One of the most enthralling art exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston in 2018 included masterpieces by Dutch and Flemish painters.
People who were barely aware of the output of these 17th-century artists were suddenly entranced by portraits, still lifes, and landscapes they scarcely knew existed. The lines outside the museum were so intimidating for several weeks that the exhibition was extended by four months.
What captivated viewers was the way those painters handled light. Fabrics came alive. The shadows cast by undulating silk fabrics were soft and subtle. Smiling faces were caught through daring brushstrokes that outshone even the creative genius of today’s digital world.
To me, it wasn’t an outer brightness but an inner brightness that was communicated through each of these paintings. As a lover of the Scriptures, I was reminded of this passage from the book of Isaiah: “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light” (60:19, New International Version). Our everlasting light!
I’ve come to realize that there is a reflected light, aglow with Soul and Truth (which are helpful synonyms for God from the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy), that all of us naturally express as God’s children. God’s presence illumines our thoughts and dispels the darkness in our thinking – chasing away confusion, shame, hopelessness, fear, lack of direction, and so on. We discover, as Science and Health states, that “as light destroys darkness and in the place of darkness all is light, so (in absolute Science) Soul, or God, is the only truth-giver to man” (p. 72).
How well I recall a most desperate call for light – the light needed for me to understand my life’s purpose. I was in my final year at a large university at a time when jobs were scarce, and I had heaped up some daunting loans. Cautiously, I had chosen to major in mathematics. This wasn’t my best subject, but I had been persuaded to stick with it because math teachers were desperately needed in our community, and this qualification seemed to guarantee a job the moment I graduated. But my grades were below those required.
I’d been attending a Christian Science Sunday School, and I remember my teacher encouraging me to make time for prayer based on the light and wisdom revealed in the Bible and in Science and Health.
In the Bible I read about a desperate man named Job asking where wisdom could be found, for “even the sharp-eyed birds in the sky cannot discover it” (Job 28:21, The Living Bible). But almost immediately comes the firm assurance in verse 27 that God “knows where wisdom is and declares it to all who will listen. He established it and examined it thoroughly.”
I was also inspired by a spiritual explanation of the word “intelligence” in the Glossary of Science and Health: “Substance; self-existent and eternal Mind; that which is never unconscious nor limited” (p. 588).
The light of spiritual understanding flooded my thought as I prayed and studied. I realized that as God’s child, or the spiritual expression of the intelligence of the one eternal divine Mind, I already had the ability to comprehend all I needed to know.
As I continued praying with these ideas, my last few weeks of study were without strain or anxiety. And although I didn’t get an A, I passed the class with an honorable mention for my practical teaching skills.
As it happened, I didn’t become a math teacher. I began a long career as a journalist, rejoicing in a myriad of fresh and different ways of responding to this call of Christ Jesus’: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, King James Version).
Backed by prayer and a deepening grasp of where true intelligence comes from, I sought to glorify God’s goodness in every report I wrote. I realized that this was where I could consistently let my light shine. So I do have a keen appreciation of what “light” represents. I guess you could say that I look for ways I can put God’s light on display each day of my life.
Adapted from an article published in the Jan. 7, 2019, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel