A WHILE ago, I read a newspaper series about state prisons. The articles interviewed several inmates, who talked about their battles to maintain a spark of individual self-esteem. One prisoner spoke of the vital need to penetrate the atmosphere of despair: ``You have to fight daily not to let it get your spirit.''1
After I read his comments, I responded by writing him a letter.
His replies poured out his story, and it was what I saw of his strong inclination to advance through enlightenment that led me to offer him financial assistance for college courses offered at the prison. I wanted to encourage and support his desire to break the bonds of incarceration by mentally pushing outward.
He told me what the costs would be for two courses he wished to take, and said that any financial aid I could give would be a loan that he would repay. While I didn't have reason to doubt his sincerity, I did continue to pray for the discernment I needed to make a wise decision. I remembered two Bible verses that were the answer I needed in this case: ``God hath made man upright''2 and, ``I will not know a wicked person.''3
This gave me confidence. In the next mail, I sent him a check. When I had not heard anything some weeks later, I sent a note to remind him of his obligation. In reply I received a card and letter. He wrote that he had replied promptly and regretted that I hadn't received his first letter. Then followed words that went straight to my heart. ``I am sending back half of the sum received because I was too late to be registered for the course on business math.'' And then he added: ``I continue to be optimistic about the future and don't expect to be disappointed by events or people. I am placing my trust and faith in God almighty, the Eternal One, as James Moffatt translates it.'' Then I turned to the card and saw this arresting caption: ``Always look for the best....''
To me this response indicated that he was seeing something of his God-given uprightness and was living it by expressing integrity. He was confidently moving forward by placing his trust and faith in God and by looking for the best. I had to ask myself, Is my faith in God equally firm? Do I trust God to show me when to give? I confess that I have had doubts at times. Highly publicized accounts of fraudulent schemes and regular reports of crime tend to make us wonder if we can trust our natural impulse toward compassion.
As a student of Christian Science, however, I am learning to turn to what I understand of the truth about God and His spiritual idea, man, to help me join compassion with wisdom. And I'm finding that when we begin to recognize that God is good, we see that evil must be unreal because God, good, could never create it. And because God is Spirit, His creation must also be entirely spiritual.
Our realization that reality is utterly spiritual -- is what God creates -- enlightens and purifies consciousness. This purification of thought is what enables us to trust others, because it grounds our trust on spiritual conviction -- not on fallible opinion.
We don't always realize the power of spiritual trust, which strengthens others to express more consistently the flawless spiritual identity God has given them. A story I once heard illustrates this point: a judge who dealt with juveniles weighed each case carefully. When a particular youth charged with theft was brought before him, he gave the boy a sizable amount of money, counseled him to use it wisely, and told him to pay it back when he could. Several years later the fellow appeared in a military uniform to return the money. His manner clearly showed his appreciation of the judge's trust in him.
In his small book on love, Henry Drummond perceptively writes: ``To be trusted is to be saved. And if we try to influence or elevate others, we shall soon see that success is in proportion to their belief of our belief in them. For the respect of another is the first restoration of the self-respect a man has lost; our ideal of what he is becomes to him the hope and pattern of what he may become.''4
To bestow the blessing of goodness on others requires us to act up to our highest, purest sense of God, our Father Mind. Didn't Christ Jesus honor man's true, spiritual individuality when he openly befriended Zacchaeus, the tax collector?5 The Master lived and taught that absolute love for God must be confirmed by loving others as unstintingly as we love ourselves.
Throughout her writings, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, shows us how to gain the spiritual understanding of God and man that reveals the Christ, or spirit of eternal Truth, and frees us from mortal bondage. She writes: ``When thought dwells in God, -- and it should not, to our consciousness, dwell elsewhere, -- one must benefit those who hold a place in one's memory, whether it be friend or foe, and each share the benefit of that radiation. This individual blessedness and blessing comes not so much from individual as from universal love: it emits light because it reflects; and all who are receptive share this equally.''6
As we truly learn to love as Jesus did, we learn to trust rightly. And with this trust comes the ability to see and call forth the goodness in others.
1``Inside Looking Out,'' Monitor, July 26, 1988. 2Ecclesiastes 7:29. 3Psalms 101:4. 4The Greatest Thing in the World (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, n.d.), p. 26. 5See Luke 19:1-10. 6Miscellaneous Writings, p. 290.
You can find more articles about spiritual healing in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.