'What would he have been thinking at that moment?" I wondered as I was reading a biography of Harry Truman recently.
Mr. Truman was being driven by limousine from the Capitol in Washington, D.C., toward Georgetown. He had just finished serving nearly eight years as president of the United States and was now entering private life. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, "Truman," author David McCullough describes a brief moment of the former president's ride home. The limousine approached 7th and D streets, and the driver stopped for a red light.
"It was," Mr. McCullough noted, "the first time that a car in which Truman was riding had had to stop for a traffic light since 1945."
That's the moment I wondered about. Did that stop cause him to reflect on the years of rank and power that were behind him? Or did the red light go unnoticed: was he more concerned with - and perhaps already planning for - what lay ahead?
The biography doesn't say. Still, we're all probably familiar with the kind of thoughts one has when moving from one stage in life to another. We know what it's like to go from one school to the next. Move from one hometown to another. Start a new job. Launch into life on one's own. What about parenthood? Through such transitions, and afterward, there are times when we look back, recalling, we hope, good experiences and useful lessons.
Yet the shift many people are making these days to a more spiritual way of life calls for going forward and not looking back, not being caught up in the disappointments and longings of past days.
A man in the Bible who wanted to do that, and who was ready to leave his home life behind and join up with Christ Jesus, learned what following Christ involves.
"Lord, I will follow thee," this individual assured Jesus; "but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house." Jesus' response is not a hardhearted rejection of family, but is a reminder that following in his footsteps, pursuing a more spiritual life, requires wholehearted devotion. It requires a humble willingness to leave behind old, materialistic ways of thinking and living, and not turn back. Jesus replied, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:61, 62).
As challenging as that may sound, consider what's to gain - "the kingdom of God." God is Spirit. And God is all good. His kingdom, therefore, isn't a mix of spirituality and materialism, or of good and evil. God's kingdom is entirely spiritual and good. It's a realm that Jesus knew well, one that he had described in several ways, and one that he had proved to be here and to be the basis for physical and moral healing. So, for those who are pursuing a more spiritual way of life, what's required isn't unreasonably strict or impractical; it's healing and liberating.
Letting Spirit lead and govern our lives involves leaning on God and finding in God a law. It means understanding and relying on the Principle of harmony. It is finding that you have a purely good and spiritual nature - as the image of God. And this in fact enables you to expect the healing of sickness and sin.
Going forward in this way doesn't at all imply that spiritual seekers have to leave behind anything that is genuinely good in human life. As Jesus' healing works showed, living his teachings is the way to health, to happiness - and to eternal life. What could be better?
With so much good to experience and to look forward to, why would you want to look back?
Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, - this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.
Mary Baker Eddy
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society