Giving brushoffs the brushoff

One man’s acting pursuits increasingly came at the expense of his family obligations, until things reached a tipping point. As he prayed for clarity, a harmonious, loving, and fulfilling resolution followed for him and his family.

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Not long ago, I came across a post on social media describing how a man in a store checkout line began taking handfuls of coins out of his pockets to pay for his groceries. But he repeatedly miscounted and finally got so upset that his hands began shaking.

It would have been easy enough for the cashier to stand back and let her customer solve his dilemma. But she took his hands in hers and simply said, “Let’s do this together.” In a minute or two his items were paid for and he was on his way.

Someone then thanked the cashier for being so kind. She replied, “You shouldn’t have to thank me. We all just need to love one another.”

Although this is a small example, it illustrates how selflessness and a genuine desire to help can overcome indifference and the temptation to brush others off. It reminds me of a statement in a book called “The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany” by the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. It says: “Love for mankind is the elevator of the human race; it demonstrates Truth and reflects divine Love” (p. 288).

Christian Science explains that Truth and Love are synonyms for God, who created all of us in His spiritual image. What does that suggest for us, then? For one thing, that we don’t have to give in to feelings of indifference or apathy that would distance us from those around us, because expressing love and warmth is natural. These are qualities everyone can cultivate by actively letting the grace of God, Love, inspire how we interact with others. When we do this, there simply is no place for indifference in us.

Early in my marriage, when our daughters were both still quite small, I became fascinated with community theater. I landed several parts in fairly quick succession over a couple of years. Evening rehearsals, extended performance dates, and cast parties were new and exciting – but only for me. They actually kept me away from my home and family. I missed some important family dates and events, and my wife spent many evenings and weekends home alone with our children.

Slowly I began to realize there was something very wrong here. The problem wasn’t that I had a hobby outside the home, but that the situation had become extreme, clouding my natural desire to engage meaningfully with my family. Although my wife and I never argued about the fact that I was brushing off my responsibilities of home, family, and marriage, it was clear that she and our daughters were moving forward and that I needed to decide whether or not to be an active partner on their path.

This was a wake-up call for me to pray for clarity. A statement I found in the chapter called “Marriage” in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy shone like a spotlight. It said, “Fulfilling the different demands of their united spheres, their sympathies should blend in sweet confidence and cheer, each partner sustaining the other, – thus hallowing the union of interests and affections, in which the heart finds peace and home” (p. 59). God’s children are made to feel and express love harmoniously, not distance ourselves from it.

Things changed as I considered these ideas: Soon my interest in amateur acting lessened, and it felt right to let it dissolve completely. I naturally and happily moved into a much closer and engaged sense of marriage and home.

We’re all capable of feeling the touch of divine grace, which supports us in putting others first and keeping them there. Recognizing God’s love for us naturally inspires a genuine desire to love and help others – and to reject whatever would pull us away from doing so. Then we actively lift each other up in our families and communities.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.