Self-surrender – loss or gain?
A Christian Science perspective.
Many Christians are now observing Lent – a period of 40 days before Easter involving fasting or sacrificing something they cherish, in remembrance of all that Jesus did for humanity.
To me, sacrifice can be seen as the moment-by-moment willingness to put aside material thinking. It means surrendering my personal desires, plans, and motives in order to be more faithful to God's will. His will is always good, and I'm learning that when I'm obedient to it, I'm expressing my identity as His child, made in the image of Love.
As God's likeness, we possess the wholeness, goodness, and power of Love right here and right now, and therefore nothing can be missing. God's love reveals the unbroken, harmonious, spiritual identity we each have.
"To be carnally minded is death," wrote Paul to the Christians in Rome, "but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:6, 7). The carnal mind is always self-centered and dissatisfied. It creates its own envy because it never has enough goodness. It produces its own resentment because it always feels wronged. It always suffers from its inherent selfishness, and is never at peace.
This Easter season, as I reread the account of Jesus's crucifixion, it became clear to me that it was this carnal mind, this material state of thought, that was trying to destroy him through aggression and arrogant power. By contrast, Jesus was willing to sacrifice even his life in order to prove the power and might of God's law to preserve not just himself, but everyone. This was showing each of us that we need to turn away from the carnal mind and yield to God's will in order to find the greatest happiness and blessings.
We can do this because the carnal mind, with its thoughts, motives, and ambitions opposed to God, is not the real mind of any child, man, or woman. God is our Mind. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, wrote, "Self-renunciation of all that constitutes a so-called material man, and the acknowledgment and achievement of his spiritual identity as the child of God, is Science that opens the very flood-gates of heaven; whence good flows into every avenue of being, cleansing mortals of all uncleanness, destroying all suffering, and demonstrating the true image and likeness" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896," p. 185).
Jesus revealed that giving up material thinking for an understanding of one's spiritual nature – our only real nature – preserves life. Even on the cross, his complete yielding to the law of Love as his only authority strengthened him to prove the indestructibility of life in God.
What does this example mean for us? Releasing "the carnal mind" – the ambition, human effort, and fear of losing what we have – and recognizing our affairs as under the divine law of Love, opens the door to more freedom, peace, satisfaction, and wholeness in our lives. The longing, wanting, and seeking to get, which constitute self-will, fade away in the presence of divine Love, which never yearns or wants anything because it includes all good.
Yielding to the divine will means putting one's existence under God's control. This opens our eyes to the emptiness of the carnal mind's promises and encourages us to embrace the law of Love even in the details of our lives.
By giving up the belief that we are material, and embracing our true spirituality, we will be able to better express God-given patience and allow no room for frustration. We will give up bitterness and be more ready to forgive and feel forgiven. We'll also find greater willingness to pray to help others, because self-centeredness is falling away.
I still have a long way to go, but it's clearer to me that God never asks me to give up any of the goodness He is always pouring forth unconditionally. He only wants me to see more of it. The mist that hides the divine nature vanishes. By contrast, giving up material thinking – at Lent or any other time – never leaves a void. Self-surrender triumphs over suffering and shows us that divine Love will truly meet our needs.