Encouragement from 'The Ugly Duckling'

A Christian Science perspective.

Over the years I have always had a fascination with fairy tales. They contain wonderful insights that we carry well into adulthood; and many times, universal truths are taught by the animal characters in these fairy tales.

I particularly like “The Ugly Duckling,” by Hans Christian Andersen. Our star character is a duckling whose appearance is so out of place among his family that he is labeled The Ugly One. Deep down in his little duckling heart he has the same needs for love and acceptance as his brother and sister ducks, but it is not to be. He is different … he is ugly.

One day he sees a flock of beautiful white birds on a pond. Something deep inside impels him to approach these birds, these beautiful white swans. As he approaches, he catches sight of his reflection in the water – why, he is one of them! He is a beautiful white swan. Everyone had it wrong: he was not a duck, nor was he ugly. It was a case of mistaken identity.

Over 2,000 years ago Jesus asked a question along similar lines, which continues to reverberate even today. The question was asked in two different ways. First, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” His disciples’ answer was to report rumors of what others said. He asked again: “But whom say ye that I am?” This time his disciple Peter came forth with a validation of Jesus’ office: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16).

The integrity of any testimony is based on two factors: the credibility of the testimony and the credentials of the witness. Peter’s understanding was the rock upon which Jesus would build his church, and it satisfies both criteria as reliable and authentic.

Sadly, Jesus’ best intentions were misinterpreted and even intentionally distorted. Yet he never forgot his mission, never turned back or compromised his message. The biographies of Mary Baker Eddy reveal a similar kind of resistance to her message, but her teachings and practice followed the Master – always taking the way of divine Love to bless, restore, and reform. She was not deterred when her efforts were misrepresented by mere opinion gone wrong; she knew that conviction based on truth would vindicate the Christianity of her teachings.

We shouldn’t be discouraged if our prayers or our healing work is misrepresented; rather, we should recognize that opinion is baseless, but conviction blesses. What matters is our commitment to reflecting God’s allness in our daily living. Jesus exhorted his students: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils” (Matthew 10:8). And Mrs. Eddy placed a similarly high premium on proof and demonstration. She encouraged her students to rely totally upon those principles in their lives. She wrote, “I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 250).

Christian Science teaches us of our inseparability from God, divine Mind, our origin and the source of our completeness. Mrs. Eddy writes, “Man is God’s reflection, needing no cultivation, but ever beautiful and complete” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 527).

When the duckling made the connection with the other swans through his reflection, it allowed him to cross over the invisible barrier to the companionship he so longed for. And when we make the connection to the divinity in our reflection, we cross the invisible barriers to what we long for. It is this decision to take action, directed by inspiration, that validates and sustains our course heavenward.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

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