THERE is a special lake cradled among the green hills of southern New Hampshire where blueberries flourish along the banks and loons call to one another at night. Most tourists on their way to the mountains in the north never notice this out-of-the-way place. But for seven summers my family found a beautiful refuge there. Up to sixteen of us at a time gathered to swim, water-ski, and canoe.
After hearing me tell of these times of fun, my friends would sometimes ask, ``How does your family do it? Don't you ever fight or get annoyed with each other during those two weeks?'' I always answered no, and was a bit puzzled by the question. The harmony my family expressed seemed so natural to me. Sure, with five, sometimes seven youngsters, meals were noisy and hectic. But I can't remember any yelling, tears, or hurtful feuding. The few disagreements that arose were resolved quickly.
Thinking back, I can see how my parents and the other adults tried to keep things simple, delegate responsibilities, and keep a sense of humor. But they did something even more important, as well. They worked to maintain an atmosphere of Christian love and respect.
As Christian Scientists, we were unified in our vision of who was really the head of the family and governing our lives: God, our heavenly Father. God is wholly good and has created man in His image and likeness. This likeness is not found in sinful, feuding, or irritated behavior, but in qualities such as forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and unselfishness. The pure likeness of God --the spiritual expression of all these qualities--is what really constitutes the identity of every person.
Christ Jesus refers to the man of God's creating when he says in the Gospel of Matthew, ``Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect'' (5:48).
There's no question it takes effort to banish the temptation to be resentful or petty. But the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus, and Jesus' own Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew, are as much the recipe for family unity as they are for the salvation of all mankind.
I remember one year in particular when our grandmother mailed a letter to all of us relatives that listed some references for us to study. They were from the Bible and from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. The passages spoke of God's omnipotence and the protection He bestows.
Safety certainly was important to us as a family playing vigorously every day in the water. But we also were reminded that our unity with God, divine Love, constitutes our unity with one another. One reference Grandmother listed from Science and Health reads: ``It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established'' (p. 467).
Contrary to some grotesque television portrayals of family life today, it is natural, divinely natural, for family members to abide together in love. This is more than just being polite and tolerant. Genuine harmony comes when we see others as God created us all: precious, complete, and spiritual, the radiance of His goodness. Then we can't help loving what God loves.