I've been thinking a lot about "the third way." It's the solution that's not always immediately apparent but is an implicit possibility in every dilemma. It's the answer that comes to light when we think more deeply and clearly about the problem-solving resources that are available.
Recently I read an article about a Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan, who was giving talks around Europe about a "third way" to resolve the conflicts between Western culture and Islam. He believes that resolution can be found in being faithful to one's religious values. Instead of reacting to the positive or negative elements of one another's cultures, people can look within and respond to the goodness of what is lasting and true (Monitor, May 19).
I began to see that there is a "third way" out of conflicts. Whether faced with making decisions that will affect the future, or confronted by a demand to take a stand on one or another side of some pressing issue, the best way is the one found by turning to spiritual sense. Rather than being led by fear or anger or grief about our circumstances, we can look within to find the qualities that are God's gifts to us. Accepting and expressing them reveal solutions that don't just end conflict; they bless everyone involved.
Some years ago I was living in an area during a health alert. In order to reduce the risk of contagion from a deadly respiratory virus, officials asked that the elderly and very young avoid public places. As the mother of a young child, I wanted to respond in a way that would safeguard my family.
I soon saw that human strategies couldn't adequately meet the problem. Total isolation from others wasn't feasible. There was work to do, mail to pick up, food to buy. On the other hand, trying our luck with public contacts didn't seem responsible or safe.
I found a third way. Prayer. As I understood it through the study of Christian Science, prayer didn't involve begging God to protect us from the problem. Nor was it a blind faith that all human events were His will. Mary Baker Eddy wrote in the textbook of Christian Science, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "When we endow matter with vague spiritual power, - that is, when we do so in our theories, for of course we cannot really endow matter with what it does not and cannot possess, - we disown the Almighty, for such theories lead to one of two things.... To seize the first horn of this dilemma and consider matter as a power in and of itself, is to leave the Creator out of His own universe; while to grasp the other horn of the dilemma and regard God as the creator of matter, is not only to make Him responsible for all disasters, physical and moral, but to announce Him as their source, thereby making Him guilty of maintaining perpetual misrule in the form and under the name of natural law" (pg. 119).
I realized that the way out of this dilemma was through the apprehension of God as Love. My prayer endeavored to understand the completeness of Love, the divine nature embracing all. The more I considered God's love, the calmer and more secure I felt. Beginning each day with prayer and making "reality checks" throughout the day about what I believed to be controlling and governing my family, my community, and our environment provided practical answers.
As fear dissolved and the burden of personal responsibility dropped away, I was able to make good decisions about where to go and what to do. Some days we went out and others we didn't; our response to Spirit determined our plans. And wherever we were, I felt sure we were in God's care.
I believe it was this kind of prayer that put us in places where we could help others. During the two-month-long health alert, instead of being anxious about the spread of contagion, I felt a growing joy with the expanding goodness in my daily thought and how it was blessing everyone.
The "third way" recognizes divine power and Love as the only authority. Jesus told those who cling to a merely material sense of things, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21).
Two thousand years later, we need this understanding more than ever. It's not in the outer circumstances that we will find solutions to human dilemmas; the answer is within. Always intact, always imbued with the authority of Truth and Love, the third way - God's way - is there before us.