Los Angeles Times religion reporter William Lobdell asked last month to be given a new beat. After spending several years reporting on court cases of victims of sexual abuse by priests and a variety of other church abuses, Mr. Lobdell said his once vibrant spiritual insights are fading. He felt he was losing sight of how religion can positively affect people's lives. Lobdell's sentiments may echo the voices of many of the victims. When abuse happens to the innocent, it's easy to become disillusioned and wonder how to move forward.
Over the years, I've come to see that where religion may fall short, an understanding of the scientific laws of divine Love can bless individuals in profound ways. Most important, it empowers them with the assurance of their spiritual and innocent nature as the creation of the most Holy. Out of this insight, the question of "how do I move forward?" becomes, "How do I forgive?"
In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus said, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Jesus didn't say what to forgive; his prayer instructed us simply to forgive. Why? Perhaps he saw forgiveness as a conviction that God is always guiding, loving, and protecting His creation. Jesus' resurrection shows that this conviction reverses the effects of evil, no matter how severe.
I was sexually abused by a trusted neighbor when I was 5 and then by a trusted employer in my teens. I discovered that the forgiveness I searched for was not so much based on my relationship with others as on my relationship with God. My heart wanted to understand why Love had let these things happen to me. For years, trust in God seemed elusive, although I yearned for it. On some level I reasoned that if I'd been good, God would have protected me. I once told a friend that I thought of myself as a chipped tea cup. Fixed … glued … but forever chipped and less valuable.
The Beatitudes gave me insight. "Blessed," Jesus said, are those that mourn, the poor in spirit, the persecuted, the meek (Matt. 5:1-12). So no matter what I'm faced with, if I keep my eye on God, on good, on the blessings, I'll find the way to witness the true, health-giving, love-providing, activity of God. Witnessing this action transforms us, enabling us to triumph.
Jesus' example of forgiveness is a message to anyone searching for peace after abuse. When a disciple cut off the ear of one of the men sent to arrest him, Jesus forgave and healed the man. When Peter denied his association with Jesus, the Master later embraced him. Jesus' example was evidence that something remarkably spiritual exists that is eternally supporting us and cherishing us – no matter what. Like mathematical equations that can be used by everyone at the same time and never diminish, God's way of loving is available for everyone, all the time, in every situation.
As I prayed, I felt a growing desire to understand "what really is going on" but interpreted though a spiritual lens. I began to see God's eternal, loving nature. My perspective on life as material shifted to a more spiritual view. As it bloomed, I discovered eventually that I could forgive and trust God because my spiritual identity – that creation of the Divine – could never be touched by mortality or evil. And neither could the identity of my attackers. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote, "The divine Mind that made man maintains His own image and likeness" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 151).
A glimmer of the existence of Spirit erased the resentment and bitterness that kept me from going forward. That glimmer lifted me to an awareness of and confidence in God's eternal care for His creation.
Our sinless and purely spiritual relationship with God is protected, maintained, and nurtured by Love itself. Dismay, discouragement, cynicism, and self-condemnation dissolve when every detail of life is seen as reflecting the beauty of Spirit. Above the frailties of religion, the law of God guides us rightly to health and peace. And that's worth reporting.