A COUPLE of years ago, while a friend bought tickets for our train trip into the English countryside, I had the luxury of doing some people-watching in one of the great arched halls of Victoria station, London. As would be expected, the variety of attire, activity, cultures, and individualities on display was nearly staggering -- and I was quickly swept up in all the comings and goings. Soon, however, I began to realize that my attention was veering away from noting distinctions among the various travelers to making comparisons between them. And soon after that I found myself noticing, then actually looking for, idiosyncrasies, errant behavior, troublemaking, ugliness. In short order I felt distinctly uncomfortable. Something wasn't right. So I mentally turned away from the hubbub for a moment to do something I've learned to do as a student of Christ Jesus' teachings. I sought a spiritual perspective through prayer. As I did, a statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy came to mind that explained to me what I was looking for. Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes of Jesus' actions in the garden of Gethsemane, ``Jesus prayed; he withdrew from the material senses to refresh his heart with brighter, with spiritual views.''
My prayer was a simple yearning to see more of the real nature, the true spirit and spiritual substance, of those whose paths were quite literally crossing mine. This was not an effort merely to turn off unpleasant pictures. Nor was it putting some rose-colored wash over an inherently gray or offensive scene so that I could somehow sidestep -- at least momentarily -- the ``harsh realities'' of life. That would have been escapism. Prayer is very different. In fact, it's just the opposite. Instead of being a way of avoiding reality, prayer is truly the only way to see it.
Reality, Christian Science teaches, is spiritual, transcending what the physical senses take in. It's what God has actually created, expressing all His goodness and perfection. And reality comes progressively to light as we subordinate what the physical senses are reporting to what spiritual intuition is revealing. This doesn't mean running away from problems, but rather turning away from merely physical impressions of people and situations and the very limited, often distorted sense of life they give. We need to surrender passive belief in these pinhole perspectives for active embracing of the grander, truer view of things that comes through a growing understanding of Life as God, infinite good. This higher view also comes through sincere prayer, through listening for God's pure thoughts in communion with Him.
Christ Jesus' withdrawal from the material senses -- time and time again -- didn't result in his withdrawing from people or in an aloof indifference to others' needs. It resulted in his being so profoundly conscious of the ways things truly are, being on such consistently intimate terms with God, that a few words or a touch from him brought deep changes of heart and healings of disease. It made perfection apparent right where everything but perfection seemed to be.
We have permission, too, if we are trying to follow in Christ's way, to discredit dismal, despairing reports about mankind. Depictions of man as less than Godlike -- whether mean-spirited or ignorant or ill -- lack not only brightness and refreshment, they lack truth. Man is God's spiritual, perfect likeness, the Bible indicates. The Preacher says in the book of Ecclesiastes, ``Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright.''
As I stood in the train station, praying those few moments, the thought came: ``Don't look at their imperfections. Look for their perfections.'' What instant illumination this brought! I then picked up where I had left off -- though now 180 degrees from my previous standpoint. Suddenly, there was much good apparent, much to feel quite privileged to witness -- from teachers and parents gently shepherding children through the crowd to a husband helping his wife on with her coat. There were numerous evidences of playfulness and courtesy, grace and calm. There was beauty, too -- beautiful faces and loving gestures; strong arms moving heavy bags; station-wise workmen earnestly directing all kinds of travelers.
I was also now able to pray with conviction about the many who seemed lost or unwell or broken in some way. Their needs were still apparent, but the reality of good and the perfectibility of every individual were clear and tangible. These individuals were no less in God's keeping, no less perfect in His sight, no less loved, I knew, than those more obviously robust or successful. And because the impulse for sincere prayer always comes from God, I trusted this prayer would have its effect.
``Perfections'' are evidence of God's love for us, of His presence with us, and of our real selves as His spiritual expression. And if we're willing to seek more spiritual views in daily life, we can expect to see them on an ever more consistent basis. Healing through prayer is explored in more detail in a weekly magazine, the Christian Science Sentinel.
BIBLE VERSE Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.