No setbacks to spiritual growth

DEEP furrows crossed my brow as I pondered a course of action. It was near the end of a term; students at our boarding school would soon return home for a month's vacation. I was concerned about the effect of the vacation on one student in particular. We had made great gains in the past months. These gains came not only in academics, but also in the A B C's of living. Yet my thought returned repeatedly to his last visit home. In just one short month he had lost much of what he had learned. I felt that his family's lax treatment of him was responsible. In my thought his family stood between him and the growth I'd worked so diligently to bring to fruition. But then my brooding gave way to prayerful consideration of the work I had done with John and of his heartening progress. This growth stood as undeniable evidence of God's love for him. As I prayed about my own fears for the coming vacation, I realized that although I may have helped John, I was not the actual cause of his growth. In the truest sense, God is the only promoter and protector of progre ss. Others (a family, for example) may also express God's love and help, but no one can stop progress. When I reflected on this young man's areas of greatest growth, I saw that they had all been in the moral aspect of his dealings with others. It was evident to others that his daily study of the Bible, coupled with his heartfelt love for God and God's goodness, had supported the progress he'd made. Though his day-to-day actions improved markedly, this was only as a result of his spiritual growth. Spiritual growth includes learning more of the truth of God and man. Perfection describes man's status as the beloved child of God. God Himself is pure and perfect divine Love. He creates man in perfection, and He holds man in that perfection. ``I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it,'' 1 we read in the Bible. So man's real being is rooted in perfection--the power and practicality of which was demonstrated so clearly in Christ Jesus' life (including his marvelous birth and his resurrection) and in his healing works. It was Jesus who said, ``Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.'' 2 Anyone striving to understand the truth of man's perfection as God's image grows spiritually. Daily communion with God through prayer encourages this growth and fosters the spiritual values that should be governing us. This progress results naturally in positive and happy changes--softer ways, perhaps, and a sweeter disposition with more purposeful living. Spiritual growth (the kind that was actually bringing about the changes in my friend John) is not dependent solely on what someone else does or doesn't do to help. And neither can spiritual growth be dependent on the presence or absence of another person. It comes from the individual's efforts to learn more of God. It results from obedience to definite spiritual laws and rules (the Ten Commandments and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, for a start). Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, clearly recognized the absolute right of every man, woman, and child to know the loving Father-Mother God intimately and directly. She discovered that God is divine Principle and that man is the expression of this Principle. And she writes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``For this Principle there is no dynasty, no ecclesiastical monopoly. Its only crowned head is immortal sovereignty. Its only prie st is the spiritualized man.'' 3 Such a truth protects spiritual growth. If this growth results not primarily from interaction with other people, but from obedience to Principle, then of course no personal influences can check or block or drain it. We respond only to good. As I realized these truths for myself, I was able to drop all prideful feeling of personal accomplishment in John's case. I no longer felt concern that something could set back his growth, because it was a treasure shared between him and his Father-Mother God. Such a treasure is untouchable! 1 Ecclesiastes 3:14. 2 Matthew 5:48. 3 Science and Health, p. 141.

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