Many people seek spirituality. They seek to incorporate not only spiritual practices but spiritual qualities into their lives. And this desire to express spiritual qualities, such as patience, forgiveness, and compassion, is laudable. It’s really about expressing the nature of God. When we are hungering for right thinking and acting, it’s a good place for our hearts to be.
But it can also be frustrating when, in our practice of expressing these qualities of God, we find ourselves coming up short. We want to be more patient, for instance, but keep losing our patience, maybe over and over again.
The Apostle Paul expressed this frustration in his letter to the Romans: “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (7:18, 19, New Living Translation). This is a human dilemma, experienced by spiritual seekers through the ages.
As a student of Christian Science, I had a strong desire to express the qualities of God to a greater degree in my life. I felt that it was my responsibility to figure out how to be more patient, compassionate, selfless, etc. I wasn’t necessarily aware of it, but I think I was relying to some extent on human willpower. It was a struggle, and not a very successful one.
One day I read a sentence by the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, that turned the whole idea of struggling to express God, good, upside down – or maybe I should say, right side up! It’s in her seminal book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.”
She wrote, “God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis” (p. 258). Oh! I realized I could stop struggling to express God in patience, for instance, and let God express infinite patience in me. I could stop struggling to be more spiritual, because God is expressing in me the infinite idea of spirituality – forever developing itself. What a relief!
This doesn’t mean that we have nothing to do. Our part is to be open and available to Spirit using us for Spirit’s purposes – to open our hearts to truth and love and let them be expressed in us. Paul came to that realization when he wrote in the next chapter of his letter to the Romans: “Letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (8:6, NLT). He recognized that the source for expressing spiritual qualities wasn’t human effort but Spirit itself.
Mrs. Eddy once wrote in a note: “The design of Christian Science is to open the human heart to the direct influence of the divine nature” (A10903 © The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library). This is a much more rewarding and successful approach.