MY dad used to measure the progress of his three kids by measuring our heights. Each of us -- once a year -- would stand straight as a flagpole against the back wall of his large walk-in closet. Then he would draw a line marking one year's growth. Over the years, three neat columns of lines emerged, one for each of us. Is there an equally effective way of measuring our spiritual progress? Can we accurately gauge whether we're becoming more compassionate, more wise, more pure? Yes!
To assess our growth Spiritward, we need to examine honestly out thought and lives. We need to take stock of the quality of daily contacts with others, look at our motives, and weigh the worth of our heartfelt desires. The purpose of this self-examination is not to dredge up mistakes of the past but to see whether our lives are more closely measuring up to the Christian ideal.
What is this ideal? It's found in the life and teachings of Christ Jesus. In his mercy toward sinners, his patience with faltering disciples, his forgiveness of brutal enemies, he showed us the meaning of Christian love. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew's Gospel, eloquently outlines the path of righteousness. Through vivid metaphor and living example he taught us how to be obedient to God. The Master illuminated the nature of love so well because he understood his relationship to God, who is divine Love. Jesus knew that he was God's Son, inseparable from Love.
The teachings of Christian Science, built on the foundation of Christ, encourage us to assess our spiritual progress. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: ``Watch, and pray daily that evil suggestions, in whatever guise, take no root in your thought nor bear fruit. Ofttimes examine yourselves, and see if there be found anywhere a deterrent of Truth and Love, and `hold fast that which is good.' ''
We shouldn't be disconcerted or discouraged if our self-examination exposes thought patterns or behavior we didn't know about or thought we had relinquished. Uncovering negative traits such as selfishness, sensuality, bitterness, and envy is the first step in relinquishing them. Errors are more easily destroyed once they are first recognized as unwanted intruders.
The next step -- and an essential one -- is to discern our genuine, God-created nature. Our creator, divine Spirit, doesn't produce flawed mortals. God, divine Spirit, Mind, has made man perfect, the spiritual offspring of a perfect Father-Mother.
Earnest prayer enables us to glimpse the reality of our individual spiritual nature. Such Christianly scientific prayer is a silent, humble yielding to the allness of Deity. It's a faith-lighted recognition that God is indeed man's creator and therefore, in truth, we must be like Him. This spiritual self-knowledge helps us to realize that the flaws our self-assessment may uncover are mistakes, not ingrained elements of man's nature. The better we know Deity as omnipotent good and the more we understand of ourselves as God's offspring, the easier it is to eradicate ungodlike traits.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes: ``Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.'' Self-knowledge and a spiritual understanding of God are keys to our spiritual progress. As we draw closer to God and His Christ, we are able to wrestle with and relinquish whatever appears in us that is not of God.