Give your light in this season of lights
During this “season of lights,” we can turn to divine Love – the source of all goodness and light – to guide us in loving our neighbor as ourselves, as Christ Jesus taught.
I recently had an unexpected opportunity to “pay it forward” and help a neighbor in need. The experience reminded me of a challenge posed for listeners to do just that on an episode of the Monitor’s new “People Making a Difference” podcast. It features inspiring guests dedicated to projects bringing creative solutions to people’s lives. At the end of each episode, the host invites listeners to share specific ways they, too, have approached making a difference in others’ lives.
I’ve found a common theme among the people interviewed: When you’re doing good and helping others, your actions have a supply and momentum of their own. One person interviewed said she wasn’t particularly religious before her project, but now she often says the simple prayer, “Shine a big ol’ light on what I’m supposed to do now.” As a result, she said she gets the answers she needs, and they’re beyond anything she would have dreamed of.
In order to be more in tune with and follow where God’s light leads, I’ve prayed for a deeper understanding of the kind of love that brings increased patience, reconciliation, and solutions to the table. To be most effective, that love can’t be merely a human expression of kindness, but must come from an infinite, spiritual source – from divine Love itself.
A key idea in the Bible is that we are truly created by this Love, God, to shine as the spiritual image of our infinite source. Yet that’s not always how we choose to respond to daily annoyances. So I’ve been striving to be more aware of what I call the “3 selfs”: self-will, self-love, self-justification – pesky little snares that would keep us from realizing our true nature as Love’s expressions.
Mary Baker Eddy mentions these “selfs” in a passage from her primary work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “In patient obedience to a patient God, let us labor to dissolve with the universal solvent of Love the adamant of error, – self-will, self-justification, and self-love, – which wars against spirituality and is the law of sin and death” (p. 242).
Laboring to dissolve these unwanted character traits is a journey that doesn’t take place in the space of a day! Rather, it happens through a dedication to live according to the law of Love, by which we learn that we truly can have no selfhood apart from the one God has given us. This higher view of ourselves increasingly brings transformation, and inspires our growing consecration to a life of service to God, good, and our neighbor.
Christ Jesus saw loving God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves as so important that he said: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40). This may seem like a tall order in the face of deeply polarized opinions, isolation from others, and social and economic divides. But I’ve come to think of practicing this neighborly love as the solvent mentioned in the above passage from Science and Health.
Christian Science explains the nature of Love as infinite – as the sum total of love – so it naturally fulfills all of our needs and never plays favorites. This perspective has helped me check my thoughts and actions to see if they’re motivated by the three selfs or impelled by this divine Love that brings harmony and peace to our daily interactions. Since doing this, I’ve noticed that I’m less prone to voicing my opinions freely and more open to listening to others; I’m more apt to pause and listen for the right words to say – or not say – and more willing to set aside justifying my cherished viewpoints.
My “pay it forward” experience was a modest moment of overcoming the three selfs when I purposely chose a short line at the grocery store, so I could check out and get home quickly. Instead, the line didn’t move at all – and as the minutes ticked by I began to feel impatient with the one shopper checking out in front of me.
Then I overheard that the woman’s method of payment wasn’t going through. She was obviously embarrassed, since she’d tried everything. Without a second thought I approached her and offered to pay for her groceries. She gratefully accepted and thanked me profusely. It was a moment where all the impatience melted away, and instead I realized I could let the light of God’s love shine through me, and help my neighbor.
During this season of lights, how important to know that God is the source of that light that we shine. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). This may entail putting your love into practice by helping out a family in need or just being a kind listener. Whatever form it takes, it’s a gift we can all share freely.