WHERE does your identity come from? Is it established by the place, date, or family of your birth? Do you evolve it as you go through life, on the basis of your actions and accomplishments? Consider this statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, written by the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy: ''Identity is the reflection of Spirit, the reflection in multifarious forms of the living Principle, Love. Soul is the substance, Life, and intelligence of man, which is individualized, but not in matter'' (p. 477). Spirit, Principle, Love, Soul, Life-these are all synonymous with God; so identity is man's reflection of God.
I stood in the shower one morning, thinking about my identity. Physically, I looked rather unhealthy at the time; there was an irritating rash on my face. I dreaded being seen in this condition, for it wounded my pride.
Thoughts were splashing by as fast as the water: What was causing this condition? What should I do about it? Through my years of successfully relying on Christian Science for healing, I had chosen spiritual treatment over using a physical remedy. Was this foolish? Was it impractical to expect a spiritual approach to heal physically? Wouldn't it have been more reasonable to find out what was causing the skin rash, treat it with medication, and be done with it? Well, I wanted to be done with rashes for good, and I knew this was possible only by healing as Jesus healed. His healing work brought permanent results, and Jesus never used material remedies. He healed by trusting God.
From past experience, I knew I could depend on God for help, which is what Jesus did. I could trust the message of the Psalmist's statement, ''As for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face for ever'' (Psalms 41:12). God's face, I knew, was not physical, not material, but spiritual. He beheld me as He made me: good, expressing only those qualities that are good-purity, innocence, beauty. In Habakkuk, the Bible says God is ''of purer eyes than to behold evil'' (1:13).
These facts were not abstract. And remembering them in prayer brought a conviction to me that made me less preoccupied with the rash. A flicker of understanding that had never occurred to me came right there as I showered. I began to see that there could be nothing holding my consciousness in the limits of physical organization, an organization subject to disease and imperfection. Because I was spiritual and good, the covering of the body we call skin could not separate me from God's loving gaze; it could not hide the face of God. I perceived at that moment the powerful reality of the divine presence, which does not stop at the boundary of the human outline, but fills all space with harmony.
In place of my focus on a disfigured, uncomfortable, physical identity was now the spiritual consciousness that is free from fleshly limitations. Does this mean that I floated off in undefined being, or went into some sort of a trance? Not at all. The morning activities proceeded as usual, and I washed my face as usual. But I had a small reorientation of thought, and felt more aware of my spiritual perfection. Soon the rash was gone, once and for all.
Man's spirituality cannot be limited. It is an identity that we all share as the children of God. The power of this truth is available under all circumstances, to bring the joy of a life less and less encumbered by materiality.
If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles. For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear. Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away.