Being as ‘harmless as doves’

Letting God, Love, impel how we respond to situations enables us to face even hostile circumstances with peace and love – and to redeem past instances of self-righteousness or self-condemnation. 

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Last spring, the governor of our state opened up the state parks free of charge during the pandemic. My family and I had always purchased trail passes to use these trails for mountain biking. They had become a sanctuary for me, and I was disturbed at the sudden influx of people from out of town hiking on the trails for free, many of whom seemed to be ignorant of proper trail etiquette, such as packing out one’s trash.

On a particularly busy day, I rode around a fast turn and found a hiker in the middle of the trail kneeling down and taking a picture of something. Although I had encountered many hikers that I kindly yielded to that day, in this instance, I had an exchange of words that wasn’t so nice. The hiker looked up at me and yelled, in what I thought was an accusatory tone, “This trail is for hiking,” and I shouted back as I sped past, “No, it’s not; it’s for mountain biking.”

At first, I felt justified in what I had said, but I also felt awful about the way I had said it. The truth is, the trail is for both hiking and biking.

I knew I needed to rethink the entire situation through the eyes of divine Love, God. Christian Science teaches that the law of God, divine Love, is supreme. It actually governs everyone, all the time. Prayerfully acknowledging this enables us to see and experience the eternal harmony of Love, the divine Principle.

For instance, I’ve found that contemplating Jesus’ instruction to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16) can restore peace in situations that have seemed upsetting. It can help eliminate the self-righteousness or self-condemnation that would disrupt our rightful harmony. It isn’t always easy to do this in the heat of a situation, but I’ve found that one can always go back and remand the case.

Confronting criticism that was so much harsher and more unjust than what I’d experienced, Jesus did not respond in kind to the taunts or react to those who opposed him. Through meekness and humility he proved that the power of divine Love’s presence enables us to face a hostile environment with a sense of freedom, peace, and love. “How can I be like that?” I thought. “How can I be as harmless as a dove?”

Jesus never saw anyone as an irredeemable sinner. Instead, he saw everyone as the creation or expression of Love, God. And I realized that I could do that, too – right then! This was a glorious revelation. We can redeem the mistakes of the past by realizing the allness of divine Love in the present.

I considered that from God’s point of view, there is no accusatory, mortal mind. There is only the divine Mind, which is Love. Acting or reacting in an unloving manner is not a part of anyone’s God-given nature. Knowing this, not only could I redeem myself, but I could also redeem my thought about this other person through Love’s transforming power.

I decided to love that hiker in a spiritual way – to see her as a child of God, capable only of orderly, loving behavior. I also saw that my spiritual nature, too, is Godlike – so I am naturally inclined to selflessness, gratitude, and compassion, not selfishness, possessiveness, and ingratitude.

In that light I saw that this hiker was fully deserving to be out on those nature trails, despite the human opinion that I liked it better when I had them all to myself! I felt the peace and love of God washing over me. Driving home from the trail, I felt tangibly the beauty of divine Love’s presence. I’ve returned to those trails since that incident and have experienced – and expressed – patience, understanding, humility, and grace.

In a poem called “Love,” Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, mentions “brother birds” soaring and singing together on the same tree branch. And she notes, “The arrow that doth wound the dove / Darts not from those who watch and love” (“Poems,” p. 6). St. Paul makes a similar observation, describing charity, or pure spiritual love, as “not easily provoked” (I Corinthians 13:5).

Following this idea of love expressed by Christ Jesus in everything he said and did, we too can be harmless as doves. Then we’ll see the law of Love in action, blessing us and others around us.

Adapted from an article published in the August 2021 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

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