IT came as a surprise, at first, to see on the television screen women in helmets and uniforms, saying goodbye to their husbands and children and heading off to the Persian Gulf. Although excluded from combat missions, women are right alongside the men, supporting fighting missions, operating high-tech equipment, even refueling fighter planes in midair. In fact, men and women in the war zone are working together as never before.
We can include all these men and women in our fervent prayers. Such prayer, however, need not start from the premise that womanhood is weak or lacking in what is required to cope with wartime conditions. Instead, prayer can help us to recognize even more of the true capacity of womanhood.
When the disciples asked Christ Jesus to teach them to pray, he gave them the prayer which is known as the Lord's Prayer. It starts with the concept that we are all children of God, and therefore are members of a universal family. Jesus said, ``Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.''
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, knew the importance of the prayer Jesus employed to heal sickness and sin. And her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures also describes God as the loving Parent of all He creates: ``Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation.''
When we begin to recognize ourselves and everyone else as God's offspring, made in His image and wholly spiritual, we find not only a more universal sense of family but also a strengthened conviction of our own completeness and balance. Turning to God, divine Love, in prayer and gaining a fuller understanding of Him as our true Father-Mother, helps us to see that the children of God cannot lack the completeness of their creator.
Traditional stereotypes of male and female roles don't offer a very good guide to true manhood and womanhood. In Christian Science, the generic term man is not used to describe a certain kind of mortal but rather the man of God's creating -- man who is, in reality, the full reflection of his Father-Mother, God. We each, in our true spiritual nature, express stability and strength balanced by sensitivity and grace.
Spiritual ability will never be measured by gender. Christ, the divine nature expressed so fully by Jesus, gives to the world an enlarged perception of man's completeness as God's expression. Every time we demonstrate even a little of this wholeness in our lives, we express quite naturally more of the fatherhood and motherhood of God. It is not unusual to see fathers sharing equally with their wives in caring for a young family. And we all know of mothers who are strong and courageous in disciplining and protecting their children as a father would. Tenderness, love, justice, wisdom, and strength belong equally to men and women because they express the very nature of God. These spiritual attributes can be found by those serving in the war zone as well as on the home front.
Through prayer each of us can make new discoveries of our true spiritual nature. Womanhood, we learn, is not lesser humanhood, nor are its qualities restricted to females. Womanhood is an expression of the God who is both Father and Mother. It is essentially strong, and is often found leading the way.
This is a condensed version of an editorial that will appear in the March 18 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.