The road to freedom

A Christian Science perspective: For many people in the United States, the Fourth of July inspires celebrating freedom. The quest for freedom, regardless of one's national origin, runs deep in the human heart.

The car was packed, and my husband and I were preparing to head home from a vacation in Toronto back to Boston. I studied the map our hosts had provided and saw a yellow highlighted route they had drawn guiding us not west and south down to Buffalo – our usual route – but east along the northern shore of Lake Ontario, toward Kingston.

After some coaxing on their part, we decided to try it. Two hours later, as we crossed the majestic Thousand Islands Bridge over the glittering St. Lawrence River, we were not sorry. As the highway spilled down into the serene Amish farmlands of upstate New York, we marveled that we had never thought to go this beautiful way before!

All it took was a change of thought – a willingness to try something different. In short, we had gone from ignorance to understanding.

I got to thinking: In the larger scheme of things, it appears that many people within families, businesses, governments, and even nations are “driving the same old road home.” These “rutted highways” take form as unrelenting family strife, economic turmoil, endemic warfare, or racial bigotry. Each road represents a kind of self-imposed bondage with no exit ramp in sight. Willfulness and ignorance seem to rule the day. How can humanity find a new road to freedom?

By thinking rightly. Qualities of right thinking, such as understanding, discernment, openness to new ideas, and integrity to truth, are like finger posts pointing the better way home. They reverse one’s path down the road of ignorance and the suffering associated with it. More than human goodness, these traits have a divine origin. These God-given qualities are inherent in our genuine, spiritual identity.

In reality, man is the image and likeness of God, or Truth. So it is natural for us to eschew false and enslaving patterns of thinking – and to break through to greater mental freedom, control, balance, and insight. Such mental shifts may not happen quickly, but as on a road, whether you're turning around a bicycle or an 18-wheeler, they are certainly possible. Christ Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

In the Bible, that’s what happened to Saul. He was on the road to Damascus to carry out persecution of Jews who were still following Jesus’ teachings even though he had been crucified. But something stopped Saul in his tracks. Paul relates, “There shone from heaven a great light round about me,” and he heard the voice of the Christ, saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 22:6-9). Saul’s ignorance of Jesus’ role as the promised Messiah must have hit home, for Saul found himself “three days without sight” (Acts 9:9). He had been going down the wrong road.

But not long after, with a fresh understanding of the Christ and the new name of Paul, he joined in fellowship with Jesus’ disciples. It was a stunning turnaround. In his subsequent missionary travels, Paul encouraged others not to be “conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). Feeling a new freedom within, he wanted to share the good news of the “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

This story gives me a lot of hope. The human mind, through God’s grace, can indeed be rerouted toward better aims and achievements. Has not our time witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, the winding down of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the end of official apartheid in South Africa? And more recently, the ousting of entrenched tyrants in Egypt and Libya and the launching of the Myanmar (Burma) “spring”? Whatever triggered these events must have first begun in individual, human thought; and while these advances didn’t happen overnight, they stand remarkable, nonetheless.

If we feel we’re on the wrong road in any area of life, we can begin to think rightly. The same Christ-spirit that Jesus embodied and that Paul felt is present with us. God can chart a new course for us. As His reflection, His image and likeness, we have the ability to “see the light,” to follow Jesus’ teachings, and to carve out happier and more productive lives, which are the hallmarks of freedom.

Mary Baker Eddy, a follower of Christ Jesus in word and deed, has this counsel: “Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love” (“Pulpit and Press,” p. 3).

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