AS A LITTLE GIRL, I displayed a dogged insistence on having my own way just often enough for family members to refer to me smilingly as "stubborn" Barbara. It was a label I found most unattractive. And while I managed to outgrow the childish behavior that earned me that label, shaking the suggestion that stubbornness was inherent in my nature was another matter. That has come through my study and practice of Christian Science.
Central to the teachings of Christian Science is the wonderful reality that God is the defining Principle of being. This means that the nature of God determines the nature of His creation. The distinguishing characteristics of divine Life, Truth, and Love alone are inherent in man, God's image and likeness—in the you that you really are, in the me I really am, in the real identity of every man, woman, and child.
God never made a stubborn person—or an impatient, dishonest, angry, impure, hateful, or stupid person. Even a tendency to define oneself or others by these characteristics is not inherent in anyone's real nature. Such negative traits are nothing more than counterfeits. Impatience is the counterfeit of patience, dishonesty the counterfeit of truthfulness, anger the counterfeit of forgiveness—and so on. Stubbornness is perhaps one of the most interesting, as it is the counterfeit of obedience. And obedience—a yielding of the human will to the will of God—is a condition of thought essential to divesting oneself of every other counterfeit quality.
The Apostle Paul counseled his fellow Christians at Corinth to bring all of their thoughts into "the obedience of Christ." II Cor. 10:5. Christ, as illustrated in the good and pure character of Jesus, represents our true identity as God's image, or spiritual reflection. Paul knew firsthand the power of the Christ to remove counterfeit traits from human character. Through Christ, he had experienced a mighty transformation—from a persecutor of Christians to a follower of Jesus. Nevertheless, his human character remained a "work in progress," you might say.
Paul found human will to be a stumbling block to character improvement, lamenting "the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." Rom. 7:19. He learned that in his daily life he needed to yield to Christ. He needed to be unwavering in his obedience to Christ—to Christ's definition of him as the pure and perfect image of God—in order to divest himself of whatever would define him falsely as a weak, vulnerable mortal. Then he made progress, declaring, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Phil. 4:13.
Christ, Truth, has the power to free us from counterfeit character traits—no matter how insistently they have claimed to define us. And I've found, as Paul did, that the struggle to experience this freedom lessens in proportion as we yield to the Christ view—the true view—of ourselves and of others.
It's been helpful to me to consider this statement by Mary Baker Eddy: "The power of the human will should be exercised only in subordination to Truth; else it will misguide the judgment and free the lower propensities." Science and Health, p. 206. What wise counsel! She didn't say, "Don't exercise the human will." She said to subordinate it—to bring it into obedience to Truth.
Yielding your will to Christ, Truth, though, doesn't mean that you become directionless and weak. Just the opposite. Bringing your will into subordination to Truth ushers in the power of Truth to bring out your true, Christly nature. It enables you to be poised and gracious on the human scene and to experience the healing power of Christ in your life.
What's involved here is the "spiritualization of thought" and "Christianization of daily life," See ibid., p. 272. which are both necessary in the healing practice of Christian Science. Spiritualization of thought involves learning the true nature of God and His creation through studying the Bible and Science and Health. Christianization involves holding this Christ view clearly in thought as your model for defining yourself, and yielding to it in the press of human circumstances. Every healing I've ever had, including physical healings, has involved both of these elements.
Your steadfast yielding to the you you really are renders negative character traits and unhealthy physical conditions devoid of identity. In the presence of Christ, their supposed stubbornness has no more staying power than darkness has in the presence of light.
Barbara Vining is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher in Toledo, Ohio. She is also a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship.
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