Baking on the searing pavement under the Texas summer sun in the middle of a busy roadway was a red-eared slider turtle. Driving by, my husband saw it just in time, then safely stopped, scooped it up, and brought it home. We put it in our small patio pond, but after several days, the turtle hadn’t eaten, the shell was flaking off, its skin was peeling, and the outlook seemed dire.
So I prayed.
Of all the pressing concerns in the world, the situation with a turtle didn’t seem very consequential. Yet I’ve found that praying about the little things in life often ends up helping me see solutions to the bigger things. In this case, I learned something about the nature of salvation.
Salvation in its most basic sense means deliverance or preservation from harm, loss, or peril. As the world starts to emerge from a pandemic, there is a desire to get back to “business as usual.” Yet there’s also a longing to live life in a fuller, more meaningful way. We don’t want to just survive; we want to thrive.
The Bible offers a foundation for this more expansive view. It includes accounts of individuals who are not only delivered from impossible situations, but whose lives are also improved in the process. Characters are changed. Mistakes are rectified. Lives are healed. There’s a sense of being connected to something bigger than one’s self. A sense of being linked inseparably to the Divine, to God.
When I think of salvation in this fuller sense, I think of Christ Jesus. He healed sin and sickness and even overcame death. And yet, as wonderful and important as all this was in and of itself, Jesus taught that healing really points to something larger – a spiritual reality that he described as “the kingdom of God.” It’s a quality of life where God’s rule of harmony is supreme; and as citizens of this kingdom, we are spiritual, whole, and subject only to the government of divine and perfect Love, God.
Jesus spoke of this kingdom as “right at hand” and “within” each of us. Salvation, then, isn’t something that we have to wait for. The kingdom of God is already present within consciousness. We experience this kingdom more tangibly as we understand God better.
“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science and founder of The Christian Science Monitor, includes a glossary of spiritual definitions for biblical terms. It defines “salvation” as “Life, Truth, and Love understood and demonstrated as supreme over all; sin, sickness, and death destroyed” (p. 593).
Life, Truth, and Love are Bible-based names for God. They help us understand that God is not some mortal dispensing salvation as He sees fit. Instead, God is Life itself, expressing health, wholeness, and immortality throughout all creation. God is Truth, the basis for all that is true and right and good and pure. God is Love, expressing comfort and beauty and joy and overflowing love for each and every one of us.
The world can seem filled with violence, disease, injustice, and suffering. Yet Jesus turned perceptions of existence as matter-based upside down. Instead of judging things from the physical senses’ viewpoint, he started with God, Spirit. Whatever reflects the goodness of God, Truth, is the spiritual reality. And he called evil a lie and “the father of [lies]” (John 8:44). Jesus didn’t ignore bad things. He showed that for every threat of evil, including injury or illness, there is a spiritual fact that corrects and heals it.
This brings me back to my turtle story. I had been judging things by the material picture. It looked as if extended exposure to the sun had caused irreversible damage, but divine Love is the only legitimate power and cause throughout the entire universe. In my prayers, I considered these spiritual facts. It became clear to me that the physical picture had to be untrue when viewed from God’s perspective. Love is the eternal refuge for all.
That day the turtle began to eat and flourish. In fact, she recently outgrew our pond, and we found a bigger home for her nearby.
It’s a small example. But, like expanding ripples in a pond, our sense of salvation grows whenever we recognize and prove that the laws of God’s kingdom are fully in effect now. As I’ve opened my heart to this, I’ve experienced physical and mental healings and felt God’s saving presence over and over again.
That’s true salvation, in which we glimpse a larger sense of life – the Life that is Love, God, in whom everyone not only survives, but is guaranteed to thrive!