Ghosts of the past

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

An ad for Halloween costumes reminded me of some of my own childhood costumes: Raggedy Ann, a pumpkin that was a cumbersome composite of orange fabric stretched over wire hangers with green felt edging at the base of my paper-bagged head and neck (stem), and a witch. Scattered through the years was the fall-back costume: a ghost.

Even as a child, I didn't believe in ghosts any more than in walking pumpkins or living rag-dolls. While most of us would say we don't believe in ghosts, many of us keep ghosts around in the form of haunting memories or past dark experiences we'd rather forget.

While a memory can serve as a sweet recollection of an especially lovely moment, it can also have a chilling, remorseful side. How do we appreciate the remembrance of good things, and at the same time rid ourselves of images, impressions that transport us to gloom, guilt, or fear? We certainly can be freed from these mental hauntings, or ghostly thoughts.

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Mary Baker Eddy founded this newspaper and wrote a textbook with the purpose of freeing humanity from all sorts of fears and from suffering. She had this to say about ghosts: "The true idea of being is spiritual and immortal, and from this it follows that whatever is laid off is the ghost, some unreal belief" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 353).

It is indeed encouraging that these beliefs that are spiritually unreal – that is, not made by or known to God, – can be laid off.

St. Paul, who was able to leave his past behind in order to heal and teach an active and loving Christianity, taught the same point. He spoke to the Philippians: "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you" (Phil. 3:13-15).

Once when I was haunted by unhappy memories, I was able to break through them by a deep desire to help others. I found that one of the aspects of the ghosts I was keeping around was that they appeared to immobilize my efforts to pray for others, as well as for myself.

Little by little, through claiming that God, divine Mind, is the true source of my thought, and the only source, I was able to be free from images of past mistakes. In particular, one morning, I was pondering the Ten Commandments. I saw each commandment supporting the way God made me, and all of us. When I got to the fourth one, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:8), it dawned on me that this was the exact remedy I needed in order to drop these chains.

To me, God was telling me exactly what to remember. In attributing all days as His days, Sabbath, or holy days, I could see His ever-presence. There could never be a day or an occasion for any other presence.

Mrs. Eddy wrote, "He fills all space..." ("Science and Health," p. 331). This showed me that God enables us to relinquish the moments of darkness and to understand that the divine ever-presence is present now and was present then. Never had I drifted from God.

Letting God tell me what to remember has remained a tender lesson. I try, now with more wisdom, not to keep ghosts around. They just get in the way of remembering God.

Be not afraid of sudden fear.... For the Lord
shall be thy confidence,
and shall keep thy foot
from being taken.
Proverbs 3:25, 26

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