Looking beneath the surface
A Christian Science perspective: Looking to the spiritual reality brings harmony and healing in tough times.
Last month’s presidential election in my country was hard for many people, including me. When a particular troubling issue dominated the news, I joined the outrage – which in my case was fueled by painful personal memories. Then I discovered that my husband supported the candidate who was being associated with that issue.
Over the next few weeks, we argued constantly. There were moments when I couldn’t seem to separate my husband from what was going on in the news. The lowest point came when I felt that my husband didn’t respect or support me. Distressed, I turned to God for answers.
As a student of Christian Science, I’ve come to see that the roiling surface of any uncomfortable situation requires us to look deeper. Christ Jesus advised, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly” (John 7:24, New Living Translation). For Jesus, correct judgment always involved discernment of what the universally loving and limitless God is up to. “Spiritual sense” is the term Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy used for this discernment – as opposed to worldly or material sense, which includes rigid beliefs or opinions. If we’re gripped by material sense, it can be hard to see a way forward.
But spiritual sense – which Mrs. Eddy defines as “a conscious, constant capacity to understand God” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 209) – grounds us with a confidence in the constancy and dependability of a God who is Love itself (see I John 4:16). Spiritual sense is natural in each of us because our true identity is the spiritual image of God (see Genesis 1:26, 27). This sense is cultivated through prayer that acknowledges God as all-good, all-intelligent, all-powerful, always-present, and ever-active Love. Such prayer brings a growing understanding of our indissoluble relation to God. We can’t get outside divine Love.
“Through spiritual sense,” Eddy writes, “you can discern the heart of divinity, and thus begin to comprehend in Science the generic term man” (Science and Health, pp. 258-259). I’ve come to see that as we know and feel and trust the good and loving nature of God, we also discover the goodness inherent in each of us as divine Love’s creation. We can look deeper and understand ourselves and others in ways that are positive, elevating, and enduring.
But how, if we’re as upset as I was, can we grasp this spiritual view of God and man? It requires a willingness to begin to give up willful, self-centered views. Doing so is like taking off blinders. And though undeniably challenging at times, this surrender of material sense is the surest way to feel from head to toe that Love is the true and lasting foundation of all being. And it brings healing and stability.
As Election Day came and went, I had to “look beneath the surface” many times. Facing my own painful memories, I prayed to see that good is always present. Healing came as I realized that my worth as God’s child could never be devalued by any person or experience. My defensive attitude toward my husband also yielded, and I humbly became more alert to what God would show me.
Overnight, it seemed, our tones softened. We spoke and listened to each other from the heart. Beneath discord and criticism we rediscovered a dependable, spiritual basis for honoring each other – for expressing respect, appreciation, and thoughtfulness. We also felt led to a sort of “point-plan” for living these qualities. One simple example is that we committed to make more eye contact with each other in conversation, to look up from our computer screens, smartphones, or TV and truly engage with each other.
It may seem ironic that our renewed sense of caring and connection came out of a divisive election. In the heat of arguments and bruised feelings, who could have predicted that result? Well, God could – His reality, the only reality, is entirely harmonious. The Scriptures say, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13, NLT) – to feel and express His love.
Over and over again, I’ve come to see that it’s not God’s desire that we cling to a material sense of disunity, dysfunction, or dishonor. We have the innate ability to discern the unshakable and eternal spiritual reality. When we truly yearn to know God, we’re bathed in blessings, finding in our experience more unity, honor, wholeness, goodness, and peace.