During lunch one day, a woman at a table near me in the cafeteria went on a tirade about another person’s life. It’s hard to eat hot chicken noodle soup fast, so it was hard to avoid listening to the conversation. As I went back to the office, I couldn’t help feeling sad about the negativity I’d heard.
But that night I had tickets to “Mr. and Mrs. Pennyworth,” a play that was premièring at a local Chicago theater. As I watched, I glimpsed something that pointed me to an answer to my sadness.
Mr. and Mrs. Pennyworth are storytellers who have close friendships with fairy tale characters such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Pigs, and Jack, who even gave them one of his beans. It is an enchanting play: A tragedy has happened in the land of fairy tale, and the couple has the assignment of restoring order.
At the end of the play, Mrs. P turns to the audience and acknowledges that some of us may have had even worse things happen in our lives and perhaps wish we could rewrite our own stories. But, she suggests, if we can’t do that, we can find the courage to look at the stories of our lives with love. The key to restoring order in fairy tale land had been telling someone else’s story through the lens of love. That wise counsel engaged my heart.
The memory of the ugly words I’d heard in the cafeteria came to mind. It occurred to me that negatively judging someone else can be an echo of not feeling the beauty of our own lives. My sadness melted into a compassionate prayer that we can all love our lives in a way that helps us tell of others’ stories with love.
There are all kinds of things that might make us not love our own life stories: shame, a feeling of loss, missed opportunity, hardship and suffering, even abuse. Those heartaches can distort our view of the lives of others because we don’t see goodness prevailing.
But there is a spiritual basis for loving our lives: the fact that God is Life – in fact, the only Life we have to live. This does not mean this divine Life somehow tolerates evil or uses evil for good. It means that Life is Love itself, entirely good, and expresses us as its beloved spiritual offspring. This spiritual reality enables us to see ourselves as loved – even when we’re going through hard things.
As Christ Jesus showed throughout his healing ministry, recognizing that sin or cruelty does not have the power to disconnect us from God’s love helps heal heartaches and impels reformation. So when unhappy memories seem to overwhelm us, we can know that inharmony is never part of our true, spiritual identity, and we can humbly say, “Thank You, God, for always being with me.”
The promise of this prayer is that we will increasingly stop defining ourselves by the events of human history. Our identity as God’s loved creation remains intact. Even if we don’t see evidence of this at a given time, God’s love is the sustaining power of our lives, inspiring joy and peace.
There is a close and constant relation of God to God’s children, the very expressions of divine goodness. Our true spiritual nature is in harmony with God. We exist to express God, and the intimacy of our oneness with God stays intact no matter how severe the human experience we have suffered.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy writes in the book she called “the Christian Science textbook”: “If we were to derive all our conceptions of man from what is seen between the cradle and the grave, happiness and goodness would have no abiding-place in man ...” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 244). Earlier in the book she writes: “Life is, always has been, and ever will be independent of matter; for Life is God, and man is the idea of God, not formed materially but spiritually, and not subject to decay and dust” (p. 200).
The ups and downs of our experiences do not have to undermine our conviction of the goodness of God’s blessing on our lives. In fact, they may turn us to a deeper understanding of our spiritual identity as beloved. On this basis, loving our life is natural.