MY childhood faith was simple, wholehearted, and possibly naive. I wanted God to keep me out of trouble, and I loved the stories of Jesus and the examples they gave of a wonderful way to live. His instruction to love our enemies set a high goal; but it was one that I often found perplexing.
Later, my Bible was mentally put on the shelf as I learned more about the world in which I lived. This world, as I saw it, included wars and armies and killings, apparently for righteous causes. But I kept looking for a way that put into practice Christ Jesus' command ''Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you'' (Matthew 5:44).
My childhood missionary zeal of wanting to bring everyone to Christ turned to political action, seeking merely human solutions for the problems I saw in the world. This, however, contradicted my early home and Sunday school training that had fostered a love of and trust in spiritual things.
The conflict between the material world and my spiritual yearnings was inevitable. Frustrating experiences demanded a practical religion. It was then that Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, came into my experience, and with it came a clearer understanding of the Bible. I felt close to Jesus once again, as I had as a child.
A verse in the Bible, in First Corinthians, connected in a sweet way my early love of the Bible with my mature needs. ''When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things'' (13:11). That verse meant to me that the Bible can meet the smallest child's need, but that we don't have to stay on the level of a child's faith. There was nothing wrong with my ''becoming a man,'' with growing, in my pursuit of the Bible and its relevance to my life. I felt a thrill of promise that this new-to-me book, Science and Health, would show me how to obey the Bible's commandments as I had always longed to. Science and Health gives entirely new and healing perspectives to our maturing needs for daily guidance. It sheds new light on what previously might have been disturbing Biblical passages.
When our baby was just beginning to creep, our two-year-old wanted so much to play with him. But instead she would frighten him. At that point I had been rather indulging a melancholy view of the world and its lack of peace. When I saw these children not being peaceful with one another, my thoughts went something like this: ''Oh dear, have we just brought two more warring mortals into the world?''
At one point I picked up Science and Health just to gain some inspiration that would lift this burden of conflict and discord. I opened to an explanation of the Cain and Abel story in the Bible. The last thing I wanted to do was to read about fratricide. The first sentence I read, however, was, ''The erroneous belief that life, substance, and intelligence can be material ruptures the life and brotherhood of man at the very outset'' (p. 541). I saw that it was an erroneous belief that life was in matter that was disturbing the peace. It was an erroneous belief that these were just little, material children-not knowing how to get along with one another-or that there was a world of warring big children not knowing how to get along with one another. That was the result of a belief of life in matter. It wasn't a true condition of the real, God-created man at all.
I got a glimpse then that brotherhood could not be ruptured, because all are the children of God. We are harmonious children of one whole and complete family. Very quickly I discovered a way that the children could play together without tears. From that time, through their present adulthood, I have never known them to bring unhappiness to one another or to engage in sibling rivalry.
In my life and in the lives of others, such incidents are repeated daily, as the light that Science and Health sheds lights up the pages of the Holy Bible.