Have you ever thought you’d be happier if only ... if only you were better looking, smarter, richer, older, younger, married, single, healthier, and so on? We probably all have some “if onlys” in our lives, and since many seem beyond our control, they can get in the way of happiness. It might be helpful to examine our lives from a different perspective to reassess what really matters.
When a movie is well written, well directed, and well acted, the characters come alive, and for a couple of hours we are drawn into their world. I know I have shed a few tears (both happy and sad) at the theater; I’ve disliked the bad guy; I’ve reassured myself that “it’s only a movie” when a scene was frightening. But no matter how realistic a movie is, I still know that at the end of the day when the filming stopped, the actor playing the character whose heart was broken, or who played the villain or the victim, walked away and continued with his or her everyday life.
Many of us grow up identifying ourselves as the sum of the day-to-day roles we play: our career, family life, and relationships, which are all influenced by the challenges that arise along the way. It’s common to compare ourselves with others and perhaps think the roles are unequal because some people seem to have a much better (or much worse) part. For thousands of years, however, spiritual leaders such as Christ Jesus have pointed out there is more to life than meets the eye – there is our spiritual identity, which is real, eternal, and constant.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper and author of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” explains in that book spiritual existence this way: “The great spiritual fact must be brought out that man is, not shall be, perfect and immortal” (p. 428). Later on, she adds: “When speaking of God’s children, not the children of men, Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of God is within you;’ that is, Truth and Love reign in the real man, showing that man in God’s image is unfallen and eternal. Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man.... In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick” (pp. 476-477). This spiritual perspective offers hope and equality for everyone, for regardless of our earthly characteristics or circumstances, we are all God’s children – made in the image and likeness of God – spiritual, timeless, and whole.
In order to be more attuned to this spiritual view and improve our human script, perhaps we should affirm we can instead of wishing for those elusive if onlys.
For example, we can realize there’s more to life than a few fleeting, often challenging, years on an earthly stage. When we are tempted to view ourselves or others as evil, weak, or not good enough in some way, we should remember that the “real man” Jesus beheld was none of those things, but was sinless, strong, and eternal. As we learn to claim our spiritual identity, we will be able to experience happiness despite the factors that once seemed so limiting; our eyes will be open to the good that is already available. When we “behold the perfect man,” we might even help someone else see themselves in a new light.
We can understand: “Beauty, wealth, or fame is incompetent to meet the demands of the affections, and should never weigh against the better claims of intellect, goodness, and virtue. Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love” (Science and Health, p. 57). Indicators of material success and outward appearances aren’t so important when we realize that a person’s worth and the value of life are spiritually intrinsic and cannot be measured or gained by material means. That outlook levels the playing field for all of us.
Most important, we can and should become aware of how dearly God loves us – and we should trust the underlying truth that God protects, supplies, and sustains His children. With God as our director, all roles are good. As we learn to express what is spiritually true and see it as our reality, we’ll experience a foretaste of heaven on earth – the fulfillment of Jesus’ words: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” (Luke 11:2). Then we’ll look around and within, and discover we’re already living our “happily ever after.” What a difference that perspective can make!