THE book stumped him for a minute. ``Dude!'' he joked. ``I'm a busy man! Don't you have the short version of this thing!'' The book in question was Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Its author, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote it after deep study of the Bible. And many people have found that this textbook of Christian Science opens up the Bible for them as nothing else does.
``Hey!'' I replied. ``Sometimes, good things don't come in short form.'' We both laughed. And my friend took the book.
The incident caused me to think about the effort required to accomplish anything that is worthwhile. To me, religion is surely in that category. Shortcuts to spirituality really don't exist. It takes a life given over to what we are seeking. The resulting blessings simply can't be counted materially. The Bible makes this clear in a story the Gospel of Mark records. ``Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?'' a young man asks Christ Jesus, insisting that he has followed from his boyhood all the commandments given by Moses.
Jesus looked at him with love. He told the young man: ``One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor.: and come, take up the cross, and follow me'' (10:17, 21).
Don't Jesus' words underscore the effort necessary for us to gain the truth for ourselves? The truth Christ Jesus brought requires a life given over willingly to living the spiritual reality we're learning--and this is the one thing that Jesus demanded.
When my friend lightheartedly objected to that ``thick book,'' he was thinking, ``Big time commitment here!'' But of course it is not time that brings the spiritual light that comes through the study and practice of Christian Science. In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy says, ``The rays of infinite Truth, when gathered into the focus of ideas, bring light instantaneously, whereas a thousand years of human doctrines, hypotheses, and vague conjectures emit no such effulgence'' (p. 504). Isn't the commitment a more basic one--that of rebirth, of new aspirations, new motives, more love?
It's really the nature of God that inspires and supports all our efforts to gain spirituality. One need take only a quick look at the conventional world to see that at many points it is quite unlike God, or good. The Bible, however, states clearly from the first that God is good and that all that he creates is good. It defies logic to think that He creates or gives backdoor permission to anything the opposite of Himself. So evil--as seen in wars, diseases, crime, addiction, poverty, hatred, and so forth--can be overcome as we recognize that the good that is found in God is all that is real. Any individual can learn simple truths of God and His beloved creation, man and the universe.
This may not always seem easy, at least as we commonly think of this word easy. But the blessings from this effort to help ourselves, to learn to pray better, to grow spiritually, expand into an actual treasure house of spiritual riches. In my own life, I feel I have made modest progress in this spiritual journey. (And please underscore that word modest!) There have been countless small steps--steps of rising beyond the conventional expectations. Behind it all have been continuing study and prayer, coupled with a growing willingness to place my life behind what I was learning.
If we desire a life in the uncut, full-blown version, we'll find it only through a full-fledged pursuit of spirituality. It just doesn't come in a pamphlet version.