SUMMERTIME! We played outside, barefoot, all day long. There were fields, woods, and bayous with damp dirt paths warn smooth by all our little feet. Sunlight filtered down through the canopy of trees.
But there was something else I remember about those summers full of fun and freedom: our field guides. You see, we lived in a warm, humid climate known for its many snakes, and so it was important that we be able to tell them apart, important that we be able to distinguish the harmless snakes from the poisonous.
Our parents made sure that when we went into the woods, we carried what we called our "snake book with us. If we came across a snake we didn't know, we would get out our field guide and--from a safe distance--look for the picture and description of what we saw. Most of the snakes we saw were not poisonous or dangerous. But if we found one that was, we knew we should take another path, and we would stay clear of that area for the rest of the day. Equipped with our field guides, we played safely in those w oods for many summers.
Just as when we were children and we learned to be watchful and alert while playing in the woods, I have found, as an adult, that being watchful and alert to distinguish between what is harmful or helpful in my thoughts has brought blessings untold. And I have found the Bible to be the perfect "field guide to help me do this. By turning to the Bible I have been helped to distinguish between good and evil in a variety of forms. And sometimes, because of the subtlety of evil, it would have been difficult t o tell the difference without the spiritual standard that the Bible offers!
John says, in his first letter, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God. Doesn't this show the importance of examining our thoughts before they take form in actions? We need to look at whether a thought has its source in spiritual goodness--in peace, integrity, wisdom, purity--and is leading us on to further good. If it is "venomous in any way, then we know enough to take a different path, to have nothing to do with it. Not in thought or in action. We can choose no t to accept evil because it leads to no good.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: "Watch your thoughts, and see whether they lead you to God and into harmony with His true followers. We need to be vigilant with our thoughts, just as we are with our words and actions. Do you ever stop and simply look at your thoughts? When I was a child, I would look at all the pictures of snakes to identify correctly the one at hand. Now I carefully look at the color, tenor,
texture, type of my thoughts. Sometimes I am surprised at what I find!
The more we examine our thoughts, the more we find that we want to purify them, that we want to do a better job of sorting out the righteous from the unrighteous. We begin to see the connection between cause and effect, with pure thoughts leading to productive, harmonious living. Our natural spiritual sense helps us to do this sorting out. The Bible appeals to this spiritual sense and teaches us about God's kingdom of heaven within us. It identifies us as the image and likeness of God--the man of God's c reating, who is all good and is wholly spiritual.
Christ Jesus spoke in his Sermon on the Mount about watching our thoughts. He tells us not to be angry with our brother, not to be hypocritical, but to love our enemies, to be pure, meek, righteous, peaceable. He tells us over and over to make our "treasure that of right doing and right being, and to trust that God will take care of our needs in proportion to our cultivated treasures of righteous thinking and living.
Once while I was looking through my field guide, I noticed that there were two snakes that looked very similar: the coral snake and the kingsnake. The coral snake is deadly, but the kingsnake is helpful. It takes alertness and understanding to know the difference, but once you do, it is easy to tell the two apart. So it is with our thoughts. The more we get to know God, His nature, and His ways and means, the more clearly we can distinguish right from wrong, pure from impure, and true from false. This pu rified thinking puts us on target for a life of greater good and service to those around us. This process of looking at our thoughts is an adventure worth pursuing! It truly is learning to worship God, because it glorifies good and discards evil as being unworthy.
Once we begin to hold each thought up to the spiritual light of the Bible, we find it is much easier to know which paths to take throughout our days. We make more right choices, accomplish more good, and find that there is less turmoil in our affairs.
But most of all, turning to the Bible to distinguish good from evil brings a deep inner conviction of God's tender care for His creation. This conviction brings peace to our days and a grand freedom to our outlook--like the freedom of children running barefoot on warm summer days!
You can find more articles about spiritual healing in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.