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For a stable marriage

From the August 2018 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Christian Science helps any of us to open our thought to the infinite nature of God’s goodness, and to question things that we might otherwise assume to be true. For example, Christian Science challenges the widely held assumption that we are incomplete beings needing a partner to make us whole. Since God made each of us in His image and likeness, each of us is a unique spiritual reflection of the whole spectrum of the qualities and capacities of God, who is infinite Spirit and divine Life. Whatever is in the original must be in the reflection. It would not be possible for an idea of God to reflect only half of God’s nature. 

Although people generally think of themselves as having either a male or female physicality, spiritual sense shows us that our true identity is not physical at all, but rather wholly spiritual; and we each include, by reflection, both the masculine and feminine qualities of God. This completeness of each of God’s ideas is, I believe, what Jesus is referring to when he said, “From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6), and what Mary Baker Eddy pointed to when she wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Let the ‘male and female’ of God’s creating appear” (p. 249). 

All have the God-given capacity to understand and express more of their completeness as God’s child, and to experience the increasing joy and fulfilment this brings to relationships with others. Our need is to cultivate the “unselfish affections” inherent in knowing this spiritual wholeness, as Science and Health points out (see p. 365). Relationships, including marriage, afford an opportunity to do this, bringing out our innate capacity to share goodness and joy. This can happen quite naturally. However, there are times when our interactions and relationships with others, and the need to resolve conflicts, can demand a severe struggle within ourselves, as we yield to a more expansive view of God and His creation, and let go of limited views. 

In a marriage, where there’s a commitment to work things out on a daily basis, the need to demonstrate over the belief that there are conflicting approaches to life can be especially demanding. In particular, the belief that there is some inherent incompatibility between men and women, causing a clash between a so-called masculine approach and a so-called feminine approach to life, can sometimes be very pronounced. Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health, toward the end of the 19th century: “The union of the sexes suffers fearful discord,” and this is still true today. But she included this as an antidote: “If the foundations of human affection are consistent with progress, they will be strong and enduring” (p. 65). 

Stereotypically, a woman may be seen, for example, as being intuitive, tender, and settled, and a man as logical, strong, and adventurous. In their purest form, however, all of these attributes are innate to each of God’s children, and promote harmony. But the spiritual significance of these attributes can frequently be distorted in the human sense of things. For example, instead of reasoning on the basis of divine logic, it is quite common for people to reason out from the premise that matter is the actual reality of being. And on that same premise, instead of spiritual intuition, there can be emotion based on self-centered feelings. 

Furthermore, human ways of thinking, such as through materially based logic or emotion, can be in conflict with each other, whereas spiritual attributes, such as divine logic and spiritual intuition, are necessarily in harmony with one another. We can express this harmony within our own consciousness, and thus express it, and see it expressed, in our relationships with others.

Though to a limited human sense, qualities might typically be associated with one or the other physical gender, through spiritual growth we can each progressively find that there are no restrictions to our expression of God’s nature. Science and Health speaks of the true spiritual selfhood we can all come to know, where “… white-robed purity will unite in one person masculine wisdom and feminine love, spiritual understanding and perpetual peace” (p. 64). 

Spiritual awareness brings to light in individual consciousness an enlarged purpose encompassing both greater wisdom and purer love.

The world has many labels it puts on people. And the labels that limit people’s potential, simply on the grounds of stereotypical views of men and women, can seem very deep-seated. But growing out of labels we might have accepted for ourselves and others enables us to uplift the human sense of life so that we see more of the infinitude of God’s goodness. This higher, more spiritual viewpoint can help us recognize the relativity of all human views, and enable us to see perspectives that might not otherwise have occurred to us—thus opening the way to finding resolutions when faced with contentious human issues. Spiritual growth can also help us appreciate the role that mutual compromise can have in human relationships. 

In a loving marriage, both partners support each other. They can help each other find more of their individual spiritual completeness as ideas of their Father-Mother God. Of course, one doesn’t have to be married to feel supported in growing in this understanding of one’s spiritual completeness; people can support each other in many different kinds of relationships, including friendships between colleagues, siblings, church members, and more. But, for many, marriage can be a place that especially encourages this progress.

Marriage is a human institution, but it can include an element of sacredness to the degree it is based on a recognition of the innate spirituality of all of God’s children, and the need to demonstrate this spirituality in daily living. The marriage covenant can serve to center the affections, provide a safe haven for bringing up children, and bring stability to families and thus to society. Jesus said, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). As I see it, one could think of marriage partners being “joined together” by God if the union is fundamentally supportive of gaining a clearer sense of spiritual identity.

Nurturing spiritual sense in the marriage helps both partners feel the gentling effect of divine Love. This serves to uplift intimate relations between marriage partners, and helps bring tenderness and unselfish thoughtfulness to the relationship. When the pull toward sexuality and the body becomes less thought-consuming, there is more mental space for recognizing each other’s spiritual identity and living “the ‘male and female’ of God’s creating.” This spiritual awareness brings to light in individual consciousness an enlarged purpose encompassing both greater wisdom and purer love. One cannot force spiritual growth, but loving God and being willing to let Spirit’s attraction guide the affections promote stability and happiness in the marriage and in one’s life in general.

It should be understood, too, that in a marriage there is an agreement to act in partnership, so there is an obligation to work things out in a way that reasonably takes into account both partners’ concerns and wishes. We can progressively let go of a false sense of our identity, and come to appreciate more of the goodness native to us all as God’s children, reflecting Soul’s wholeness. 

Knowing the value of growing spiritually has helped me see that keeping sexual activity confined to marriage is not an outdated, arbitrary societal rule, but a wise commitment that can rein in sensuality and so enable us to see more of our own, our partner’s, and everyone’s true identity as the unlimited reflection of our Father-Mother God. And our prayers and Spirit-guided lifestyle can help counter the aggressive influence of those currents of thought in society that would pull thought toward a focus on sex. 

Regardless of how counterintuitive spirituality can at times seem to the human mind, the fact remains that God, divine Love, is ultimately the only real power. As we yield to this power, step by step—living in accord with the spiritual law of divine Love and with morals that honor that law—our relationships with one another become more mutually supportive, and provide a structure that lifts thought away from self-centeredness to see more of God’s love and care for everyone. The marriage relationship has a distinct role in society in helping individuals grow in the expression of this more expansive love, especially through overcoming to some degree the worldly belief of male-female disconnect. A marriage based on spiritual unity promotes stability, progress, and prosperity for the marriage partners, their family, and for society.

The scientific morale of marriage is spiritual unity. 

—Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 61

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