running into is this carnal mind, which Paul insightfully called ``enmity against God.'' What it actually is, is enmity, or resistance, to realizing that God is the only Mind we can have or possess. God is certainly the only Mind that Jesus claimed and acknowledged, and look what this full recognition of Mind's fatherhood enabled him to do for mankind!
We too can gain that Mind ``which was also in Christ Jesus''5 if we are willing to give up personal ego and deny a mind apart from God. To claim God as our Mind and to turn humbly to that Mind in prayer is one of the most freeing, revitalizing things one can do. It is the sure recipe for progress.
1Science and Health, p. 336. 2Romans 7:19. 3Romans 8:2. 4Romans 8:6. 5Philippians 2:5. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: We have the mind of Christ.