BEFORE and after a divorce, I yearned to discover the secret of a happy marriage. Particularly after I became single again, I quietly observed my married friends. Those who appeared truly satisfied treated each other with respect, dignity, and affection. Although there were in these marriages moments of disappointment and even anger, the element that kept them from becoming unhappy appeared to be a tangible, abiding love for one another. The Bible tells us, ``Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God.''1 The qualities of affection, thoughtfulness, caring, evidence the Love that is God. Furthermore, God's love is eternal, impartial, unfailing. To the extent that we love unreservedly, we are expressing His love.
I prayed sincerely to love more in this way, wholeheartedly listening in prayer for God's message of universal, impartial love. I prayed to see everyone's true selfhood as the complete, blessed child of God. I endeavored to live these ideas daily, applying them with family, friends, and acquaintances.
Paul wrote to the Colossians: ``Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.''2
Over a period of several years it became clearer to me that we must love without exceptions -- love God's creation, man made in His spiritual likeness. This is not to overlook sin and shortcomings and to think naively that they can be brushed aside. Rather it is expecting to see good in ourselves and others through an understanding of man's true nature. This enables us to forgive. I found that as I cultivated this higher view I benefited by expressing love more consistently. Also, those I dealt with each day were more gracious and loving.
Not that I reached perfection! When I make mistakes, I am encouraged by the compassion of Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Sci-ence. One of her biographers writes: ``She was charitable with others' mistakes so long as she felt they were learning from them, and she was equally charitable with herself. To her student Emily Meader she wrote on one occasion: `I have always understood...that the things you referred to with regret, were simply mistakes. And who of us is there, exempt wholly from mistakes? Here I always say in the words of our Master: ``Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.'' Yes, my precious student, I have endeavored to be patient with all flesh, inasmuch as I need God's dear mercy for myself. Oh that all who profess to be Christian Scientists would remember always the blessing it is to ones self, to be charitable. ``Love suffereth long and is kind.'''''3
I'm grateful for a bit more understanding along these lines and for the many opportunities to prove that love and forgiveness walk hand in hand. In my new marriage I'm helped by remembering the gentle and uplifting ideas from this hymn:
Help us to help each other, Lord,
Each other's cross to bear; Let each his friendly aid afford,
And feel his brother's care. Help us to build each other up,
Our little stock improve; Increase our faith, confirm our hope,
And perfect us in love.4
God, divine Love, is eternal, indestructible. Divine Love can never be torn or mutilated, stained or strained. Love is pure. Love is immortal, supreme, unfailing. Love is all-powerful and always present. We can never be separated from divine Love. Love loves impartially and universally. Love heals. Understanding something of divine Love and everyone's genuine selfhood as Love's spiritual image, we can express Love and help one another. This is not a secret. It is an open message of support and healing to every marriage.
In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, there is a chapter on marriage and family where you can ponder and explore these ideas in more depth.
1I John 4:7. 2Colossians 3:12-15. 3Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977), p. 79. 4Christian Science Hymnal, No. 105. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. I Thessalonians 4:9