Spiritual development

I'VE been intrigued to see the number of books and films that trace mankind's evolution and humanity's developing physical appearance and capacity. This is certainly a popular subject, and the presentations are often very interesting. But there's another kind of development that isn't given nearly as much prominence, and that's the cultivation of the spiritual qualities that make our lives genuinely progressive and fulfilling. What would it be like if we could see everyone continually becoming wiser, stronger, gentler, more just? Such a prospect can be more than a beautiful abstraction. It's a possibility for everyone. We each can express intuitive, innovative--indeed revolutionary--qualities that transform our experience as we cultivate them.

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes, ``The true theory of the universe, including man, is not in material history but in spiritual development.''1

Where, then, are we to start if we want to develop from this spiritual basis? Wouldn't it be from the Bible standpoint that God made man in His own image and likeness? Our ever-growing expression of the divine nature helps bring to light, more and more, what is already and eternally true of man as God's likeness. This is progress in its deepest sense, in which we're not so much becoming something as we are awakening to our true being.

The Bible tells us about the possibilities of spiritual growth and development. Behind the narratives that often seem to focus on conflict and struggle, we can see the quiet emergence of spiritual qualities. Sometimes it's described as God's appearing to someone. And new strength or courage or spiritual affection invariably follows, not only for the individual concerned but often for others through that individual.

Each time we embrace and express one of these God-derived qualities, more of God's nature is appearing to us, just as it did to the Bible characters. And we're seeing more of our own true nature. How can we make this happen more often and more surely? We can't ``make'' it happen, of course, but we can cultivate through prayer the calm receptivity that invites inspiration and is quickly responsive to it.

There's quite a difference, to say the least, between material evolution and spiritual development. Material evolution implies more complex and different forms of matter. Spiritual development is an awakening perception of spiritual creation, which is already complete and perfect, though perhaps only dimly grasped as yet. As we see more of our true spiritual nature, we find we don't want just to be ``bigger and better'' humanly; we want to see spiritual qualities appearing more clearly and abundantly in our character. Sometimes this development comes about quite unsought, but more often it takes place when what seems to us to be a dire need makes us admit our own inadequacy and reach out more unreservedly for divine help.

We sometimes think that present-day problems are much more complicated than the ones the Bible characters had to face. But the same Godlike qualities are needed now, and they are just as effective today as they have always been. The process of cultivating them is the growth in grace urged by the Bible.

Christ Jesus illustrated through his teachings and healing works the indispensability of spiritual growth, of coming to realize God as the Father of all and man as His perfect, incorporeal likeness. ``Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,''2 he instructed.

We'll never get the right idea of growth and progress as long as we start with something that's limited (matter) and try to expand it. We have to start instead with what's infinite and see it appear more fully as we express spiritual qualities more naturally. Mrs. Eddy writes, ``God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis.''3 This spiritual view of man's development, not the biological changes of material evolution, is what fulfills our deepest longings for unlimited progress.

1Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 547. 2 Matthew 5:48. 3Science and Health, p. 258. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. II Peter 3:18

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