One evening I walked over to a local park to listen to a friend’s classic rock band. An appreciative but modest crowd was enjoying an early gust of autumn coolness; little children spun and skipped to the music. Then I noticed a group of people, sipping from a bottle in a brown bag, just a touch too raucous to be mistaken for sober.
Their drinking bothered me and I asked myself why. Generally I try not to judge people, but I’m learning that what I think and believe about myself and the people I see each day matters. Not that it’s my business to tell others how to live their lives, but it is my business to honor God by acknowledging Him as the only creator, the one who upholds and preserves the integrity and purity of everything He creates. Each of us has an inherent connection to God as the very source of our being; it’s a tender, constant relationship to God that can’t be denied or ignored, and it is the reality of our being. In that moment at the park, I really wanted to look beyond the surface of things, beyond a group of rowdy drinkers, to see everyone made in God’s image – His spiritual and pure reflection.
Christian Science explains God not as a material super-person, but as Truth itself, Love itself, Life itself. Mary Baker Eddy, a deep thinker and spiritual pioneer who discovered and founded Christian Science, once wrote, “What we love determines what we are” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany” p. 270). Because God’s creation expresses His divine goodness, it comes naturally to each of us to love good. By the same token, the attraction to anything that’s not good – anything harmful or self-destructive – is actually foreign to our nature as God’s image. And I think that’s what troubled me about seeing the drinking. I couldn’t accept that the desire to drink had anything to do with the man God made.
My thoughts went back to a day many years earlier. As a young adult I drank socially with friends. But I remember standing in our front yard in west Texas one day asking myself, “Why do you drink?” At the time, I hadn’t been praying to be freed of the desire for alcohol, but I certainly was hungering and thirsting for more goodness in my life. I wasn’t sure what that goodness was, but I felt that it must have something to do with God, and that I could trust God, good, and follow Him. This hunger led me, over the next few months, to turn to the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” for a clearer sense of spiritual direction and guidance.
In Science and Health Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Destroy the illusion of pleasure in intoxication, and the desire for strong drink is gone” (p. 398). Standing in my front yard that day, I experienced something of what Mrs. Eddy describes. I discovered that I found no pleasure in being drunk. I felt clumsy and self-conscious. When I realized that alcohol actually had no real appeal for me, it suddenly lost all hold on me. I haven’t had a drink, or a desire to drink, in over 30 years. And I think it explains why I felt the need to see that the desire for strong drink was no part of the real, God-created individuality of those people I saw at the concert. I felt that the best way I could be a good neighbor was to refuse to believe that drinking could really be natural or attractive to anyone. And to silently insist that the attraction to good, to our loving relationship to God as Life, Truth, and Love was strong and sound, because we are always one with God as God’s image, or expression. God – Truth, Life, Love – being pure good, has to be reflected in good and productive thoughts and actions.
Divine Love is loving us and leading us to recognize our real individuality, which is wholly good. This loving God speaks to all of us, including those at the concert. I went my way; they went theirs. But I felt blessed by the ideas that had come to me as I prayed that evening, and I trust that, in some way, they were blessed, too.