Up and out of mental darkness

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

She had carefully curled gray hair and wore granny glasses - the kind you sometimes see perched on a grandmother's nose. I remember the lush garden she had out the back door and the homey smell of a roast cooking when we arrived for a visit. Her modest house was neat and orderly with the grocery bags carefully folded and stacked in the closet.

I was only 8 when her funeral was quietly arranged. It was some years later I learned that my grandmother had committed suicide.

It's an incongruous image, I know. A grandma is supposed to be that safe haven in a child's life, a sweet-smelling perfume that lingers in the room after she's taken the plate of cookies back to the kitchen, a smudge of lipstick left on a cheek, a wink that says bedtime will be a little later that night so a few more fireflies can be caught.

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Grandmothers are not supposed to be the kind of people to take their own lives.

Yet, in my late teens, I began to understand what could impel my grandmother to such an act of desperation. I was laboring under my own mental burdens - a hereditary predilection, I was told, toward instability and depression. There was no real logic for the darkness that so engulfed me, but knowing that alone wasn't enough to release me from it, either.

I was told my grandmother was an avowed atheist. At the time I was battling these bouts of depression, I wasn't sure a God existed, either. I had gone to several Sunday Schools, including one in a Christian Science church, so I had heard about God. It's just that in the middle of this pervasive discouragement, I didn't think I could feel the presence of God.

Maybe God existed for other people. Just not for me or my grandmother.

Looking back on my emergence from that turbulent period, I can see that it wasn't my efforts that lifted me out of those self- destructive impulses. I don't recall even having the inclination to do so. It was more that evidence of God's love was breaking into my life like sunlight piercing through an overcast sky.

Almost daily there was some indication of good going on: a teacher's kind remark, a friend's thoughtful invitation, the coziness of a cat curled up on my chest. Love, tenderness, joy - all these were companioning me, even if I wasn't outwardly acknowledging it.

Without realizing it, I was experiencing the tender persistence of the Christ message - the unquenchable love of God for each one of us.

Mary Baker Eddy celebrated this transcendent power to dissipate the "murky clouds" of human experience in a poem called "Christmas Morn." Christ, she wrote, is that "gentle beam of living Love,/ And deathless Life!" ("Poems," p. 29).

The Christ, Truth, that Jesus lived and shared with humanity has an abiding power to penetrate the darkness felt in any life and to awaken us to a deeper sense of our own value, purpose, and mission here and now. We become aware of God's presence in our lives, and the spiritual love and approval that pour in with that realization.

In turn, we can't help reflecting a measure of that gentle beam of living Love and deathless Life to others, encouraging them and strengthening their ability to perceive the divine light in their own lives.

No one remains untouched by God's love. I have gained a deep confidence that even my grandmother has since learned of her own relation to the deathless Life of Christ; that has rediscovered her precious worth as a daughter of God.

And that tattered way of thinking I used to wrap myself in is like an old coat I've left behind. It's hard to remember I ever even wore it. The consciousness and conviction I feel in my - our - inseparability from divine Love clothe me with fresh joy each day. As the prophet Isaiah sang, the Christ message has given me a new wardrobe: "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isa. 61:3).

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