THERE we were, two of us sailing a small boat in much stronger winds than we had figured on, sails and shrouds straining, sharp gusts repeatedly driving our leeward rail under water. Yet I felt safe. In spite of what would once have seemed terrifying conditions, I had complete confidence in my friend's skill as a helmsperson and my own as crew. I knew we would make it back safely. And we did.
Five years before, when we first started sailing, we wouldn't even have gone out on a day like this. But since then we had taken lessons, read books -- and then practiced to see how well we had learned our lessons. Over and over, in all kinds of wind, we had practiced. So on this blustery day when the big wind came, we knew what to do.
I saw a clear parallel between that lively sail and what I had learned in Christian Science about spiritual lessons. A strictly material view of existence often does seem terrifying. It appears we're potential victims of chance and circumstance. But when we are able, through prayer that trustingly affirms man's unity with God, to become conscious of true being as safely held under God's care, we bring our experience more and more into line with the harmony of this spiritual reality. This may require many lessons in humility and self-purification. But as we love these lessons and learn them well, we can be confident that God's law will keep us safe and move us forward spiritually, no matter how daunting the storms of material sense may seem.
In the Bible we read that God created man in His image.1 And Christ Jesus' words ``I and my Father are one''2 point to the fact that man is inseparable from his Maker. Throughout his healing ministry the Master lived this oneness. It is our own oneness with God in the spiritual reality of our being that enables us to overcome fear and to find safety -- to follow Jesus' example in our lives.
Is it realistic, you may be wondering, to expect to live as Jesus taught, in the midst of all the burdens and stresses of present-day existence?
We can certainly begin to follow his example. The Master declared that all those who believed on him could do the works that he did,3 which he said his Father enabled him to do.4 ``Come unto me,'' he said. ``Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.''5
Each individual has different lessons to learn in his effort to live a more Christly life. One may need to replace sensual thoughts and actions with more purity. Another to destroy irritability with kindness. And yet another, selfish willfulness with seeking God's guidance. Every day there are countless Christly lessons to learn, for all of us.
When we consistently strive to learn these lessons well, to meet the standards Jesus set (even just a step at a time), patiently weeding out sins of disposition and attitude, we gain more and more confidence in facing -- and growing spiritually through -- even the most frightening human conditions. God is always with us, no matter how bad things may seem.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes: ``Remember, thou canst be brought into no condition, be it ever so severe, where Love has not been before thee and where its tender lesson is not awaiting thee. Therefore despair not nor murmur, for that which seeketh to save, to heal, and to deliver, will guide thee, if thou seekest this guidance.''6
Can we do less than humbly seek God's guidance when the promise of spiritual deliverance is so sure?
It makes no difference whether our particular ``condition'' is a difficult relationship, lack of supply, a job gone wrong, no job at all, physical illness, or whatever; the means of salvation and healing are the same: humble, prayerful cherishing of man's unity with the Father, seeking His guidance, and then following it.
Bringing our lives into line with the Christliness Jesus lived and with the reality of our pure, perfect, spiritual selfhood may seem beyond us if we think we have to accomplish it overnight. But taken step by step -- tender lesson by tender lesson -- it is possible.
When a new sailor starts humbly in a gentle breeze and learns his lessons well, before long he's sailing confidently -- even in a strong wind.
1See Genesis 1:26, 27. 2John 10:30. 3See John 14:12. 4See John 5:19. 5Matthew 11:28, 29. 6The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, pp. 149-150. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! Proverbs 16:16