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For Youth

Me first? Or God first?

From the January 2019 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Are you the “me first” type? If you’d asked me that question during my teens and early twenties, I probably would have said no. After all, I loved God—a lot. And I was trying to put God first. But in a subtle way, my life was still very much about living for me and what I wanted to do. I wasn’t doing anything terribly bad. But in little ways, I often tried to get away with stuff that wasn’t exactly right, just because I thought it would be fun to do. And if it didn’t hurt anyone, then why not?

One evening in college, I was participating in one of these off-limits but “harmless” activities. It was a game of tag in one of the school buildings. And no, we weren’t supposed to be there, but we felt confident that we could run away if campus security showed up. I took a dive while chasing someone and slammed my knee into a sharp metal corner. I tried to get up, but my knee could barely support my weight, and I was in a lot of pain. I excused myself from the game and managed to slowly hobble back to my dorm.

To make matters worse, I was in the middle of choreographing a piece for my school’s annual dance production and had been really excited about the opportunity. But now I could barely walk, let alone dance. I also didn’t know if I could pray about the injury; after all, it had happened while I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. Could I really pray when I hadn’t been putting God first?

In a subtle way, my life was still very much about living for me and what I wanted to do.

My guilt, frustration, and lack of progress with the injury continued for a few weeks as I sat on the sidelines during dance class, praying halfheartedly. Then one day, during the floor work portion of the class, one of my friends executed a perfect leap. I was in awe of the grace, power, and beauty his leap expressed. And then, in a flash, it hit me: I would not congratulate the jump; I would congratulate my friend. I would not ask the jump how it got in the air; I would ask my friend about his technique. My friend is an amazing dancer, so the jump happens beautifully and naturally.

I realized the same was true about my relation to God. God is; I am what happens because He exists. There is no cause aside from Him. In this analogy, God was the jumper and I was the jump: I was the outcome and expression of God’s very nature. Although I wasn’t familiar with the following passage at the time, I had discovered what Mary Baker Eddy writes about on page 250 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Man is not God, but like a ray of light which comes from the sun, man, the outcome of God, reflects God.” 

I saw that if I was the “jump” to God’s existence, then nothing could stop me from walking—or dancing! I got up and completed the floor exercises with the class. And afterward, I walked back to my dorm completely free of pain or stiffness. That class was the last of the week. The next week, after I participated normally in the whole class, my teacher told me that although I had been out of class for three weeks, my performance was as if I had been training for five weeks. I had not only recovered fully but improved!

While I was so grateful for the healing of my knee, this experience had a much greater and more lasting effect on my life. It also healed me of the subtle “me first” mentality. The realization I had in dance class that day was founded on a deeper understanding of the primacy—the supremacy and singleness—of God, and the fact that God’s expression simply can’t deviate from His nature. The healing illustrated my unbroken relation to God, that I was dependent on Him alone, and some things that were unlike Him—including the pain and a predilection to delight in getting away with stuff I shouldn’t be doing—naturally fell away.

Since this experience, I’ve found so much satisfaction in looking for ways to be more honest, more giving, more in tune with all that God is, instead of looking for ways to get away with stuff. And I’m continuing to grow in my understanding of what it really means to live for God instead of living for myself. Since we’re all the outcome of God’s existence, putting Him first is the most natural, joyful thing to do.

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