Standing outside my house, waiting for the nursery school van to pick me up in the morning, I used to talk to the pansies in our front yard. Their colorful, cheerful faces always looked up at me with reassuring smiles. I felt loved.
My parents had divorced when I was a toddler, my mother went off to work all day, and I was told that my father didn't love me. Except for the affection of a caring grandmother, I would have felt totally isolated. After my mother remarried, to an equally emotionally distant widower with children, I retreated further into a protective shell of imagination and books. My siblings and I were convinced that there was just not enough love to go around. I always felt like an outsider looking in at other people's happy families.
To fill this void, I relied on drugs and physical intimacy in high school and college, and found temporary satisfaction and pleasure. My concept of God was barren because of ignorance of spiritual things in my family and a strong conviction that the religion I grew up with was materialistic and hypocritical. I knew something was missing, but I didn't know what. So I continued to search for meaning and a sense of belonging.
In the midst of looking into various religions and practices, I read this saying of Jesus: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). This resonated within me; here was a promise of what I was hungering for.
The Bible had been presented to me as a nationalistic, historical, and cultural document, but now I wanted to read it and find out more. Soon I was introduced to Christian Science and began to see that the Bible, on which it is based, was living, real, and spoke to my heart.
When I first read, "We have known and believed the love that God hath to us" (I John 4:16), I felt I had come home. Here was the answer to my feeling of separation from a loving family. Solitude had never made me feel lonely; on the contrary, I cherished it, and felt loneliest when I was with people with whom I couldn't share my deepest thoughts and feelings.
Since that discovery decades ago, my sense of family has grown and still unfolds. It's not based on biological relationships or religious or racial boundaries, but it's based on the fact that I already have a connection with everyone I meet. It's a tangible feeling that everyone is my relative, from my neighbor to the supermarket clerk to the laundromat owner.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote of "one Father with His universal family, held in the gospel of Love," and assured us that "Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pages 577, 332). And, as one of my favorite bumper stickers says, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood."
One of the most difficult challenges in this ongoing journey has been to overcome fears of accepting the divine Father-Mother's unlimited love and care for me, to learn to appreciate and value myself as the wonderful being that God made "in our image, after our likeness." I've learned that each of us naturally reflects God's Mother-love for us. As I acknowledge this through humble, grateful prayer, and let go of that old sense of myself as not measuring up (and being unloving as a result), I find that I can also appreciate and respect others more.
Recently, when I spent a few days visiting a couple I hadn't seen in two years, I felt the tangible presence of our Father-Mother's love in their sincere interest, respect, and caring for me just the way I am. I knew this was part of Love's ongoing gift to me, and I was so happy to be able to accept and share it freely.
With this knowledge of God's love, I not only feel more peace, freedom, and real joy, but I'm able to reach out to others with the confidence that our universal Father-Mother God is giving all good freely and impartially to everyone. In spite of so many wars and tragedies plaguing our world, I see that we're all connected, in this larger sense, by a common search for a safe, happy, secure, loving sense of home and family that transcends fragile, limited, material human concepts. "God setteth the solitary in families," the Bible tells me (Psalms 68:6).
There is enough Love to go around. And knowing this has a healing effect.