"Don't look at the wheel or down to the ground," said my father, teaching me to ride a bicycle. He held the seat from behind, as I tried to maintain my balance. Soon I gained some speed, and he had to run to keep up with me. After a while he said, "You've got it. Now you're on your own."
Right then I glanced at the front wheel - and fell. For a split second I'd switched my reliance to what was visible, not trusting the principle of motion that had kept me going forward.
"Why did you look down?" my father asked, helping me get up. He explained that there was a law keeping me in motion, and that I had failed to trust it by trying, at the same time, to look at something that seemed more concrete.
In childhood, that process of gaining trust is evident when we're learning to ride a bike. As adults, the process may not be as visible, but that kind of trust is a lot more important. Trusting a power higher than ourselves enables us to discern the very Principle, or law, that governs the whole universe. That Principle is God. And God's laws maintain the harmony of our lives, our health and progress. When we grasp the fact that these laws are real, entirely good, and ever present, we feel their influence in our daily living - even though we can't see them with our eyes. Every opportunity to learn about these laws promotes our well-being.
Peter, one of Jesus' disciples, had such an opportunity (see Matt. 14:24-32). One stormy night he noticed Jesus coming to the boat where the disciples were. He was walking on the water. Peter asked if he could join the Master where he was, on the water. Jesus called, and Peter took a few steps out from the boat.
Governed by another reality that he knew existed, and relying on it, Peter leaned on a supreme power and presence that had nothing to do with the surrounding circumstances. It sustained him. This wasn't a supernatural occurrence. Two men actually walked on the water that night.
But suddenly Peter got disturbed by the noise of the wind and the frightening environment. For a split second he switched his gaze toward the circumstances around him. Starting to sink, he cried for Jesus' help. Jesus lifted him up, rebuking his lack of confidence without scolding him. Peter had no reason to feel guilty or ashamed. And he was not disqualified for the mission he fulfilled later. Although he had momentarily placed his trust elsewhere, he was able to stand on the water again when he regained his whole reliance on the laws of God. Time wasn't a factor in Peter's quick ability to regain his confidence.
The law of God that sustained Peter had not failed. And you or I don't need to test that law, or to walk on the water, in order to prove it. Instead, we can decide where we are going to place our reliance. If we want to rely on the divine law, we can turn to it with full trust. It will enable us to walk firmly in the face of threatening situations, like danger, sickness, or financial difficulty. Or it will enable us to restore dignity and morality to our life when a slip-up causes a momentary fall.
Although Jesus is no longer here, his spiritual nature - the Christ - so clear in his teachings, speaks to our consciousness with comforting reassurance. The Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, said, "Christ walketh over the wave; on the ocean of events, mounting the billow or going down into the deep, the voice of him who stilled the tempest saith, 'It is I; be not afraid' " ("Message to The Mother Church for 1902," pgs. 19-20).
Learning to trust spiritual law is very important. That kind of reliance reveals the reality of God's presence. And the compassionate hand of the Christ holds ours, lifting us up, restoring our confidence, and keeping us safe.
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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor