Many people of different denominations observe Lent, a period of 40 days that culminates in Easter. Its traditional purpose is the penitential preparation of the Christian believer, which often includes prayer, repentance, self-denial, and some soul-searching. In a similar manner, we might all do well to take stock of spiritual ideals and examine how we are living them throughout the year in order to gain a deeper understanding of our unity with God, Life – our only true life.
I’m continually striving to do this. I pray daily to be awakened more keenly to my own and others’ spiritual identity as the dear and valued child of divine Love, our divine Parent, who safely and tenderly cares for each one. I pray to understand that the spiritual selfhood of goodness and peace that characterizes every man, woman, and child is the only selfhood we truly possess. And with this I pray that God show me the powerlessness of evil in whatever way it tries to convince me that there is a selfhood separate from God.
I have felt prompted to ask how self-renunciation figures into my life mentally and spiritually on a daily basis. One of the requirements of following Christ Jesus’ teaching was – and is today – self-denial (see Matthew 16:24). People’s New Testament translates this verse in part: “Let him deny himself. Let him be prepared to say 'no' to many of the strongest cravings of his nature, in the direction more particularly of earthly ease, comfort, dignity, and glory.” Most of us have ample opportunities for this kind of saying no on a daily basis.
Self-denial may sound negative and unpleasant, depriving oneself of something likable, good, or fun. But I’ve found that it means silencing self-interest, self-will, and self-justification, which insist on a selfhood separate from God, the one God, who is All-in-all. What does this kind of sacrifice leave us with? Everything. Striving to understand and to live one’s spiritual nature as the image and likeness of God, Love, brings a prayerful stillness that welcomes the allness of God’s power and presence to prevail in and rule our thought and lives.
Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy understood that accepting a material selfhood as the foundation of life obstructs the ability to grasp one’s God-given harmonious selfhood. She wrote: “Humility is the stepping-stone to a higher recognition of Deity. The mounting sense gathers fresh forms and strange fire from the ashes of dissolving self, and drops the world. Meekness heightens immortal attributes only by removing the dust that dims them. Goodness reveals another scene and another self seemingly rolled up in shades, but brought to light by the evolutions of advancing thought, whereby we discern the power of Truth and Love to heal the sick” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” pp. 1-2).
While larger issues in life often demand great sacrifices of self, I’m finding that my willingness to pause in the little things of life and accept my spiritual identity, where I might otherwise react impatiently, is helping me yield to God’s control – true self-control. I had an opportunity to do this when I needed a new passport so I could leave the country quickly for a family issue. After several brusque “these are the rules” responses to my story, I was informed there was no way to get a passport in less than six weeks.
I decided to leave the situation for the moment and quiet the frustration with a simple prayer that God as divine Principle was positioning, ordering, and moving His ideas according to divine law. This included my life, my being, as God’s child, and it embraced everyone as God’s children and everything having to do with this passport. Soon I felt prompted to call again, and once more told my story with calm conviction. The individual attending me didn’t hesitate for a moment, and the passport arrived within 24 hours. I was happy about that, but so grateful that I gained the greater victory of seeing that the real spiritual identity of each of us is governed by divine Principle.
Humility enables us to say no to selfishness – which we may have to do many times – but it also enables us to admit and assimilate our real identity as God’s child, moment by moment. Allowing the qualities of God, which are innate in us as His creation, to be expressed in our contacts with others and our daily affairs gives God the glory and brings good to our lives and to the world.
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