Relationships: That extra bonus

First published in the Christian Science Sentinel

It can be like putting the cart before the horse! Selfish prayer, that is. It's obvious that a cart cannot pull a horse. And the idea of a horse pushing a cart is truly absurd. But until I felt the confidence that unselfed prayer gives - prayer that yearns first and foremost just to know about God and hear His direction - I hadn't seen a connection.

I've now concluded that praying to God mainly to find my self is almost like trying to pull God along behind. Prayer, after all, should be learning of God, from God Himself, for the sheer joy of grasping the fact of His unfathomable everywhereness. For the delight in hearing His turn of phrase, His humor; feeling His love and care; and glimpsing His creating.

You see, I used to throw myself into prayer to understand that as God's child, spirituality, health, and happiness were all mine. I'd give myself prayer treatments, memorize sections from the Bible and Science and Health, study the Christian Science Bible Lesson, even get on my knees. But only when I got my priorities straight did I feel what Jesus perhaps meant when he said, "Thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matt. 6:6). And that priority, I found, was starting with God to know God. Then, yes, I did find myself - as His satisfied spiritual daughter, and so much more.

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It's that more part that always astounds me. That extra bonus that comes from putting God first to let Him pull me along.

Recently I was preparing to attend my son's wedding. I'd made my reservations, bought gifts, and solved the what-shall-I-wear question. Yet there was a nagging feeling that something else needed to be done. But I didn't know what. So I decided to ask God, and particularly listened for ideas that would speak to me of God as Soul. The prayer was no longer so much about what I needed to know as about what God already knew.

As I turned my heart fully to hear what God would say about Himself, it came to me that Soul can be thought of as the Definer - defining moments and hours, people and relationships. Definitions that are already in place. My very identity is established in God. And the wedding was safe as well in that same defining.

It was interesting to me that during this process, my love for everyone deepened - for the bride and her family, and even for my son, whom I thought I already loved beyond words. I felt embraced in a seamless process of bringing love, of finding love, of moving in divine Love.

Allowing the idea of God, Soul, as Definer, to lead my thought and settle in my heart, stayed with me, and set me to admitting this truth for everyone.

Then, unexpectedly, I thought about when my brother and I were in college and our mom passed away. Within a few years Dad remarried. Decades went by with strained relationships, at best. I justified my unloving attitude, because, after all, Dad's wife clearly considered the family to be an inconvenience and the two of them moved thousands of miles away.

However, I tenaciously worked to maintain a relationship with my dad and made an effort to love his wife. And when she realized in their older years that they needed someone to turn to, she tried to make amends. Several years ago she passed away, but I have to admit that I still felt justified in not truly caring for her.

Then, without warning, Soul slipped her name into my thought as one He had defined. It was a gentle, quiet suggestion, and decades of ill-will and blame simply fell away. Gone. I had admitted to myself that God alone defined her. Furthermore, I was flooded with gratitude that she was safe in divine Love. This inclusive love from the Divine spilled all over, and I felt my mental arms wrap around others I perhaps had not been willing for my heart to embrace - and the conviction remains that grace and peace are everywhere.

If I had not been watching, listening, and making the effort first to learn more about God, I'd have missed it all. And I'd still be trying to push the cart.

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