In a scene from Shakespeare's "King Lear," Cordelia, the king's strong and loving youngest daughter, watches her father descend into madness. At this point in the play, there is no way to know that her faithful affection will later help him recover.
Rehearsing this scene with an amateur theater group, I found playing the role of Cordelia challenging. The day of our performance came, and I still felt unsure how my character should show her reaction to King Lear's crisis. I called up a friend who was experienced both in theater and in thinking things through spiritually and explained my difficulty. Her answer surprised me in its simplicity. "It's about love," she said. I didn't need to think up appropriate reactions or find the right expressions to act out. It was a matter of remembering my character's love for her father and the rightness of sticking with that, come what may. "Let that tell you what to do on stage," was my friend's advice.
The more I thought about it, the more I could see that this concept could be applied to finding the right response in any relationship. Uncovering our highest sense of good and being faithful to it could bring clarity and light into many situations that seemed complex and dark.
As I was considering these ideas, a friend called, feeling troubled by a recent conversation with someone she was caring for. My friend was earnestly seeking the right response and didn't know what to say to this person. I shared with her the idea that it was not incumbent on us to find and perform the words that would bring light. Rather, we could begin with the fact that light and love were already present; God was always providing the simple, clarifying truth that was able to sort out any difficulty.
The thought that there are no answers, or that challenges must be met by personal wisdom and human strategy, is a distraction from the here-and-now goodness of God and the presence of His wisdom and grace.
I remembered something Jesus had said about the devil: "He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him" (John 8:44). The thought that we have to sort things out all on our own is a devilish lie - a distraction and detour from the higher understanding of God's control and the power of good that we can always claim as our own. When we got off the phone, my friend felt that she, too, could lean on this inspiration.
That night the performance went beautifully. Not only did I feel at home in my role on stage, but this scene came alive for the whole cast in a way that it hadn't before. We left the stage, feeling that something magical had taken place.
Then, backstage, my older daughter ran to me in tears. She had been taking care of her younger sister when the younger girl suddenly leaped up, colliding with her big sister's face. People quickly gathered round to help, offering advice and bringing ice to put on my daughter's rapidly swelling nose. I thought again of the power of Truth and Love as we sat together in the busy props room.
Alarmed by the pain and how her injured face looked, she asked me to pray. I spoke to her about how loving and helpful she had been that evening and that these were God's own qualities, which can never be spoiled or harmed. Then I sat silently holding her, thinking about the reality and presence of God's ideas, how active they had been through the day and how blessed it had been to acknowledge them.
The next thing I knew, my daughter had jumped up to play again. As I prepared to go back on stage, she said, happily, "I don't need the ice, do I?" The swelling and redness were completely gone.
I thought of this sentence from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy: "If divine Love is becoming nearer, dearer, and more real to us, matter is then submitting to Spirit. The objects we pursue and the spirit we manifest reveal our standpoint, and show what we are winning" (page 239).
Truth and Love are not merely beautiful thoughts present with us; they are substance itself, the reality of who we are. When we stand with divine understanding, spiritual and loving, this "real response" brings all sorts of blessings to light.