I didn't like him very much - in fact, not at all. He was cold. He was crude. He had a mean streak that flared up now and then.
And he'd just become my new stepson.
But there was nothing to worry about. He got married a month after his dad and I did. And (phew!) he was never going to live with us.
For close to 18 years, I got away with putting on a happy face, being courteous - even kind - when he visited (which, thankfully, wasn't often). I sweated a bit when something came up in his life that threatened to land him in our nest. But it passed - I was saved again!
I should probably tell you that I consider myself a Christian, committed to loving my neighbors, every one of them, as myself. I take seriously the teachings in the Bible and strive to live my life according to them.
One day I was thinking about something I'd read many times in the Bible. It's in the book of Revelation. Basically, it says that nothing abominable or dishonest enters the kingdom of heaven (see 21:27). Now, I don't think of heaven as some far-off place I'll get to only after I die, and only if I've chalked up enough good deeds. Instead, I see heaven as being aware of God. Conscious of the fact that His creation is perfect and wholesome. That all of His sons and daughters are absolutely good and pure.
In the words of Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, "The sinner makes his own hell by doing evil, and the saint his own heaven by doing right" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 266). Well, it didn't take too long to realize the crummy view of our son I had stubbornly clung to all those years was actually keeping me from experiencing the joy of heaven. I knew the time had come to do something about it.
Sooooo, I began to pray specifically about the feelings I had toward him. Each day in my prayers for myself and my family I included him (at last). I prayed to be able to see him as God saw him - as a dearly loved son. I knew that if I could love him as the child of God, as I loved myself, I would be one step closer to that heavenly consciousness I want so much to have.
Sometimes I had to wrestle with the other thoughts I had of him. But I persisted in shutting out the bad mental picture and letting in the true and good one, the one made in the likeness of God.
One morning when I was reading about how Jesus washed his disciples' feet (it's in John, Chapter 13), I thought how wonderful it would be to love so purely, impartially, perfectly, that you'd be willing to caringly wash the feet of someone you didn't particularly like, or who had done you wrong. That is what Jesus did. He washed all of the disciples' feet. Not just those who would stick by him. He even washed Judas's feet - the feet of the man who would soon betray Jesus to his enemy assassins.
I thought about that account all day. I just cherished it. You might say I yearned to feel such a pure love as that.
That night, quite unexpectedly, my stepson showed up on our doorstep. He had stopped by on his way home after a long day of driving a truck. As he and his dad visited, I looked over at him. And suddenly I thought, "What can I do to wash that boy's feet?"
No - I didn't go get a basin of water! It wasn't like that at all. It was more that my thought was just flooded with love. I felt a warm, deep affection for him that I never had before.
I think I offered him a piece of pie. And he left with a gentle hug. Yet, it was one of those times when you just know you've turned a corner in your life. From that day to this, whenever I think of him or see him, that warm, spiritual affection wells up in my heart. I don't know whether he's changed a lot or not. But I have. I'm so much more conscious of his spiritual identity, instead of dwelling on personality quirks.
And, you know - I do feel like I'm one step closer to attaining that pure consciousness that knows other people as the perfect children of God. Yes! I believe I'm one step closer to heaven.
You can visit the home page of The First Church of Christ, Scientist: www.tfccs.com