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The intermediate way

At a time when extreme reactions to news reports and emotional highs and lows seem inevitable, today’s column explores how the radical idea that God is good and is supreme brings a spirit of calm and grace.

I remember a time when I was about 12 years old, when my friends and I had spent the day riding our bikes on dirt mounds. By the end of the day, we’d taken several tumbles and were covered in dirt. One of my friends had some fake blood that he’d been planning to use as part of a Halloween costume, and we decided to apply it to our dirty, scraped-up selves. We thought we looked really gruesome – like battle-tested action heroes.

We decided it would be really funny to see how our moms would react. So I opened the door and said in my best woe-is-me voice, “Mom, I fell off my bike.” There I was, waiting for her to scream and come running to me, arms outstretched, sobbing, “Are you OK?” Well, she took one look at me, and without missing a beat said in the most matter-of-fact voice, “Make sure your bike is OK, and then go get yourself cleaned up.”

It was so disappointing! She’d totally seen through me. I’d been looking for something really extreme and dramatic, and what I got was an unmovable solid rock called Mom.

Sometimes it feels as if there is an unseen mischievous boy acting behind the scenes, trying to get extreme reactions out of us – a political action feels so off base that it enrages; self-righteousness brings division rather than unity to religious worship; violent weather keeps us fixated on reports of damage; chills or fevers convince us we are ailing. Much of the world, it seems, is in need of that unmovable mom-like ability to look beyond the drama to see good.

And in the broadest sense, this is what Christian Science is all about – never losing sight of the radical spiritual fact that God, good, reigns supreme, irrespective of the turmoil we see around us.

Matthew’s Gospel in the Bible tells of a time when Christ Jesus was on a boat with his disciples during a violent storm (see 8:23-27). Jesus was asleep, when the disciples woke him up and essentially said, “Hey, come look at how threatening our storm is!” But Jesus demonstrated an intermediate way – the certainty of knowing the harmony of God cannot be disrupted – and basically replied, “No, you look at my peace and how possible it is not to lose sight of good.” Then he stilled the storm.

Don’t all of us know what it feels like when we let ourselves get taken for a ride by emotional tsunamis? There’s no sense of God’s grace, no assurance of the presence of good, no gift of harmony in that moment.

Christian Science explains that the nature of mortal thought is to go to extremes. We’ll find ourselves less used by this inclination if we’re willing to be more alert to it. As Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Human concepts run in extremes; they are like the action of sickness, which is either an excess of action or not action enough; they are fallible; they are neither standards nor models” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 353).

And in correspondence with a student of the Science of Christ Mrs. Eddy discovered, she wrote of taking “the temperate line of conclusion and action which is the only right one” and bringing forth the meekness and temperance that the Apostle Paul said are “the fruit of the Spirit” (see Galatians 5:22, 23). She added, “This state of growth is when a student becomes what Jesus demanded – ‘wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove’ ” (Mary Baker Eddy to William G. Nixon, June 30, 1890; N00034, © The Mary Baker Eddy Collection).

None of this implies a lack of feeling. Spiritual progress deepens our yearning to love, increases the compassion we feel for others, and heightens our hatred of evil. The goal is certainly not some limbo state of emotional blandness.

Rather, it seems to me that Mrs. Eddy is describing a mental position that knows its Redeemer, that knows how the story turns out, so it doesn’t get pulled way up and brought way low by mortality’s plot lines. It is this intermediate way, this understanding of God’s allness, that brings grace into our lives and is greatly needed in this world of ours.

As God’s children, we are all capable of seeing through the misperception that there is something more powerful than good, of stepping back mentally from the adrenaline of mortal thinking and affirming the unshakable, health-giving presence of God, divine Love. Understanding the ever-operative nature of this Love is holding to the intermediate way, and it brings hope and progress.

Adapted from an editorial published in the August 2015 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

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