This interview features selected experiences from a Sentinel Watch podcast and has been adapted for print. Here are accounts from Melanie Wahlberg, a Christian Science practitioner from Lake Forest, California, and John Tyler, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from Washington, DC. In the original podcast, five guests share experiences when they’ve felt the love of God so clearly that it’s changed their days—and their lives—in profound ways. To listen to the full podcast, with all of the guests, please visit sentinel.christianscience.com/feel-and-know-god-s-love.
Rita Polatin: We’re going to talk about a sense of peace and love that can’t be shaken, because as Christ Jesus came to show us, God’s love is present and can be felt in practical ways. Mary Baker Eddy wrote about this. She said, “The life of Christ Jesus, his words and his deeds, demonstrate Love” and “. . . the consciousness of God as Love gives man power with untold furtherance” (Message to The Mother Church for 1902, pp. 8–9). This is a promise for all of us. Our guests today share how they saw this as absolutely true. So sit back and get ready to feel God’s love.
Melanie Wahlberg: Once I was in a large department store with two of my kids. They were really little at the time, and while I was paying for something, my daughter had scooted out of the double stroller and run off. We’d had this challenge with this daughter before. She would leave the group she was with and even ignore her own safety if something caught her attention. And then she wouldn’t always come when we called her. I couldn’t see her anywhere. And this three-story department store had exits that opened onto busy urban streets. So I was feeling a little bit desperate as I looked around for her.
Finally, I spotted my daughter playing on top of a display case, and at the same time a sales clerk saw her and began scolding her. I got my daughter down and hugged her, and then the scolding turned to me.
I was being accused of negligence and irresponsibility. Of course, the clerk didn’t know how devoted I was to my daughter, including how much I’d been praying for her before this particular incident, praying to address the problem of running off frequently and other related problems.
At first I wanted to explain to the sales clerk that it wasn’t my fault. I felt sad—as though all my prayer hadn’t really amounted to much. And I also felt defensive, but I couldn’t really defend myself without implicitly accusing my daughter of limitations and flaws, which I didn’t want to do.
Then I remembered the response of Christ Jesus when he was questioned and accused by the high priests of the Sanhedrin council. The Bible says that Jesus stayed quiet. He didn’t even answer. He trusted the power of God as Love. In fact, he trusted this divine Love more than some explanation he might have been able to come up with. Could I do that? Could I let Love, divine Love, work out a solution that honored my daughter’s innocence? I decided to try.
It was in that moment, that moment that was wonderfully free of self-justification or defensive words or even embarrassment on my part, that I tangibly felt God’s presence as Love. There was room for a warm sense of reassurance and love for everybody involved—room for this love to rush in and wash away my fears and sadness. I actually felt some joy bubbling up in me. I really had nothing to defend.
So I quietly listened to the rest of the stern remarks coming at me now from two sales clerks, who were really letting me have it in that moment. And then I let the love that I was feeling flow to them.
I sincerely thanked them for caring about my daughter, and I apologized for any inconvenience to them and gathered up our things to leave. As the sales clerks watched me pack up and get the kids back into the stroller, they didn’t speak. But then one of them finally, quietly, said, “You’re a good mom. It’s not always easy to keep track of kids. You’re a good mom.” And then the other one chimed in with something like, “Yeah, all the best to you and your kids. Best wishes.” All the anger and fear had dissolved, and we parted on friendly terms.
I felt a happy glow inside, like the next day was Christmas or something. I even thought, Why
am I feeling so joyful right now?
That night, when I was getting ready for bed, I felt a happy glow inside, like the next day was Christmas or something. I even thought, Why am I feeling so joyful right now? I realized it was because earlier that day I had let go of some of my own accusatory thoughts about my daughter and embraced more of her God-given innocence and completeness; I had discovered a little more of how reliable and inclusive and effective God’s love was and is. It was reliable enough to take the pressure off me. It was effective enough to take the accusations off my daughter.
My appreciation for Jesus’ example of relying wholeheartedly on God’s love deepened. I could see the practicality of it. Besides my being immediately freed from guilt, I can’t help but think that my daughter felt tangibly embraced by divine Love as well. After that experience, her tendency to run away lessened and then stopped, and she would come promptly when she was called. And I really think that even the sales clerks were included in the blessing, in the uplift that happened in the store that day.
Love is really the only presence, the only force moving our lives. Everything else is kind of like noise. It can temporarily feel intense or difficult, but the power determining our lives is divine Love. We look for it, we let it appear to us, and then we and everyone around us feel the good of it.
John Tyler: Shortly after I first became interested in Christian Science, I had an experience that brought out the need to rethink who I really was, and the need to begin to learn that I had spiritual sense and how to use it. I was on a hiking trip as one of the Explorer Scout leaders of a group of younger Boy Scouts. My father and two other adults were along as well.
We were camping in the mountains—these were the White Mountains of New Hampshire. And that day, we decided to take an all-day hike to a higher point and back. On the way back, I became very ill, and seeing I couldn’t keep up, my father and I told the others to go on ahead. We stopped and prayed. We prayed to see more clearly my true Godlike nature; that’s what he and I had begun learning in Christian Science, that we were Godlike in every way.
Gradually, an assurance came not only of God’s presence but also of His love for me as His creation.
After a while, I had recovered enough to go on, but by then we were a couple of hours behind the others. As we came below the timber line, down into the trees, night fell. It was a pitch black moonless night, and it was literally so dark that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. We were stumbling along in that darkness, perhaps going in circles.
As I mentioned, we were both new in Christian Science, but I’d already learned that I couldn’t be alone. I couldn’t be outside of God’s presence. And this presence was very real to me. So we decided rather than stop and stay still in hopes of being found later, we could go on relying on God’s guidance alone. Gradually, an assurance came not only of God’s presence but also of His love for me as His creation. It just filled my thoughts. I had learned something of the Psalms, and I was reminded of some verses from Psalm 139, which say, “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (vv. 9, 10).
I remember feeling so securely held in God’s hand that it felt natural to close my eyes and walk on. I was feeling God’s love, God’s tenderness, God’s presence, God’s guidance. My father and I did that together for what we later discovered to be over an hour with great assurance, sensing the right place to put each footstep in the wilderness terrain.
Eventually, some shouts made me open my eyes. And soon we saw the bobbing of a flashlight in the trees. It was a search party, which our group had sent out for us. We discovered that, meanwhile, we had walked directly toward our base camp guided by spiritual sense, the sense that superseded all our physical senses.
Thinking back over it, I asked myself what happened in that situation. I had given up the picture of myself as a macho mountain climber, an experienced explorer, depending on all my physical senses to get around. It was a kind of repentance. I changed my thinking and yielded to a very different picture of myself. It’s the picture that Christ Jesus teaches us. That we are God’s children, totally dependent on God. That He constantly, carefully guides us in every step.
Later I realized that, through this experience, I was beginning to sense the solidity and constancy of Father-Mother God’s love, to feel God’s continuing care for me as His child and creation. It was as though, in that darkness on the mountain, I could reach out and touch the solid substance of God’s love. I could feel that this love was there always; it is here every moment.
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