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Swimming lessons on grace

From the July 2013 issue of The Christian Science Journal

One July, shortly after I had turned six, my mom signed me up for swimming lessons at the town pool. I loved playing in the water with my friends. But lessons? I dreaded them. In fact, I failed the beginners’ class more than once. Not because I couldn’t swim. Actually, I was a pretty strong little swimmer. But to pass beginners’, you also had to float for one whole minute. Both skills were needed to move ahead. And no matter how hard I tried, floating turned into sinking. That was the problem. I was trying too hard. 

I can remember my instructors gently encouraging me to relax, assuring me that I could trust the water to support me. But it was hard to believe that something so fluid could also be solid enough to hold me up. Swimming made sense. Floating did not.

That summer, the breakthrough came. Flat on my back, staring at the blue sky, I was surprised to realize the water was supporting me after all. And I wasn’t doing anything but letting it do what it so naturally does for ducks, boats, and people—it allows them to float. 

Whenever I’ve been trying so hard to find an answer through prayer to a situation I’ve been facing, I’ve thought about that beginners’ class. Have I been too earnestly reading and studying and mentally arguing my way through the problem that I haven’t stopped to let God be God and allow the gentle nature of grace to bring about the changes needed? Sometimes we can become so proficient at spiritually swimming that we neglect the importance of floating—the importance of grace. Both are essential parts of our spiritual growth in knowing God better. And that quiet resting in grace is the needed complement to diligent mental discipline.

Grace is the gift given, not earned. The Bible tells us, “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Through his healing ministry, Jesus showed us that we are all children of God, and that our innate wholeness—our spiritual completeness—is already bestowed. Our part is to recognize and accept this. Mary Baker Eddy once defined grace as “the effect of God understood” (Christian Science versus Pantheism, p. 10).

As we gain a more profound appreciation for the nature of God as infinite Love, Life, and Truth—always present, all-embracing, and the only true power—we realize there is no situation, no condition that can exist in opposition to God’s allness. The natural outcome of this spiritual understanding is restoration and healing.

Eddy wrote to one of her students about the practice of spiritual healing and explained, “It starts a marvel of power and then becomes a marvel of grace” (Yvonne Caché von Fettweis and Robert Townsend Warneck, Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, Amplified Edition, p. 173).

The very nature of infinite Love is to bless each and all of us without measure. And an inspired sense of what God is and does opens us up to this marvelous sense of grace. We find a growing confidence in it and an effortlessness in receiving it, like floating in water on a summer afternoon.

Robin Hoagland is a member of the Christian Science Board of Directors.

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