‘I’m not going there’
As we come to recognize that we are all children of God, who is infinitely good, we more naturally avoid making troublesome mistakes in our interactions with others, and love, goodwill, and patient understanding increasingly become the norm.
One cold, clear November day, my adult grandson drove his mom and me to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado. After we had admired the spectacular view in all directions, my grandson offered to guide me down a path strewn with unstable rocky bits and chunks. I replied, “Thank you, but I’m not going there!”
Ever since then, the firm and clear decision not to go down that cluttered path has been a guiding principle for my life. And has come to my rescue more than once.
One memorable instance was when a neighbor behaved in a nasty way that targeted me. When I gently requested that we talk, she refused.
I knew I needed to forgive. Jesus set the standard for relationships during his three-year ministry: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44, 45, Common English Bible). I also found that this idea from “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy pointed a way forward: “When the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and His idea. Allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought” (p. 495).
In this case, the sin of indulging resentment and unhappiness both missed the mark of obeying Jesus’ requirement to forgive and love and missed out on the prize – the healing of this unhappy relationship. Although the circumstances seemed very hurtful, I prayed from the standpoint that because God is infinite good, hateful behavior has no source and cannot exist in His creation. In Genesis, God makes man, male and female, in the likeness of God, Spirit, giving His spiritual creation His stamp of approval and identifying that creation as top quality: as “very good” (1:31).
I clung “steadfastly to God and His idea.” But I struggled with self-righteousness, self-justification, and self-pity – negatives that hindered progress in seeing, feeling, and experiencing the certainty of God’s infinite goodness here and now.
Sometimes, in the face of opposition, it is faith that propels us forward. I prayed to be able to love the woman of God’s creating, and to see my neighbor not as an enemy but as beloved and guided by our common Father-Mother God. I also kept close to this truth from Science and Health about the omnipotence of God as good: “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations;...” (p. 340). In my prayers I added, “and unifies communities and neighbors.” One infinite God, good, is all-inclusive. No one is left out or unlovely.
The most difficult part of all this was the loop that tried to keep replaying in my thinking: my neighbor’s cold rebuff and my feeling of rejection. And here is where that important lesson from Pike’s Peak came to the rescue.
In my honest desire to love my neighbor as myself, I thought: “I’m not going there! I refuse to go down that mental path littered with hurtful emotions.” Instead, every time the unhappy loop began a replay, I mentally turned away by praying to God, “Dear Father, she is Your loved child, so I will love whatever You love about her.”
I was soon able to identify spiritual qualities in my neighbor – for example, the loving attentiveness she expressed toward her grandchildren. I stuck firmly to this spiritual view until the temptation to replay the conversation quit coming. I also quit being concerned about whether we would speak again and what kind of conversation that might be. I put the whole relationship in God’s wise hands.
About three months later, my neighbor knocked on my door. Her demeanor was pleasant. She spoke of a concern common to both of us; I offered to help, and we moved forward as good neighbors.
A few months after that, she sold her home. One day shortly before she moved, our paths crossed, and I wished her well in her new place. Then out of my mouth came the unexpected: “You have been a good neighbor.” She was clearly surprised, and after a moment she replied, “So have you.” I felt this was a God-appointed moment evidencing our mutual willingness to move forward.
The path of human interactions can sometimes seem tricky, strewn with uncertainties, personality quirks, and rocky chunks of misunderstanding. But Jesus showed us a God who is universal Love itself and governs His universe with all-embracing spiritual laws of harmony. As we reject a path of reaction and emotion and accept our likeness to this pure Love, we find our lives and relationships proportionately transformed.
Adapted from an article published in the Jan. 11, 2021, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.
Common English Bible, copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible.