The ‘I’ and ‘we’ of spiritual identity
A Christian Science perspective: A spiritual response to the questions of ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Who are we?’
Who am I? Who are we? When you get down to it, aren’t those the questions that are roiling Europe and so many other places of turmoil in the world?
My experience has taught me that finding answers to both questions – meaningful, practical, healing answers – takes one thing more than all else: spiritual clarity.
Who am I? People often see their identity as constructed materially, or, at best, as a mixture of the material and spiritual. From a material standpoint, we look at things such as where we were born, who raised us, what our race is, and how much money we have, and we draw conclusions as to what our prospects are in life. But the problem with trying to understand ourselves from a material standpoint is that we can never escape the built-in limitations of a physically based point of view. Our birthplace may seem to saddle us with problems forever. We may wish we had other parents. And a thousand other reasons we may long for another life.
Or we may believe that God created our woefully inadequate human experience – that the divine Spirit has descended into matter and, basically, become responsible for all our ills. Such a view not only blames God for our problems and limitations, but seems to leave nothing but suffering for us and with no way out.
Gratefully, Christ Jesus came to prove otherwise. Jesus saw that God created us in the image of His consummate perfection. Healing after healing related in the Gospels bears out that truth. There is nothing limited, nothing material, in the spiritual perfection God has given us. The prophet Isaiah offered this wise counsel, “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” (Isaiah 2:22). And Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, put the idea succinctly: “Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 475).
You and I, in our true spiritual being, cannot be limited, lost, sick, or desperate, or under any of the myriad of other material conditions. We are God’s spiritual children, loved deeply by the one divine Spirit. Identifying ourselves as purely spiritual helps us begin to answer the question, “Who am I?”
Who are we? Individually we are children of God. But what is our collective identity? We don’t live an isolated existence.
If the “I” reflects God, so must the “we.” “Bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;” Isaiah wrote, “even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isaiah 43:6, 7).
Man, the generic term for all of God’s ideas, reflects Him collectively as well as individually. So whether the human sense of things places us in a certain nation, race, cultural tradition, or any other grouping, we are, in fact, eternally one cohesive unit: the sons and daughters of a good, all-harmonious God.
As an American living in a European country, I have occasionally felt ostracized because of certain perceptions about my nationality. I have had to work hard to always identify myself and those around me as children of God only, as offspring of the one divine Love. I’ve had to be clear that I am not defined by my nationality any more than I am defined by the color of my shirt. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).
It’s God’s spiritual universe we live in. To see all humanity as, in fact, the spiritual ideas of God is to open endless possibilities to us and everyone – Christly, healing possibilities. In Jesus’ words to God about his followers throughout time, “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:22).
Creation as God made it is unfailingly beautiful. The power of spiritual understanding can help make that fact a reality wherever we are.