Freedom to Be Yourself

For young people-written for The Christian Science Monitor.

You know the expression, "when pigs fly"? Well, I guess they can in a way. Not long ago a teenage girl sat next to me on a plane. Her 180-pound potbellied pig was in a crate in the cargo hold. During the two-hour flight, I learned about the dedication and time involved in training and showing a championship pig in competition.

I also found out this girl felt troubled and was looking for answers. More and more of her friends were starting to drink alcohol. She didn't want to drink, but was worried that if she didn't she'd lose her friends. She asked me what she could say to her friends. I thought carefully about how I could help.

I said she could tell them she didn't want to give up her freedom-her ability to think clearly. Drugs and booze would only rob her of that freedom.

Immediately her face lighted up. She looked relieved and said, "That's the answer!" She felt it was an explanation her friends could understand.

Although I never mentioned God or religion in our conversation, I realized I had been sharing a fundamental fact I had learned in studying Christian Science: wanting to do what you feel is right leads to knowing God better.

Let's examine the motives of this young woman. Her decision not to drink just because her friends were drinking was good. Her love of her friendships was good. Her wish not to lose her friends was natural. Her wish to feel free reminded me of a promise in the Bible, from the book of Philippians: "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. . . . and the God of peace shall be with you" (4:8, 9).

Christ Jesus taught how God brings us good. In the book of Luke is his account of a young man who asked to get his inheritance from his father early (see chapter 15, verses 11-24). He left home and wasted his money living wildly. Without money, food, or a home (he was minding a swineherd), he sank so low he actually wasn't even eating as well as the swine. But the desire for freedom was still alive in him. With a change of heart he returned home to ask his father for a job as a servant. His father took him in with forgiveness and open arms. He received him as a son, not as a servant. This story conveys the message that God is always loving. God's love for you is constant. You can always turn to Him and find support in doing your best. You can depend on God.

It is possible to rely on God for happiness, which is something that comes from knowing and feeling close to Him. Such happiness is permanent and unchanging. This is true for anyone, at any age. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which has sold over nine million copies. If you were to read its last hundred pages, you would find how people just like you and me have relied on God. They've had healings involving diseases, despair, alcohol and drug addiction, and many other problems.

The desire not to get drunk is really a desire to follow God in your life. You are choosing that inner peace that comes from God alone. This kind of wanting-an honest desire-is a type of praying. Science and Health says on the first page of chapter one, "Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds."

My family knows this to be true. My son, who is now in college, told me recently that in high school he'd chosen not to drink at parties. And by standing for what he really felt was right for him, he did not lose his friends. He said he actually gained their respect. (I also shared this with that girl on the plane, and she was pleased to hear it.)

If you get in a situation like that girl or my son -- or that young man Jesus spoke of -- you do have a choice. You don't have to do what you don't feel is right. And you don't have to lose your friends either. You can be yourself.

You can find out more about how to pray for guidance in a monthly magazine, The Christian Science Journal.

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