There's an old proverb, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." You can't get a wonderful product if you have substandard materials to begin with.
I felt for a long time that I was a "sow's ear" in terms of spirituality.
I had made a number of mistakes in the past, some of them catastrophic, and felt that those mistakes would dog me all my life and, worse yet, permanently disqualify me from becoming a better person.
Much of the time, the mistakes were unintentional or the result of unthinking behavior, but they sometimes resulted in hurting others, and I felt bad about that.
This feeling of unworthiness was always there, hiding in the back of my mind, even as I found that the good I was doing was becoming recognized. "But you don't know what I'm really like," I often found myself saying. "If you did, you wouldn't like me."
I even felt I was unworthy to pray to God about this.
At one point, I found myself alone and with recurring and increasing chest pains that were excruciating and alarming. I had for some time been depending on spiritual healing through prayer, and so, even though these seemed debilitating, I really wanted to depend on God.
When things seemed most intense, and I was entertaining thoughts of dying, the thought came very forcefully to me that either I was a witness for God, or I wasn't, and the time had come to choose which I was going to be.
In some ways, it was as though these words of Jesus were directed at me: "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father ... he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:26, 27).
I felt that I needed to take a stand and affirm my willingness to be a complete witness for God, for Life. Right then I declared out loud that I was in fact God's witness, and that I knew Him to be All-power and All-good. I declared that I was God's child and faithful to Him. The pains stopped immediately.
There was one further incident about a week later, but again I turned to God in prayer and affirmed that He was with me and that the pains were not His will. That was the end of it, and there has been no recurrence in the six years since that time.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote in her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "God, without the image and likeness of Himself, would be a nonentity, or Mind unexpressed. He would be without a witness or proof of His own nature" (p. 303).
It's impossible to imagine an unexpressed God, and I saw that my spiritual work was to express God so thoroughly that I could do nothing else. Within days, I began to receive calls from people in my community, asking me to pray for them.
My life turned around completely, and at the height of my career, I left it. Now praying for others is my full-time vocation. I have also learned that God forgives completely. I found I understood more the words from a beloved psalm, "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O Lord" (Ps. 25:7).
I knew that God knew me as sinless, as the embodiment or expression of His own goodness. I've learned that as God's witness, I express God's purity and goodness, and, while I'm striving for the ideal implied as a "silk purse," I've certainly learned I'm not a "sow's ear."
In the place
where it was said unto them,
Ye are not my people;
there shall they be called
the children of the living God.