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Continuing steadfast in love

From the April 1998 issue of The Christian Science Journal

A few years ago I enjoyed watching the film Enchanted April. It includes the story of a woman who comes to realize how "stingy" she has been about loving others, especially her husband. She tells a friend that "the important thing is to have lots of love about." She confides to her that she used to give only as much love as she received in return, no more. "The emptiness of it all," she sighs. Later, when speaking to another friend, she observes, "You know, it's a great thing to get on with one's loving, and not to waste time."

There are times when we, too, realize the need to "get on with [our] loving." The circumstances of life often have a way of waking us up to the things that matter most, and so we find ourselves longing to grow into a bigger sense of love. We want to leave behind the small, petty outlook for a more generous and steady affection.

It's no secret that the more love there is in our hearts, the more truly alive we feel, and the more good we're able to accomplish. For example, we can probably all think of times when a feeling of pure, unselfed love for others has sprung up within us and overpowered fear or self-doubt. Restriction gives way to freedom at such moments. We feel the presence of divine Love itself. This displaces self-concern, and we find we're able to do with joy what we thought couldn't be done, or at least more than we thought was possible. Somehow, everyone around us feels freer, too, and is blessed.

The give-and-take of human life would suggest that such moments are the exception, though; that it isn't possible to stay so Love-centered for any length of time. Yet Christ Jesus' example of love lived to perfection teaches us that it is possible. We can pray for the courage and grace to follow in his footsteps more closely, more consistently. He tenderly instructed his students, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love." John 15:9 It's the continuing that counts, striving to abide in Christly affection through thick and thin, no matter what. But the continuing is also what we sometimes find hardest to do.

For example, let's say we've resolved to go the extra mile with a friend or family member who needs help. What happens, though, if the friend's situation is more demanding or maybe more of a long haul than we had expected, and we're feeling burned out? Sometimes, in spite of our best intentions to stick with it, we may think we have no more to give. How can we continue when we'd like to quit? Is it possible to run out of love?

At times like this, it helps so much to keep in mind something the Psalmist said: "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever." Ps. 106:1

"His mercy endureth for ever." Forever. Not just for a day or a couple of weeks or even a few years, but forever. Divine Love never quits. It never gives up—not on anyone. It never backs down from being itself.

Even at its best, a human, personal sense of love is limited. It can only go so far and do so much. And you can't really count on it. It can fall apart fast when the going gets rough, and turn into fear, maybe anger or hate. But divine Love is neither limited nor variable. It doesn't have ups and downs. Or a flip side. It's perfect. In fact, it's the only real Love there is, because God is Love.

What's true about the one perfect God, then, is true about Love—that it is infinite, divine, supreme, eternal, changeless. It is omnipotent. Ever present, too. And just as God could never wear out and stop being God, so divine Love can never wear out and stop being what it is. It just goes right on being itself and expressing itself forever.

Christ Jesus was the supreme representative of God's enduring, unshakable love. He never ran out of compassion, whether he was surrounded by crowds eager to hear him speak or by multitudes desperate to be healed. Again and again he proved that there's always enough of God's healing grace to go around. Even on the cross, he stayed steady in Love, forgiving his enemies. With complete meekness, he showed us the way to deathless Life through deathless, divine Love.

God created man in His image and likeness, the Bible says. Since God is Love, man is the very image of Love, and this is the real, spiritual selfhood of each one of us. It's our nature to shine with pure affection because that's the way our creative divine Principle made us. We might say that we are made of Love because we reflect the substance of Love, and that we are made to love.

That's a good thing to remember when we think we've reached the boundaries of our ability to be patient or charitable toward another. Knowing that we are each the reflection of our unchanging, inexhaustible creator enables us to keep on, to stay steadfast. If we feel depleted, or at the end of our rope about something, we can stop a moment and acknowledge the everlasting quality of the divine mercies. We can lean on God's sustaining grace and let it refresh us. In prayer, we can humbly thank God that He alone is the source of our capacity to love, and we can thank Him that that source is boundless. Then we begin to see the possibilities. We see we can never really reach a limit in our loving and be pushed over the edge into frustration and fear, because there simply are no limits to infinite, divine Love.

Divine Love never gives up—
not on anyone.

The capacity to be compassionate, warm, and genuinely caring—strong in love—is natural to all of us. It's really not something that some people are blessed with and others aren't. It's true that we mature step by step into the full expression of perfect Love. But no one is stuck with a short temper, a cool disposition, or an inability to say and do the things that bring comfort and peace to the suffering heart. We just need to keep patiently working at demonstrating our Lovelike nature, and not be discouraged if we don't always do as well as we'd like. One thing's for sure—there's never any shortage of opportunities to continue the practice of loving! Each new moment provides the occasion to redeem sharp or thoughtless words of the previous moment.

When we need endurance and strength in helping others, let's say as a caregiver or nurse, it's a relief to know that while we may feel personally inadequate at times, divinity is always equal to the demand. God is the infinite source of all true care. So we don't have to try to manufacture more kindness, more love. Nor should we think of ourselves as burdened mortals, going solo and with the whole thing on our shoulders. (That view is more of a burden than the actual work we're doing.) The infinite resources of divine Love are at hand and overflowing, ready for us to draw upon them. And when we do, we find that God's spiritual ideas come to mind and then take form in practical solutions that supply the legitimate needs of both patient and helper.

In one case the answer may be that we find we have the necessary stamina and fresh inspiration with which to carry on with joy. In another, it may be that another's assistance is appropriate. In another, creative ideas may come to thought that will help lighten the load in other ways. The important thing is, there's always an answer because Mind is infinite, and the Mind that is Love benevolently meets the needs of each situation with the tenderest precision. We can trust this.

Whatever the answer in a given case, the core of our work remains constant: to continue on with hearts abiding steadfastly in Christly love for God and man, confident that "divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need." Science and Health, p. 494

The greatest love we can have for another is to stay faithful to what's spiritually true about that individual. This means seeing man as God made him—spiritual, perfect, holy, and pure. This is having the Mind of Christ. This is Love's point of view, and it heals.

Disease and pain claim to have so much power, yet they melt into nothingness before the consciousness of God's ever-present goodness and care. Nothing can interrupt or block the perpetual outpouring of God's love to man, which outlasts all and prevails. As Mary Baker Eddy has written, "No power can withstand divine Love." Ibid., p. 224

What an enormous need there is to relieve the suffering of mankind and bring Christly comfort to others. Each of us can take part in this good work of healing the brokenhearted and binding up the wounds of our fellowman. Knowing that God is the source of our ability, we can not only get on with the loving that heals, but continue on with it, too—forever.

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