In recent months, the world has generously offered a stage for demonstrations on a range of issues. From protests in Iran and India and continuing unrest in Hong Kong to the “yellow vest” movement in France and the Extinction Rebellion, hardly an area of the world remains untouched. The common story? Something must change, even if what that is or how to go about it isn’t clear.
In one of my first jobs, my human rights colleagues and I regularly staged protests in our city for one cause or another. Yet when asked what we hoped to achieve, our answers were often vague. In essence, our deep desire was to see individuals reach out and connect, with compassion and caring that would result in changing society.
Innovation, change, and progress happen as a result of thought changing. Actions may contribute to this change – but the ultimate shift must be mental. When thinking is primarily focused on abstract issues needing to be solved out there in the world, it can be difficult to know where to begin. But every outward change is the result of what happens first within hearts and minds.
November 2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down. I remember the day well. I also remember well a talk I heard shortly after by a woman who’d lived in East Germany. She talked about praying for unification every day for 10 years straight.
Her persistence struck me. When I asked her what kept her going all that time without seeing any outward evidence of change, she said something I’ll never forget: The wall came down in a moment. But it wasn’t the work of a moment. It was the result of all the moments leading up to the instant that thought changed. And what do you think changes thought?
She said that every time she paused and turned her thoughts toward God, she could feel a shift happening in her consciousness. She was gaining a more spiritual view of God’s irresistible power and unwavering presence right where division seemed so entrenched. This kept her going.
Revolutionary writings by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, outline a model for change: “The best spiritual type of Christly method for uplifting human thought and imparting divine Truth, is stationary power, stillness, and strength; and when this spiritual ideal is made our own, it becomes the model for human action” (“Retrospection and Introspection,” p. 93).
There’s an irony to this – that stillness is the model for human action. Often, when we identify a problem, the first response is to want to do something. But sometimes the best thing to do is to be still and feel divine presence.
Christ Jesus has been a model for me regarding stillness. With a mob surrounding him ready to stone a woman caught in adultery, he stayed still. After some moments, he simply made a statement that changed the thought of everyone there: Those of you without sin can cast the first stone. And one by one the woman’s accusers left, until the whole crowd had dispersed (see John 8:3-11).
True quietness has vibrancy. In spiritual stillness, thought aligns itself “intelligently with God” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 107). Christian Science defines God as divine Mind. This Mind gives us ideas that change how we think – when we yield up our own limited conceptions to them. We see that spiritual reality includes all the goodness, peace, and love we wish to see as already established in the completeness of divine creation.
Awareness of this precludes our feeling any urgency stemming from angst, nervousness, or fatigue. Action proceeding from divine presence is not motivated by fear or self-will, and when we are aligned with this presence, we realize that it is all there is, and it is all we can feel in that moment.
Action for change, when premised on this divine allness, acknowledges the spiritual completeness that God is showing us. Pausing to see spiritually chips away at the mental blocks trying to continually divide humanity.
Being still, as the first step toward action, aligns us with the presence of divine Mind that helps us look beyond immediate situations of conflict to see how God is already present. And this is what assures us of a bright year ahead.
Adapted from an editorial published in the Jan. 6, 2020, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.