I sat on the grass, looking out over the lake. The Japanese garden was a place I'd go when I needed to be quiet, to think, or to listen.
I'd rented a small place, and I didn't own much. I'd had to borrow a table, couch, chairs, even a bed, to furnish my apartment. I had a job, but I couldn't seem to get ahead.
I felt like a failure. It was depressing to work so hard, yet not be able to buy anything. I felt dependent on friends and family.
I was a fairly new student of Christian Science, and up to that point when I'd prayed to solve my problems, the situations changed for the better. I'd had physical healings, too. So I turned to God to alleviate this unhappy sense of failure.
What I really wanted was to feel that I was just like everyone else. Everyone I knew could – at the very least – furnish a place to live.
When I turned to the Bible, the story of the prodigal son struck me as pertinent (see Luke 15). The younger of two sons had taken his inheritance, gone off and wasted it, then came back to his father who celebrated his return.
But it was what the father said to the older son that caught my attention: "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine." This parable is about God as our Father, and to me it means that everything God has is ours because we are His loved children. That's true whether we're like the younger son, who strays from God but then wakes up and returns, or like the older son, who never left the Father. Both receive all that our divine, loving Parent has for us.
So why wasn't I receiving much?
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, spoke several times in her writings about the poverty of the "Adam-dream," or the experience of existence as merely mortal and material. She contrasted this with what Christian Science reveals and described this more profound state of reality as "man as God's image, His idea, coexistent with Him – God giving all and man having all that God gives" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 5).
Sitting on the grassy slope in the sun that day, I glanced up at the trees against the horizon at the edge of the garden. They were sentinels, the expression of strength, stature, protection, grandeur, and grace. I gazed at them, appreciating these gently waving oaks for their beauty as well as for what they signified spiritually.
It occurred to me that these lovely trees had become, in a sense, "mine." I had embraced them in my thought, and appreciated what they represented. I could come here every day if I wanted to, several times a day, in fact. If I actually owned these trees, I wondered, would I appreciate them any more than I did at that moment? Would they mean any less to me, be any less beautiful?
I looked around me. The swimming koi in the lake swirled; their glittery yellows, oranges, and blacks flashed in the sun. The stones rose with strength and solidity. I was learning that monetary ownership – the acquisitive nature our culture so prizes – isn't partaking of the wealth of God.
Seeing God's bounty and being grateful for it means "having all that God gives," as Mrs. Eddy put it. She advised that we spend our time "rejoicing in the affluence of our God" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 140).
That's what I resolved to do that day. It's right that we have what we need to feel safe, happy, and secure. I was able to move forward with purchasing the needed furnishings, one by one, including an old couch and new fabric. I learned how to recover the sofa and sew curtains to match. Letting go of the anxiety and depression occasioned by a perception of "not enough" allowed me to move forward and see new, innovative ways of meeting my needs.
And I've learned that "things," while useful, don't constitute affluence. "Gratitude is riches," a hymn puts it, and seeing the world from this perspective makes for a wealthy life (Vivian Burnett, "Christian Science Hymnal," No. 249).