RELIGIOUS writers have long loved the metaphor of the eagle. The Bible speaks of God as renewing our youth as the eagle's and celebrates the strength and soaring aspiration of that noble bird. The happy and successful moments in life may indeed make us feel like eagles, soaring to new horizons of thought and action. But one day, in considering the eagle, it occurred to me that this mighty bird was just as dependent as the tiniest finch on one thing: the air. Neither of them would have any hope of going anywhere without the atmosphere.
For me this points to the need always to honestly and humbly acknowledge God to be the source of all the good in our lives. Continually crediting divine law as the source of our strength protects us from the dangers of overconfidence.
The Psalmist sang, ``Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.''1 One dictionary meaning of presumptuous is ``overconfident.'' Most sins have to do with a miserable, unhappy feeling about ourselves. Couldn't we think of presumptuous sins as spilling out of that dubious but oh-so-exhilarating sense of ``feeling good about yourself''? Overconfidence in my life has led to the neglect of important duties, a false sense of power, and a mistaken view of relationships.
Often these sins seem small and harmless. So what, the human mind may argue, if I exaggerate a little; so what if I put off something I promised to do today; so what if I get a little involved with someone other than my spouse; so what if I tell a lie? It may seem that our many good deeds amply outweigh the indiscretions.
If the kingdom of heaven were attained by a tally of good and bad deeds, presumptuous sins might be unimportant. But Christ Jesus showed that heaven is something indwelling, at hand, needing to be expressed in every thought and action. Paul writes, ``Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.''2 Heaven is the perfect harmony of man's relationship to God; it is the realm of God, where man is spiritual, always at peace, satisfied and governed by Him. Part of the definition of Kingdom of Heaven in the Christian Science textbook by Mary Baker Eddy3 is ``the atmosphere of Spirit, where Soul is supreme.''4
To be a Christian is to live in accord with this heaven within us, and there is a divine law which undergirds that righteousness in man. To sin even in little ways is to deny both man's inherent integrity as the child of God and to deny God's ability to uphold what He has made. Spiritual integrity is not something that can be turned on and off. Divine law, by its very nature, impels a continuing awakening to our God-given purity.
Sometimes I have felt most vulnerable to sins of overconfidence when I have just finished a big project and feel I deserve a little treat. Maybe this is what got Noah into trouble. He had been careful in listening to God and building the ark that saved his family and representatives of all known creatures. But then he grew a vineyard, made wine, got drunk, and his son found him lying naked in his tent.5
When I read that story it reminds me of the importance of humility. Just as we would seek God's direction in conceiving and implementing a project, so we must ask God's direction in the use of the fruits of our labors.
Perhaps one reason we resist crediting God as the source of all the good in our lives is that we think we'll lose something of our own identity and individuality. But there is no more expansive sense of individuality than to discover our relationship to God. Mrs. Eddy writes, ``God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis.'' She goes on to say, ``The human capacities are enlarged and perfected in proportion as humanity gains the true conception of man and God.''6
Do any of us appreciate enough the fact that it is natural for us to express the beauty and goodness of God? When we prayerfully yearn to have this as our primary motive in life, we not only feel the security of humility but we inevitably help others experience the reality of God a little more fully. The goodness we demonstrate is worthy of acknowledgment, and we begin by admitting in our hearts that God is the source of that goodness. Then we find our achievements do not pull thought back to ourselves but lift it to the worship of God, enabling us to bring out the best in others and to move forward in higher service ourselves.
1Psalms 19:13. 2II Corinthians 6:2. 3The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 590. 5See Genesis 9:20-27. 6Science and Health, p. 258. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God. Deuteronomy 18:13