A SECRET SERVICE AGENT who guards the president. A United Nations employee who helps world leaders understand the importance of protecting and preserving their countries' endangered animal and plant life. A military intelligence officer. An air marshal. Each of these individuals is engaged in the act of protection. Yet my conversations with each of them eventually brought us to a surprising point of agreement: There is something bigger than ourselves that guards and maintains the universe.
Call that "something" what you will: Omnipotence, divine intelligence, a spiritual life force. Through my study of Christian Science, I'm learning that it's God who is responsible for every facet of creation and that, by virtue of the fact that God is All, there is no other power at work within His universe than the power of supreme good. Mary Baker Eddy put it this way: "In divine Science, God is One and All; and, governing Himself, He governs the universe." Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 258.
I like to think of this divine guarding, maintaining force as an example of the ultimate kind of quality control. But unlike the concept of quality control that exists within the manufacturing industry, the version I'm talking about isn't a process of identifying and weeding out the damaged goods. The very nature of God—His perfection, wholeness, purity, and permanence—precludes contamination or imperfection of any kind. The Allness of God means that there is nothing in His universe unlike Him. In other words, quality control in its highest sense is God cherishing and maintaining the glory of His eternal being, through and as His own idea.
Digging into the divine nature
In order to understand the significance of this continuous cherishing and maintaining, we must begin by understanding the nature of that which is being maintained—the nature of God Himself. For example, God is infinite, divine Mind, the all-knowing One, or omniscience. Since God is also good, this Mind must be, in its entirety, good, without one iota of evil, error, confusion, or lack of clarity. The unspoiled perfection of Mind, then, can be seen as a rooting out and removing of anything that defies or threatens harmony and order. Mind knowing itself as pure, inviolate, immortal, and All. Mind satisfied with its perfect selfhood and with its expression of this selfhood—man and woman as the idea of perfect Mind. Of course, the absolute spiritual reality of one Mind with no element of matter means there is no error, no evil element, to root out or destroy. But in the human scene, so-called, we come to know Mind's maintenance of its own being as renewal and restoration—the transformation of thought that inevitably leads to healing.
The same holds true for the nature of God as divine Life. If Life were ever to contain a hint of imperfection or complication, then existence would come to an immediate halt. But Life's pure vitality—its ongoing action, its perpetual wholeness—precludes the possibility that anything could mar, disturb, spoil, or interrupt the flawlessness of being. We see Life's perpetuation of its perfection through the healing power of God, which removes whatever doesn't measure up to Life's perfect standard. Life maintaining itself—and maintaining us.
God and His idea
If God is in charge of protecting and preserving the universe, where do we fit in? What is each individual's job as God's idea or expression? What do we have on our plate to do?
I'm learning more and more that God is asking one simple thing of me on a moment-by-moment basis: to accept nothing less than His perfection. My job is to cherish what God is and does. This is divine quality control made practical in my life.
We live our concept of God. If God is nothing to us, nothing in our lives is balanced. We're plagued by surfeit or by lack. But when we come to know God as divine Principle—the Principle that has no opposite to its perfect timing, order, and consistency—we experience the unfoldment of opportunities that ground success and lead to a balanced life. This is Principle knowing itself and the orderliness of its idea—you and me. And as we choose to regularly look to Principle, our lives are harmonized, and we see them for what they really are—the expression of Principle's perfect workings.
Our spiritual perfection
Perfection, though it may seem elusive in the human scene, is, nonetheless, key to understanding the divine maintenance plan. In actual fact, human perfection is not just elusive, it's nonexistent, and that's because matter has nothing of God in it. Without an element of Spirit, matter can have no actual existence. It is merely illusion. And there is no real perfection in illusion.
"Perfection underlies reality," wrote Mrs. Eddy. "Without perfection, nothing is wholly real." Science and Health, p. 353. No wonder we're called upon every moment to witness to spiritual perfection instead of to the flaws and disappointments of matter. Without perfection, our lives would lack purpose, substance. They would, in fact, be godless. But the nature of God is such that His idea could never for a moment be outside the realm of perfect existence—no matter what else seems to be going on. As Mrs. Eddy explained, "... man is the image, idea, or likeness of perfection—an ideal which cannot fall from its inherent unity with divine Love, from its spotless purity and original perfection." The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, p. 262. Isn't it reassuring to realize that right where a mortal journey seems hard, Mind is maintaining the effortless dynamics of Mind? This means there is a solid foundation for the perfection and harmony that appear to me as my daily life.
