Recently a friend and I were discussing different opportunities we had been given to return to jobs we’d done in the past. I said I had viewed this, not as a step backward, but as an occasion to do the job even better. But we both saw that going back to the same job was much more than a chance to improve the nuts-and-bolts performance of our assignments. As students of the Bible and followers of Christ Jesus we felt it was important to bring to the work a fuller expression of Godlike qualities, something related to progress in a deeper sense. I felt, for example, that I had been able to approach the work that second time with greater humility, discernment, wisdom, patience, compassion, and understanding.
A promotion at work or some other step ahead in life is often just the right thing. Yet each day presents opportunities for the kind of forward movement that’s linked with a more God-inspired – Spirit-inspired – state of thought. And that, of course, leads to outward progress as well.
The Bible counsels us to “put off … the old man” and to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22, 24). That’s a powerful statement brimming over with meaning in relation to genuine progress and happiness. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” referring to progress, “It is the ripening of mortal man, through which the mortal is dropped for the immortal” (p. 296).
But what does it mean to put off the old man for the new, to drop the mortal for the immortal? It’s actually a very natural letting go of traits that don’t express God’s goodness, and a growing expression of qualities that characterize who we really are as His image – compassion, purity, integrity, humility, and so on. This happens bit by bit through a deepening love of the Bible’s inspired message with its emphasis on the things of Spirit as opposed to worldly, materialistic values. It happens through embracing in prayer the truth of our being as the pure reflection of God and denying the supposed validity of whatever is unlike God, good. It also happens through watchfulness to conform, in thought and action, to that prayer. This may meet with a feeling of resistance on our part, but it’s a God-impelled activity, and it’s joy-giving at the most profound level. It’s a yielding to what each one of us actually is at this moment and always will be: the spiritual, flawless image of the one perfect God.
The mortal sense of life – the earthly, fleshly sense with its built-in weaknesses and sins – is what restricts. The immortal – evident to some degree in a more Godlike, spiritual orientation of thought – is what frees. It improves our experience.
When Jesus refused to condemn an adulterous woman but instead said to her, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11), he must have discerned her true, Godlike self, untouched by any ungodly element, and her natural ability to put off that behavior. She had a fresh opportunity to drop the mortal for the immortal and to enjoy a greater degree of genuine happiness.
Sometimes we seem to get stuck in old, unprogressive, even harmful, patterns of thought. But the Christ – the divine influence in human consciousness, which Jesus exemplified – is always present with its healing light, enabling us to take a step forward spiritually. This might be evident through a job done with greater care and discernment, or perhaps through kinder thoughts or increasing patience; there are so many ways to express more of our authentic, immortal nature.
The opportunity to take steps forward in a wiser, more Godlike direction is there for nations as well as individuals. The Monitor has often pointed to hopeful signs of progress along this line.
Even in the midst of conflict and resistance, genuine, God-inspired advancement is possible. In fact, it’s inevitable – the outcome of how God has actually designed His creation.