“What purpose does a sloth fill in the whole scheme of things?” I asked our naturalist guide. He had just finished telling us that sloths often don’t move from their stationary position in a tree for up to two weeks.
He grinned and said that sloths are very important to the rainforest for several reasons. For example, they eat new leaves just as the leaves emerge from branches and therefore serve as natural pruners. For each leaf eaten, two more grow, thus increasing the volume of the rainforest’s canopy.
How cool is that! I could see that sloths really are important; they do have a useful place in the universe.
It’s so easy to dismiss some things, and even people, as unimportant. Maybe their value isn’t obviously apparent, or they don’t seem to be making a contribution. But there’s a different perspective, which I’ve discovered through studying Christian Science and found to be such a helpful way to look at things: In God’s universe – the true, spiritual universe – every individuality is created by God and valuable.
In her seminal work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes, “The divine Mind maintains all identities, from a blade of grass to a star, as distinct and eternal” (p. 70).
That idea has often comforted me. It has given me a conviction that the divine Mind, God, not only created and sustains all creation, but also maintains the value and individuality – the indispensability – of every idea. Nothing is insignificant.
What does this mean for those who believe they have no value, or who feel they have no contribution to make to the world? It can mean life is worth living. And we can help them by appreciating the wholeness of God’s creation – by affirming in our prayers that each individual plays a part and is therefore necessary.
I’m not referring to specific roles or tasks played out in nature or in society. I mean purpose as built into our nature as God’s offspring. God creates each of us with a purpose. But what determines our value isn’t simply based on our skill set, or what we’re trained to do. More profoundly, we are important and needed because we exist to express the qualities of our creator. Because like produces like, our true nature is God-caused. Each of us, therefore, inherently embodies harmony, love, intelligence, purposefulness, and more – all the qualities of our infinitely good creator.
Recognizing this has a healing effect. In fact, I know of a woman who was saved from the desire to take her own life by what she learned in Christian Science about her integral place in God’s creation. She’d had a difficult childhood and felt that her parents didn’t want her – that she shouldn’t even exist. As a young adult, she felt worthless and thought the world would be better without her.
So she was amazed to learn that she was both wanted and needed by God, her divine Parent. She realized that creation would be incomplete without her and everyone else.
The power of this spiritual fact pulled her out of the darkness. Now she expresses gratitude daily to have a purpose, which she has come to see is simply to express God. As a result she now lives a fulfilling life.
What this woman discovered is true for every one of us. Even if our value may not seem apparent, we can celebrate the underlying reality that spiritual qualities of infinite worth are still inherent in each of us. And then we’ll see and feel more of this God-inspired purpose expressed in our lives, not just because it is the reality, but because we’re more aware of it.