If the divide seems irreparable

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

I was stunned by the letter I had received from a close family member. Its contents raised the spectre of a permanent rift in our relationship because of what I'd done related to some land.

This acreage, located behind my cottage and adjacent to the family member's property, contained something he considered very precious - the remains of two loved relatives, placed there under the false assumption that the land was jointly owned by him and me.

I shared his desire to leave the land in its natural state, but it felt imperative to me to retain ownership so that a septic system that would serve my cottage could be installed on part of that land at some future time.

Every fiber of my being rebelled against a permanent division between us.

As hurtful as his letter was, I could see that the rancorous words were no part of this individual as God sees him. We were both included in God's loving embrace.

These words written by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, came to thought: "The relations of God and man, divine Principle and idea, are indestructible in Science; and Science knows no lapse from nor return to harmony, but holds the divine order or spiritual law, in which God and all that He creates are perfect and eternal, to have remained unchanged in its eternal history" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pp. 470-471).

I let the full import of that statement permeate my consciousness. Whenever I felt disturbed by the issue, I identified myself with God's view of me, embracing my family member in that same circle of Love.

I remembered the Bible story of Abram and Lot, and Abram's generous reply, "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren" (Gen. 13:8). Although it seemed too late for that selfless example to apply to this situation, I knew that the lessons found in Bible stories supersede boundaries of time and space and that no situation is beyond God's redeeming grace.

A month after receiving the letter, I was on a canoe trip. Our guide was affiliated with the local Land Trust, and during the trip, in response to a question, he explained his work with the Trust and how land could be preserved.

His explanation offered the solution that would give my family member the ownership that he felt he should have while protecting both of our interests. In fact, I discovered in a later conversation with the guide that in his capacity with the Land Trust, he had recently visited my property, using it as an example to another camp landowner of what a conservation easement could accomplish. I was so happy as we paddled toward the open water that lay ahead.

A subsequent visit to the Land Trust office and then to my lawyer confirmed that a course of action could be taken that would be agreeable to both parties. Under the lawyer's direction, I wrote a letter to this individual outlining what I had discovered could be done to ensure the protection of the land in perpetuity and to include him on the deed, while honoring my requirements for specific use of the land.

From what seemed like irreparable damage to a close family relationship sprang a bond of understanding and acceptance that washed away the divide. My heart was filled with gratitude over this mutually beneficial settlement.

Throughout this experience, I learned the value of relinquishing reactive emotions, angry rebuttals, and defensive posturing. Placing the ensuing results in God's hands turned the situation around.

During this period, I never ceased to feel the calm and peace of God's presence. I clung to this, stanching any seepage of negativity or resentment. This unfoldment beamed away the shadows whenever the situation came to thought and brought a satisfactory solution that healed the rift and strengthened the bond between us.

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