DO trees and shrubs like being pruned? At first I thought it was a silly question, but I wondered about this as I saw the neighbors' mulberry trees being completely cut back for the winter. Those unfamiliar with this type of tree might think that the bare trunk is dead. But the mulberry is just resting, rooting deeply into the earth, and getting ready to burst forth in the spring with all new branches and large green leaves. A few years ago I went through a chastening experience that seemed about as severe as what happened to those mulberry trees. My life had become overgrown with responsibilities, stress, and troubles of all kinds. I was struggling constantly in an attempt to stay on top of things. And then, through a series of changes, almost all of the former life was gone. At first I wondered if there was any ``me'' left, and I wasn't sure how I could go on.
Perhaps you're facing a similar experience. Over the years we can fall into the unthinking habit of defining our lives solely in terms of the things around us -- the people, the places, our achievements and activities. But as special as people and life experiences are, there is more to life than a collection of memories and things. Challenging times require that we dig deeper and expand our understanding of who we really are.
Christ Jesus had a lot to tell us about our real identity. For example, he said: ``A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth''1 and ``I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.''2
Certainly, true life, life as God has actually created it, is infinitely more and better than the precarious, materialistic sense of existence that we call life. Jesus' wonderful works, including the healing of sickness and sin, pointed to man's God-ordained freedom and spiritual wholeness. He told his followers, ``Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.''3
Such sinless spirituality may seem pretty far removed from us as we face what looks like bleak and challenging times. But it doesn't have to be. Christ's tender, healing presence is as much with us today as in Biblical times. As Mary Baker Eddy4 writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to man speaking to the human consciousness.''5
When we humbly listen to what the Christ is telling us, we begin to learn about our real, spiritual selfhood -- the life in Christ that expresses God's abundant goodness and wholeness and love. Science and Health says: ``The offspring of God start not from matter or ephemeral dust. They are in and of Spirit, divine Mind, and so forever continue.''6
Seeing something of our spiritual heritage, we come to realize that we aren't starting over at all but continuing on. Just as the mulberry tree is alive and vital even when the branches are pruned back, so the heart and wholeness of our lives are not diminished by the things that go on around us. And this was proved true in my own experience. I now look back on it in gratitude for the wonderful inner peace I gained.
Whatever we seem to lack now -- health and soundness, love and companionship, necessary provision -- we can be confident. As we humbly and sincerely follow Christ, the spiritual completeness each of us truly has as God's image will show itself in new and satisfying ways.
1Luke 12:15. 2John 10:10. 3Matthew 5:48. 4The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 5Science and Health, p. 332. 6Ibid., p. 267.