If you've ever been to New York City, you've probably seen the Statue of Liberty. The concept called liberty is so effectively represented in that magnificent copper clad figure that people around the world recognize this symbol of victory over oppression.
The combination of copper and steel isn't liberty itself, of course. Clearly, this beautiful statue is a symbol for an important idea. Sometimes, though, the borders between ideas and symbols can become muddied. In fact, it can be quite easy to mix up a physical symbol with a spiritual concept.
For instance, as little children, we may have occasionally mistaken an everyday, material thing called food for the spiritual concept called love. Love is a nonphysical concept. Food obviously isn't. Food isn't a bad thing, but it certainly isn't love. As children, many of us received food as either a big reward or as solace when we didn't feel well: "You don't have to feel sad. How about I make you something really good to eat?" "Comfort food" may then have evolved into "love food." As a result, as adults we might still be searching for that approval, comfort, and love in symbols – foods – and gulp down everything on overflowing plates.
Another blurred border between the spiritual and material relates to the desire to buy things – things that may not be needed. Shopping is a necessity, yet buying something simply because we think we deserve it might indicate looking for love by being on the receiving end of things. It's not hard to understand that we could make that kind of a mix-up and then mistakenly associate gifts with love.
It feels good to be thought of enough to be given a present. That feeling is spiritual, though, and isn't synonymous with the item in the box. And it can work the other way around, too. Gifts we give others can be mixed up with our perception of what love itself is. Gifts are great, but it's important that a gift for someone isn't the only language used to say, "I really love you."
In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts, and exchanges the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul" (p. 269). Metaphysics takes things in a much better direction. Instead of resolving thoughts into things – love into a piece of chocolate cake, for instance – it moves us beyond mortality, into a sense of the present status we each have as immortal creations of God, who is divine Love. That's a big shift. And it's a healthy and progressive one.
In metaphysical reasoning, we're not interested in gathering and consuming more and more objects symbolizing love. We're hungering to feel the love of true Love itself. God is one. Love is one. Therefore, there is only one Love. One Love to desire and reflect as Love's children; and one Love to feed and protect us. In her poem titled "Love," Mrs. Eddy wrote, "Fed by Thy love divine we live,/ For Love alone is Life" ("Poems," p. 7).
It's worth it to allow yourself time each day to feel yourself being fed by divine Love. Sometimes it's good to sit still and feel the power and love of God just flowing through you. At any point in your day, you can sit down at a "meal" of God's love. Or "open a gift" by basking in that love. Through your spiritual sense, you can feel deeply the real, satisfying substance of being utterly loved by your Father-Mother, God.
Many good, wholesome, and healthy benefits come from approaching life by looking to God, to Spirit, for contentment, instead of to matter. Jesus said that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). And Mrs. Eddy commented along these lines, "He advances most in divine Science who meditates most on infinite spiritual substance and intelligence" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 309).
As we hold to the fact that we are one with God, good things start to happen. A deep awareness of true goodness and of God's love sticks with us and satisfies us. After drinking in God's love for a while, in as little as just a matter of days, you're not the same person. You're a better one – and you know it.
"Not matter, but Mind, satisfieth," are the words Mrs. Eddy had inscribed on an edition of souvenir spoons. Only the ideas from the Mind that is God truly satisfy us. Material things can't, and their claim to taking the place of spiritual goodness and love is simply fraudulent. Food, gifts, matter itself, are all mortal, limited conceptions – symbols or characterizations – of divine ideas and qualities of God. Let's go right to the source of love instead of searching for it in the symbols. "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him" (Ps. 34:8).