I opened the door and was face to face with the devil. Along with the devil was a bloody corpse. But I had no fear. They had no power to fool me. It was Halloween, and I quickly saw right through those masks to the innocent children behind them.
“Trick or treat!” the children called out in unison. I smiled as I passed out candy to my costumed visitors in response, an annual tradition in the United States that has been adopted in a handful of other countries.
Yet it occurred to me that this scene is one each of us faces daily. The five material senses repeatedly knock on the door of human thought and attempt to trick us into believing that what they tell us is true by parading an endless array of “masks” of a sick and sinful mortal, which they believe are real.
Christ Jesus was quick to see behind these various masks to the child whom God created, and to everyone’s true, spiritual identity. Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, explains: “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 476–477).
I strive each day to follow Jesus’ example to see that “perfect man.” I commune with God, the Father and Mother of us all, and I affirm that every one of us was made good—in God’s image and likeness, as we learn in the Bible (see Genesis 1:26, 27). I also affirm that God’s all-powerful presence embraces mankind, and that each of us is responsive to our divine source alone. I listen to what God has to say to me. Sometimes I have to be still and patient for longer times, but I inevitably hear or feel God’s love and direction. And I always endeavor to follow Mary Baker Eddy’s admonition to “stand porter at the door of thought”—to quickly detect the “masks” of sin and sickness when they show up in thought and to see the truth about God and His child (Science and Health, p. 392).
I have been increasingly aware of the need to look away from personality and to discover more of our God-given individuality
There are times, though, when the masks that come to the door of thought seem pretty scary, but we never need to be fooled by or afraid of them. As a teacher I have had many opportunities to demonstrate this. For instance, a few years ago I was told that I was getting five very difficult students the following elementary school year. The general behavior of one of the students was so ugly that the parents resorted to a popular television psychologist to help the family deal with it. The school principal said I could watch the television episode in which they appeared, if I wished, as he had a copy. I declined. I was pretty quick to detect that all I was dealing with were five masks—the mortal mask, and not the true, spiritual identity of these five children. But there still was some fear on my part about the upcoming school year. The distressing comments about the children, expressed by their previous teachers and adult contacts, were overwhelming. Also, the comment that I would have a very difficult time teaching the rest of my students because of them left me a bit downcast.
That summer I decided to take the masks off by seeing only the spiritual facts about these children. I recognized that the label given to them of mean, manipulative, physical bullies was not from God, and, therefore, it was not true. Each time I thought of the children, I endeavored to see them as they truly were—God’s loving, kind, obedient children. In my prayers, I reasoned from cause, God, to His effect, generic man. I knew that God, who is Love, created only a kind, loving, considerate child. Christ, Truth, is constantly communicating to us our innate goodness and God’s love for us, and we are receptive to the Christ. I knew this was true for each child. Truth removes all the false masks of mortal belief that would hide from us God’s upright, loving, intelligent child.
There were many times I said to those dear children, “You are good. Bring out your goodness and let others see how good you are.” In the beginning of the year, negative comments from other teachers about the five children occasionally surfaced, but I was able to sincerely defend their goodness and worth because I saw it. I had a great class that year. Yes, there were challenges, but the masks came off. Some staff members noticed a change in the children and verbalized it.
At the end of the year, when all the students had left to start their much-desired summer vacation, the parents of the child who had been on the television show came back and thanked me for a great year. But what touched me the most was their final comment: “You never saw his history or held it against him. He has made so much progress this year.”
In my daily prayers I have been increasingly aware of the need to look away from personality and to discover more of our God-given individuality. We sometimes hold tight to the masks that would identify us in mortal terms, thinking they are part of us—that they make us who we are. But God created us in His image—perfect, upright, and free.