IT'S fascinating to watch toddlers at play. Over and over again, they persist in whatever it is they want to learn-a balancing skill, how something fits together, even a song-sometimes much to their parents' distraction! Having mastered one skill, they wrestle with the next step in their progress. And the same pattern of mastery follows, sometimes with amazing rapidity.
Are we as diligent in practicing the truths of God and man that Christ Jesus taught us? Two Godlike qualities help: persistence and firmness. Followers of Christ Jesus can be firm in not believing the erroneous, destructive suggestions that come knocking at the door of our thought. There is a spiritual basis for doing this. It is not a technique of the human mind but requires that we have ''the mind of Christ'' (First Corinthians 2:16), divine Mind. God is the one, divine Mind, governing all. Man, God's spiritual image and likeness, reflects this one Mind without interruption.
Speaking of God, the prophet Habakkuk says, ''Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil'' (1:13). God being wholly good, can impart to man only qualities that express His spiritual nature-qualities such as purity, truthfulness, love, harmony, lawfulness, goodness. Allowing only Godlike thoughts to inhabit our consciousness and motivate our actions takes firmness! But the reward for doing so is of much more value than a parent's praise or a schoolteacher's gold star. It is a priceless feeling of closeness to God, and the ever-increasing removal of fear and discord from our lives. What a reward that is!
Disciplining ourselves in the little things, such as being on time, speaking courteously, or being patient, helps us develop the firmness that we need to express when we face larger things-such as a lingering illness or a long-standing sin that we yearn to give up. At such times we can remain alert to heed this wise directive given by the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ''Be firm in your understanding that the divine Mind governs, and that in Science man reflects God's government'' (p. 393).
Closely allied to firmness is persistence. It is an essential element in demonstrating Christian healing as taught in Christian Science. In Science and Health it says, ''There is nothing difficult nor toilsome in this task, when the way is pointed out; but self-denial, sincerity, Christianity, and persistence alone win the prize, as they usually do in every department of life'' (p. 462).
Participants in sports persist in their training, often spending hours daily in training over long periods of time before an event. We might ask ourselves, How diligent and persistent am I in training for the high goal of Christian healing? For leading a holy life? The practical and beautiful thing about persistence in gaining Christliness is that Christliness need not be practiced only in seclusion or in a sports arena! Although initiated and nurtured through quiet study and inspiration, putting spiritual truths into practice takes place in the fabric of daily life. It's there that metaphysical ideas become more than abstractions to us-they become the actual reality and substance that they are.
Like an athlete or musician or anyone who would attain a worthy goal, we advance toward our goal of effectively practicing Christian healing by staying focused on the elements basic to it. What are some of the spiritual basics we need in order to progress spiritually? Here are a few: God is Spirit now and always, and man is His spiritual image and likeness now and forever. Man can never be separated from God, because God is ever present. God is all good, so evil is without power, is nothing. God governs man, and His Christ enables us to persist and be firm in practicing these and other Bible-based fundamentals of Christianity. In this way we are obeying the First Commandment, found in Exodus, ''Thou shalt have no other gods before me'' (20:3).
So don't give up! You can be firm in casting out of thought any suggestion that sin or sickness has power, and can persist in learning and demonstrating the spiritual truths the Bible shows us. Your diligence will be rewarded, as you find out what it means truly to be God's beloved, perfect son and daughter.