WHEN I was growing up I used to enjoy television shows that portrayed happy family life. It seemed that the Nelsons and the Andersons would go on forever, living worthy and even enviable lives, and encountering few problems of any significance.
I suppose in some ways my own life echoed theirs, and I probably just assumed things would stay the same indefinitely in our own family circle. But they didn't. Within just a couple of years after college I lost those closest to me, and a new chapter began.
Since then my needs have been wonderfully cared for. But I've also thought a lot more deeply about the concept of permanence. We all have a right to it. We have a right to feel at home, to feel stability and love in an unconditional way. But where can we find these? Things change even in the most ideal settings. And there are many in our world who are alone and homeless.
It's precisely because things do change that we're wise to get better acquainted with the unchangeable. What's unchanging is God's love and our innate sense of His care. While we often tend to focus on what's lost or on what we haven't yet gained, there's still something within us that senses God's loving presence and our own completeness as His offspring. It's this spiritual sense of life, which sees beyond the coming and going and instability, that provides a common denominator, a feeling of continuity.
Too often our standpoint is shaky. We look for stability and comfort in people and in the circumstances of the moment. Yet these change. That's why it's helpful to realize that the source of all good is always God. In fact, God is unchanging good itself. The stability we're looking for, then, isn't so much in a particular set of circumstances as it is in the consciousness of God's nearness. And the satisfaction that lasts isn't so much a product of other people as it is the consciousness of our own wholeness and worthiness as God's children.
''The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal,'' n1 the Bible tells us. Here's a clear statement that permanence is found in the spiritual reality of God and man. And yet how often we look for the eternal in the temporal, in the shifting scenes of human life! How often we anchor our hope in some worldly endeavor when our deepest need is to learn more about God. ''Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life,'' n2 Christ Jesus taught.
n1 II Corinthians 4:18.
n2 John 6:27.
Ultimately, we all need to confront the same demand: to prove our unity with God; to prove, by degrees, our actual spiritual nature as His likeness. But what a wonderful demand this is, because it opens our eyes to the only genuine source of good, to the source of unending peace and fulfillment. Anchoring our faith in God, we find not only a feeling of permanence, not only a clearer view of who we really are, but consistent evidence of God's undying love.
It's a materialistic view of life that would make us feel vulnerable to circumstances and have us pin all our hopes on others. This false sense would prevent us from discerning God's goodness; deprive us of feeling the completeness within that's native to all His offspring.
The need is to cultivate a spiritual sense of life, not only for the peace of mind that's rightfully ours but because the spiritual is the real; it's what endures; it's the very basis of our salvation. Worshiping one God, universal Spirit, in thought and deed, we begin to gain that precious understanding of our unity with Him. Expressing purity and greater compassion for others, we feel more of the good that's synonymous with God. In the quietness of prayer, listening for His voice, we sense the unfailing presence of perfect divine Love, the assurance of our well-being that transcends a haphazard, strictly material view of things. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says: ''Divine Love is our hope, strength, and shield. We have nothing to fear when Love is at the helm of thought, but everything to enjoy on earth and in heaven.'' n3
n3 Miscellaneous Writings, p. 113
This promise is for all, including those struggling with loneliness or homelessness. We can help them as well as ourselves through our prayers, through our heartfelt realization of the permanent spiritual good that belongs to each of us. DAILY BIBLE VERSE We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. II Corinthians 5:1