Family matters, and what really matters

A Christian Science perspective.

Ah, summer – the time for family reunions, weddings, vacations, and sweet interchanges with those nearest and dearest to us. Do I see some of you rolling your eyes? Well, that might be because you, as I, have not always found these family times easy. There’s no doubt that I deeply cherish family gatherings, but they have frequently challenged me to grow in grace. This summer was no exception.

My youngest daughter got married at my home in Maine, and the weeks leading up to the wedding were full of gardening and building projects to get the yard in shape after a long, snowy Maine winter. Then two weeks out, extra folks arrived to help, who needed to be fed as well. And on top of that, I had a major professional commitment in Washington, D.C., the weekend before the wedding.

I had been praying for months in advance of this time, aware that weddings tend to come with intense expectations and complex human relations. A stanza from a poem by Mary Baker Eddy called “Satisfied” had been the anchor of my prayers. It reads:

It matters not what be thy lot,
So Love doth guide;
For storm or shine, pure peace is thine,
Whate’er betide.
("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 161)

I kept reminding myself that the main item on the agenda was the expression of Love, not the human events. I prayed to be conscious of the presence of divine Love – of God – and I kept resting in that as the demands ramped up.

All went pretty smoothly through the first week of family arriving and my trip to Washington. But on the Thursday before the wedding, I awakened with a sore throat and symptoms of a cold coming on. In spite of my efforts to pray for myself, I was not on my game that morning, and said something that ruffled a family member’s feathers. She confronted me with this and several other things that had upset her. I apologized and felt really terrible for these mistakes, and for not staying with my plan of letting Love guide my actions.

Afterward, I was sitting in the kitchen snapping beans in preparation for lunch, when my soon-to-be-son-in-law came in. I burst into tears. And with the tenderest love, he wrapped his arms around me and said, “You have nothing to feel bad about. All of us love you, and we are very grateful for all you are doing for us.”

In that very moment, the symptoms of the cold disappeared.

Now, my son-in-law is not religious, but he is tremendously kind and loving. And I learned an important lesson that morning. It really doesn’t matter what our lot in life is, how we label ourselves, what we consider to be our identity, so long as we are expressing love. Love is powerful. It is an expression of God, divine Mind, or whatever one might call the infinite. And when love is truly felt, it heals – even if we aren’t consciously loving for that reason or don’t expect it to heal, because love is our real and only identity, the actual substance of life. Mary Baker Eddy boldly declared in another one of her poems, which is also a hymn: “Love alone is Life;/ And life most sweet, as heart to heart/ Speaks kindly when we meet and part” (No. 30).

So I found myself right back where I started from, but this time really feeling my prayer in my heart. It truly does not matter what is going on around us or who is doing it or why they’re doing it. Divine Love is loving us and causing us to express love, and that is enough. That is the whole agenda in family gatherings, in professional encounters, and in our prayers for the world. It will protect, sustain, defend, govern, adjust, heal – allowing us to do with grace what divine Love is giving us to do, and preventing reaction to what appear to be the demands coming at us from without. So we can be at peace, whether the situation seems stormy or full of sunshine. We will be experiencing what another loved poem says: “The ‘one far-off divine event’/ Is now, and that event is Love” (Charles H. Barlow, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 391).

The rest of that week was joyous, and the wedding a delight. On the day of the wedding it sprinkled for a few minutes at 4:30 in the afternoon, but then the skies cleared, and by 6 p.m. there was a lovely breeze blowing and the sun was shining. We dried the chairs off and everything proceeded without a hitch. And though I was grateful for that change in the weather, I know it wouldn’t have mattered. Because what matters, really matters, would have been there no matter what – Love!

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