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Investigating good

From the June 2020 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Yesterday morning I woke up with unusual joy. It was just there, and I was very grateful, but I didn’t think a lot about it.

Then today, as I sit here, I remember a recent Sunday when I felt rested after church even though I’d been exhausted before the service. I hadn’t thought much about that at the time either. Again, I had been grateful, but it seemed like a small thing.

However, I’m starting to question, Are these actually small things? Why wasn’t I curious about them? Just how much more good like this has been going on? Why has it seemed more urgent to look into problems than into harmony?

And here’s another question: “Do you not hear from all mankind of the imperfect model?” The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, is the one asking this question, and she continues: “The world is holding it before your gaze continually. The result is that you are liable to follow those lower patterns, limit your life-work, and adopt into your experience the angular outline and deformity of matter models” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 248).

The liability this refers to is significant, not something to be shrugged off. We may become so familiar with an “imperfect model,” or the world’s focus on mortality and what’s material, that it becomes easy to think of discordant conditions as just the way things are. Good may begin to seem like fantasy or wishful thinking. And we may find ourselves planning workarounds or accommodations for pain or conflict, instead of expecting the actual freedom or harmony of God’s creation. 

I thought of this recently when I read an account in the Bible of Christ Jesus healing a man who had been born blind (see John 9). When the neighbors encounter this man (who can now see), some recognize him, but others assume that it must be another man who looks “like him.” 

When the healed man confirms his identity, the group takes him to the Pharisees, who question his father and mother as well as the man himself. And since it seems the Pharisee-investigators are already convinced that it’s impossible for someone to be healed of blindness, they aren’t so much trying to find out what healed the man, as looking for reasons to denounce the healing.

They say that Jesus wasn’t a holy man because he had healed on the Sabbath, which was against their interpretation of Mosaic law; that Jesus was a sinner; and that they know of Moses but don’t know much about Jesus, so he couldn’t be anyone good. They also say that the man born blind is himself a sinner and so his answers aren’t worth listening to. 

In other words, the Pharisees spend much of their time defending their conviction that healing couldn’t happen—or if it did, it was done by someone they considered a sinner—leaving the meaning of the healing and Christ Jesus’ God-ordained mission virtually unexamined.

I’m starting to question, Are these actually small things?

In our own lives, we can take an alternative approach. Mrs. Eddy follows the passage about the liabilities of holding on to the imperfect model by saying: “To remedy this, we must first turn our gaze in the right direction, and then walk that way. We must form perfect models in thought and look at them continually, or we shall never carve them out in grand and noble lives.” 

This might sound like nice advice, but can it really help us in times of fear, accidents, disease? How about persistent pain? It’s a question that I found myself considering some years ago, during many sleepless nights.

Over several years I had been having increasing muscle pain. It had become difficult to dress myself, cook, walk, and sleep. The pain and limits seemed to always be there, the context of my daily life. How could I turn away from that pain and instead look continually at man’s spiritual likeness to God?

It turned out that it was God, the ever-present reality of good, that made this possible. I remember one quiet, prayerful night, when I began to feel the love of God right with me. It was like a door opening to something new. More of this newness came gradually over subsequent nights—God’s presence was a tangible law of good taking care of me. I began to want to pray instead of feeling pushed into it.

There is a phrase in Second Corinthians in the Bible that gives a sense of the healing that followed: “… that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (5:4). The conventional sense that there is no cure for the sort of thing I was dealing with became less impressive to me. I wasn’t thinking so much about pain or disability anymore. The “imperfect model” was being swallowed up by the authority of divine Life itself.

I don’t know exactly when the physical symptoms disappeared, but I realized at some point that I was free and had been for a while. That was more than ten years ago.

The good that I experienced with this healing is more than the good that we speak of casually, like a good pair of shoes or good weather. It’s much deeper and more significant than that. Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health: “Whatever furnishes the semblance of an idea governed by its Principle, furnishes food for thought.… 

“Observation, invention, study, and original thought are expansive and should promote the growth of mortal mind out of itself, out of all that is mortal” (p. 195).

That’s why noticing and investigating good is so significant. It leads us to God.

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