Does loving ever seem too complicated or hard? I learned that to love someone simply means to know what is true about him or her. And I had the opportunity to see for myself what this meant.
I was taking a high-school math class taught by the department chairman. There were only six of us in the class, and we got to know each other and the teacher pretty well. One day, the teacher asked me to call her with some information as soon as I got home. I planned to. But when I got home I found a letter from the college I wanted to attend, offering me early admission. I was so excited that I forgot to call my teacher. She was furious, and announced to the other students that she would never speak to me again.
She meant it. From then on, she didn't call on me when I raised my hand to ask a question. (So I stopped raising it.) She didn't speak to me if I passed her in the hall. She marked my work fairly, but otherwise ignored me. I dreaded her class.
What would you have done? I didn't tell anyone else. But I did start to pray, in the way we had been talking about in the Christian Science Sunday School I went to.
I knew I needed to find a way to love my teacher, even though she seemed to be treating me unfairly. It couldn't be an ordinary kind of love, because that's usually given with the expectation of at least a little love in return! The only thing I could do was remember the truth about my teacher.
What was the truth? The Bible says in Genesis, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him" (1:27). I had learned that to know the truth about someone, I needed to understand more about the nature of God. I needed to understand the true nature of my teacher as God's likeness. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, asked and answered the question "What is God?" in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Page 465 says, "God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love." These are all names for God -- synonyms that show different ways to understand Him. Each day as I walked home from school, I thought seriously about one of these synonyms, trying to think of specific ways that my teacher expressed the qualities that it implied.
For example, I started with Mind. It was easy to see that she expressed the intelligence of God, the one Mind, through her understanding of mathematics and the effective methods by which she explained the subject to us. I also knew that she must have expressed intelligence in order to have been selected as head of the department by the other teachers.
Then, thinking about how she expressed God as Spirit, I realized that I wasn't required to love her personality quirks or what seemed like unkindness. I needed to see, instead, that these traits were no part of her identity, because they were bad and they didn't come from God, who is good. What is like God and expresses Him cannot include imperfection, because it is spiritual.
I went through the other synonyms in this way. As I thought about how she must express Principle, Soul, Life, Truth, and Love, my feelings toward this teacher softened. By the time I reached the last synonym, I realized that she lived Love just by devoting time and energy to helping her students. Then one day a startling thought occurred to me: God loved her as much as He loved me. I felt at peace after that.
Did she suddenly start speaking to me? No, she said nothing to me from late November until school ended in June. But as I continued to know the truth about her, by trying to see her as God does, I did feel comfortable again in her classroom.
She did speak to me just before graduation. She said she wished me well, and that I had been special to her. And she hugged me.
I saw that I could have faith in God and find the help I needed by learning to love in a new way. God's love, I found, becomes increasingly apparent in our lives as we strive to understand that we're each His likeness.