When we see this clearly—feeling the truth of it deep down—we see that each moment of our day has divine implications. We aren't slogging it out in a mortal existence. Each of us is the spiritual idea of the Divine. His expression and delight. And perfect Principle, claiming us as its own, is expressed in our own ability to embrace perfection. Thus, progress occurs as we begin with perfection, rather than making it our goal. This is what Principle is enabling us to do—to see ourselves as immortal and at the point of perfection, rather than bumbling and stumbling in a forever-futile search for a flawless human selfhood. Principle reveals a here-and-now perfection—a perfection that we know as man and woman and the universe—simply by being itself, divine Principle.
Well, what about evil?
If God is truly All—Principle maintaining its perfect being—then where does that leave evil? The Bible has been a great guide for me in answering this question, and I've come to see that the lesson we can learn from Bible stories that describe deliverance from persecution and death is not how real pain and death and evil seem to be, or how God saves us in the end. No, these stories prove, instead, how unruffled and untouchable each individual is—and has always been—as God's idea. Three Hebrew men thrown in a fiery furnace emerged without even the smell of smoke on them. Daniel spent all night in a den of lions without sustaining even a scratch. And Jesus' ministry rested on the foundation that not a single one of God's children could ever leave the kingdom of heaven—which was what enabled his immediate and irreversible healing work.
Rather than ask, What about evil? I've found it much more productive to look to Spirit, or God, and ask myself how I see the benevolence of Spirit at work in my daily life. I've come to see that Spirit's ongoing activity is to lead each of us away from a belief in matter. That's what every Bible story documents. And it's what every healing in our own lives does, too.
Sometimes it's tempting to believe that we're engaged in the work of destroying evil. And as long as we believe we're mortal, that seems like a reasonable analysis. Matter is devoid of God, and, as such, it has nothing to do with good, nothing to do with love or joy, perfection or progress. Therefore, it's not evil, but the belief in matter, that we must counteract. This, and only this, will convince us of evil's nothingness in the face of Truth's mighty actuality.
Christ is our salvation
Truth is never threatened, because it knows of nothing to threaten it. Truth has never substantiated a lie, so there is no lie to counteract its perpetual integrity, beauty, and completeness. We understand the activity of Truth in the fact that not one error ever escapes Truth's universal enveloping sweep. Mrs. Eddy characterized it this way: "A spiritual idea has not a single element of error, and this truth removes properly whatever is offensive." Science and Health, p. 463. This cleansing action of Truth is one facet of the Christ, or the healing power of God.
Christ is Truth's affirmation of itself within our own consciousness, God's divine message that reverses whatever seems wrong in human experience. So our prayers—for ourselves or others—don't come from a mortal trying to help other mortals. Our prayers are actually Mind powerfully affirming itself and maintaining its nature as infinite Mind. It could be said, then, that the ongoing activity of this Mind is the announcement of its perfect selfhood, and that we are God's prayer or announcement. Christ reveals this as our true nature as we allow it to be what it really is—our only conception of being. This is how Christ Jesus healed. And this is Truth made practical in our lives, too.
I've come to see that Spirit's ongoing activity—its maintenance of itself—is to lead us away from matter. In fact, that's what every healing in our lives documents.
Maintenance in the minutiae
Understanding one's relationship to the Divine isn't just about witnessing Love's cherishing and maintaining of itself in the big things—in relationships restored, conflicts resolved, or diseases healed. It's seeing Love's loving and glorifying of its glorious being in every facet of who we are and what we do as Love's idea. Since we are the very manifestation of Love, where Love is dynamically and effortlessly unfolding, we can discover that driving the kids to school is Love's day in motion. Walking dogs is a part of Love's tender adventure. Washing dishes is evidence of Love maintaining its perfect purity and impeccable being.
"The Indians caught some glimpses of the underlying reality, when they called a certain beautiful lake 'the smile of the Great Spirit,'" Ibid., p. 477. wrote Mrs. Eddy. In fact, everything good in our lives reflects in some way the infinitude and glory of God. That Secret Service agent I mentioned earlier? The United Nations employee, military intelligence officer, and the air marshal? They aren't the sources of law and order, but are expressions of divine Principle's activity. God maintaining His own harmony and inviolate being. And whether we realize it or not, we are each engaged in this divine activity. As God's expression, we are evidence of His eternal renewing of Himself. Divine Love's tender maintenance of itself and its own idea.