I WANTED to be part of a group of friends because I didn't feel as if I amounted to much all by myself. I thought I might, if I chose my friends carefully, be thought of as intelligent, fun, and attractive. Somehow it never worked that way, though. And I found out why: because this kind of friendship never helped me to grow toward understanding God, good, any better.
When I was in my teens, for example, my two best friends broke up while I was away on a trip. I came back to find that neither of them was talking to the other. Suddenly my group of friends had dissolved and I felt lost.
Because I'd been attending the Christian Science Sunday School I knew that my real identity was established by God. And my teacher kept telling me that God was pleased with me. Although I couldn't always see how that could be true, I did understand that He had created me. One day, while reading Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, I came across a sentence that helped me understand what my teacher was talking about. It's where Mrs. Eddy says, ``Deity was satisfied with His work'' (p. 519).
When I read this I began to glimpse that God really was satisfied with man, His image and likeness. And if God was satisfied with His creation, then I could be satisfied with it as well. Mrs. Eddy says in the next sentence, ``How could He be otherwise, since the spiritual creation was the outgrowth, the emanation, of His infinite self-containment and immortal wisdom?'' A change gradually came over me and I wanted more than anything else to please God, to be His image and likeness. It was exciting to be learning that this is what I already am--that God's child is already perfect and complete. My identity is formed and governed by God. I didn't have to find worth by whom I hung around with. I already was valued--by God! Man, as God's image, is happy, loved, and cared for by God, his creator. Prayerfully learning of man's identity as created by God helped me do a better job of conforming my thinking and actions to God's government.
As God's child I could start by expressing all the qualities needed to sustain a good friendship. These qualities are inherent in man, and already within me as God's reflection. My happiness didn't depend upon the people or groups I associated myself with, but on whether I was expressing the spiritual individuality that God gave distinctly to me. I learned a lot from the praying I did after this experience with my friends. I never did attach my sense of identity to a group again. Instead I yearned to be a friend to everyone who crossed my path. I was much happier because I understood that my individuality is a blessing from God.
Learning to find our individuality in our God-given nature rather than in whom we associate with broadens our spiritual understanding of man, God's child, with whom He is very pleased. We love ourselves more as a result. But we also love others better and more consistently because we love them for who they really are--the children of God.
Christ Jesus tells us in his Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew's Gospel: ``Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven'' (5:16). We let our light shine when we spiritually understand and express our God-created identity. When we associate ourselves--through loving thought and actions--with spiritual qualities, we are glorifying our Father in heaven. God is very pleased with His creation--with you and me--because we shine in His image.