THERE was a snake in the house! Desert creatures do sometimes stray into people's houses in the Southwest, especially during chilly evenings when someone has left a convenient little opening. But it was a new experience for me to confront one in my new home in the desert. My husband, who would have known what to do, was not only out of town, but out of the country!
That meant I had to deal with it myself! But I didn't know what to do, so I reached out to God in prayer. A few moments later I remembered a relative who is both knowledgeable about and appreciative of reptiles. I telephoned, long distance, for suggestions. She pointed out that I could shut it up in the study, where it was hiding under a couch, stuff a towel under the door, and leave it for my husband to deal with when he got home. I didn't much like that idea. Or, she told me, I could simply remove it in a practical manner that she explained to me --one that was both calm and safe for the snake and for me. Within minutes the snake was back in the desert where it belonged.
Later, while repairing the small slit in the screening near the base of my screen door, I began to think of this experience as an object lesson in maintaining a clear and peaceful consciousness. Often it becomes necessary to take effective action in order to maintain the inherent purity of our thinking. No selfish, hurtful thoughts can be allowed to linger in any corner of consciousness.
The Ten Commandments, found in Exodus, and the Beatitudes, found in Matthew, are proven standards for harmonious human relationships and individual well-being. As a child in the Christian Science Sunday School I had been taught that it was natural for me, as the child of a wholly loving God, to reject thoughts that are not in accordance with these Biblical teachings. To this day, the understanding that I am able, with God's help, to claim perfection, reject imperfection, and witness the results of this practice, keeps me going even in difficult times. ''Be ye therefore perfect,'' admonished Jesus, ''even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect'' (Matthew 5:48).
On a long morning walk several years ago, at a time when I was experiencing a great deal of mental and physical turmoil, I began to realize that I was feeling much resentment, jealousy, and disappointment. I knew such thoughts did not pass the test of the Commandments and Beatitudes. It was time for a thorough mental housecleaning!
The Bible records how Christ Jesus dealt with thoughts that he knew did not come from his Father, God, by dismissing them. Matthew's Gospel records how Jesus firmly rejected any temptation to deviate from his God-appointed mission. Jesus said to the tempter: ''Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve'' (4:10).
I also read this statement in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science: ''We must realize the ability of mental might to offset human misconceptions and to replace them with the life which is spiritual, not material'' (p. 428). I made a conscious effort to use my God-given ability to claim freedom from such thoughts: to replace feelings of resentment with compassion; offset thoughts of disappointment with gratitude; and to counter jealousy with greater appreciation for every good thing that was a part of my day, no matter how small.
The results of this mental self-discipline, practiced over the years, have been remarkable. I received and accepted an invigorating new job offer--one that has given me a greater sense of worth and recognition and has helped to develop latent talents. And along with the new job came a more satisfying perception of home and surroundings.
But the greatest reward was one I had neither asked for nor expected. Gentle feelings of tremendous love and compassionate understanding for those that I had thought had misguided and disappointed me have replaced any resentment or bitterness. Replacing mortal thoughts with spiritual consciousness had required steadfast effort and continuing alertness, but what joy to see the progress!