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God’s parenting

From the August 2017 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Of all that is near and dear to our hearts, our children are nearest and dearest. With them we often glimpse the spiritual nature of identity and good. We see how quick a small child is to forgive a wrong, to expect compassion, fairness, love. How blessed we are by our children and those lessons of divine justice and affection that they bring us.

How does one pray for a child? It involves even more than the most earnest petition, more than good intentions and aspirations. Arriving at the first step of such an undertaking involves a heartfelt surrender to God as the Father-Mother of us all, an awareness that we are not the creators or preservers of our children, but that God is and always has been the only source and provider of good in all our lives. This understanding guides our footsteps in caring for children.

As they grow, and face the challenges that confront them, we want what’s best for them, but we often hold opinions about what that may be. We want them to know they are God’s children, but we may find it hard to stop seeing them as our own reflections. We want them to respond to Spirit, and yet we try to work out how to get our ideas into their minds. Real prayer cannot begin until we plant ourselves on the side of divine causation and put aside personal notions about what it means to be a successful parent.

My greatest gift as a mother would be my willingness to go to God and listen for His truth.

When my first child was an infant, we had a visit from a young Christian Scientist who embodied all that I wanted for my daughter. She was kind, fearless, thoughtful, and had a strong moral compass that consistently pointed her toward right actions and responses. She had a sense of God’s presence and power. One morning during her stay I asked her, “When you were small, and things went wrong, what would your mother do?” I was thinking that her answer would guide me in how to talk to my own child and help her become a whole-souled woman. 

“Well, if I was hurt,” she told me, “my mother would take me on her lap and hold me. And then she’d get this look on her face, because she was praying. And then I’d feel better.”

What a revelation. My answer wasn’t about finding the right words, or the most efficient protocols for child-rearing. It was prayer—surrendering to God; communing wholeheartedly with divine good; a wordless, spiritual sense. My greatest gift as a mother would not be my metaphysical impartings or having the right instructions in moments of adversity, it would be my willingness to go to God and listen for His truth.

However well-intentioned our personal desires may be, however seemingly right to conventional thought, God is the creator of man, the one supreme intelligence that we must recognize and obey; He is not a servant of our human hopes and dreams. As Mary Baker Eddy says, “Those instructed in Christian Science have reached the glorious perception that God is the only author of man” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 29).

Mary Baker Eddy gives us the highest model of motherhood in her description of Christ Jesus’ mother, Mary: “The Virgin-mother conceived this idea of God, and gave to her ideal the name of Jesus—that is, Joshua, or Saviour.

“The illumination of Mary’s spiritual sense put to silence material law and its order of generation, and brought forth her child by the revelation of Truth, demonstrating God as the Father of men. The Holy Ghost, or divine Spirit, overshadowed the pure sense of the Virgin-mother with the full recognition that being is Spirit” (Science and Health, p. 29).

One particular opportunity to put the lesson from that lovely young woman’s visit into practice stands out. Years later, I was on the phone speaking to a patient as a Christian Science practitioner, when I heard my daughter in another part of the house crying in pain. I could hear her father go to her and attempt to help. Aware of the clear demand for spiritual sense—both for my caller and my child—I mentally insisted on God’s provision for all of us in that moment. 

The call ended, and I went to my daughter. She was rubbing her eye and, through sobs, told me there was something in it. I led her to the couch and sat next to her, holding her against me and remembering the spiritual truths I’d just shared on the phone. The words of Mrs. Eddy’s poem “Mother’s Evening Prayer” came softly to me, and I cherished each word and the world of love behind them. 

At the end of the hymn I looked down at my daughter and saw she had stopped crying and had become peaceful. She looked back up at me and said, “Mom, can we go shopping?” The pain and any recollection of the agony she’d been in was completely gone, and we went on with our day—a day that was, for me, filled to the brim with gratitude for the dependability and pervasiveness of divine Love.

The best good we can humanly imagine or strive to organize pales beside divine good. Whatever we seem to manage to create through our human understanding and personal aspirations for our children is ultimately temporal and bound to the limits of material sense. However disinclined mortal thought is to lean on the “sustaining infinite” (Science and Health, p. vii), this is the only actual way to find our children’s God-sustained identity, and our own, and all the good Spirit includes.

In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy notes: “Christian Science is dawning upon a material age. The great spiritual facts of being, like rays of light, shine in the darkness, though the darkness, comprehending them not, may deny their reality” (p. 546). We may feel it is normal to reason out from material appearances as we strive to do what is best for our children. But even through the darkness, confusion, and pain that come with such attempts, there shines a light that calls us to a higher understanding, the spiritual sense of life, lifting mankind into what Mind, God, Love, knows and imparts.

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