Change For The Better

 

Otto Bertschi, C.S.B., of Zurich, Switzerland

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

People adopt different attitudes these days when confronted with all the problems we have − poverty, ghetto conditions, pollution, lawlessness, war, threats of war − and the changes necessary to resolve these problems.

Many know something needs doing, yet they don't dare tackle such vast problems. Others get so frustrated they rush in without thinking. Some even advocate violence. And there are also masses who've endured so much, feel so hopeless, they can't imagine a change, let alone do anything to help it along.

Such serious problems and the demands for the changes that solve them aren't new or local, of course. They're old, and they're world-wide. And we all face similar situations no matter where we live. We're all in the same boat, so to speak.

So we really can't afford to be like two men I once heard about who were out fishing on a lake. One of them, the story goes, started boring a hole in the bottom of the boat. The other objected − naturally. But the first man looked up calmly and said, "This is my part of the boat!"

More than ever before we realize today that no one can live to himself. New problems are constantly appearing. They're involving us all. What one of us does or doesn't do in response to change, affects the rights and even the safety of his neighbor.

The admission that change presents a common problem to us all can be a progressive step. But it isn't the heart of the matter. Take the fisherman story a little further. Suppose they agree to plug up the hole so they can get to shore. As they near shore, they face another peril. They find themselves in the marshy shallow around the edge of the lake. They still haven't reached firm ground. Temporarily plugging the hole hasn't solved their problem. Struggling in the marsh won't either. They need solid ground to land on.

So do we need solid ground to make any useful response to a world changing too rapidly for some of us and too slowly for others. This is what we're going to discuss tonight. What is the foundation for progressive change? And, how does it enable us to solve the problems of change common to all of us?

 

A Friend To All Men

Many thinkers say the man with the most progressive social consciousness the world has ever known was Christ Jesus. We all know his compassion in relieving hunger and poverty, in healing sickness, and in championing justice. Although he often faced apparently hopeless problems, he solved them. He extended a helping hand to his fellowmen where ever he went. He understood very clearly that change for the better, change for good, is always possible.

How did Jesus do this? He taught that his followers aren't supposed to merely endure change. They must cause change. He knew this could be done because it's the foundation upon which his understanding of God was established. He understood God, the Supreme Being, to be a thoroughly secure foundation. And at the same time a power that not only permits but encourages progressive change.

The basis of all Jesus' works was this understanding of God. He knew without a doubt that a power outside of his human selfhood was responsible for the good he brought to men. He reminded those around him, ''My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me" (John 7:16). Because he understood the nature of God and of man's relationship to God, he could bring about desirable changes by applying divine law. And by divine law, we mean the unfailing dependable way in which God governs His spiritual creation.

Like Jesus, we too can use this law of God and of man's relationship to God to respond constructively to change. We can alter individual experience for the better. This true idea of God and of man's relation to God is what we mean by the term "Christ". It's the divine power Jesus expressed by his actions. That's why he's called Jesus the Christ, or Christ Jesus. Jesus never referred to himself as God. He referred to himself as the Son of God. He acknowledged God as the divine All-power his words and works expressed.

The human scene has changed and will continue to. But the divine facts Jesus used so wonderfully and the divine law they express have never changed. This law is still right here and available. And because it's law, we can all bring our thoughts and actions into accord with it. We can all accept it as a sure basis for action.

 

The Discovery That God Is Principle

In modern times, about a hundred years ago, there lived an individual with a tremendous awareness of mankind's profound need for change. She was Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. It seemed obvious to her that Jesus hadn't intended the kind of works he did to cease − but that his use of God's law to help men change for the better was to serve as an example for all ages.

Further, she perceived that all men could follow his example. That they could understand the true relationship of God and man and the divine law that sustains and empowers this relationship. God is the source of all true being. Man, God's individual expression, is forever inseparable from Him. Man understood in his true spiritual nature, acts in accord with God's law of good, as naturally as the sun's rays spread the light and warmth of the sun.

This inseparable relationship of God and man remains a fact, even if we're ignorant of it. Clouds don't prevent the sun from shining. Neither can ignorance cut us off from God's help, from the source of spiritual law and power. With knowledge of the true facts, we can dispel any ignorance. As Jesus showed us, it's natural for men to utilize divine law and to act in accord with it.

Mrs. Eddy made Jesus' teachings even more understandable in her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Through deep study of the Bible and the penetrating spiritual insights that came to her, she perceived God as Spirit, Truth, Life and Love. But she also saw God as divine Principle. For some people this word Principle is an unusual term to use in relation to God. But used in this way it's extremely helpful in understanding God's law. It indicates the complete dependability of God's law, at all times in all circumstances.

And when we know God also as Love, we discern Him as divine Love that is Principle. This loving Principle works through perfect law and divine order. At one and the same time it's compassionate, just, and good. Therefore, divine Principle, God, meets mankind's needs, our needs. It offers you and me a firm foundation in a world of change. It enables us to welcome progress of all kinds and to make our contribution to it.

Divine Principle and our relation to it are described in Science and Health in these words: "Principle and its idea is one, and this one is God, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Being, and His reflection is man and the universe" (p. 465-466). This understanding of God as divine Principle and of man as inseparable from Him is helping men and women around the globe to cope more confidently with the changes around them − because it's helping them know God better.

 

The Practicality of Divine Principle

The dependability of God's law isn't just theory. Let me illustrate by a comparison with the field of rocket propulsion. Aerodynamic and ballistic laws are constant and impersonal. Because experts have correctly applied these and other relevant laws, men have walked on the moon.

Now consider God as divine Principle. His laws, too, are constant and universal. But learning to know God as Principle will bring far more gratifying results even than the grand tour of the solar system we've been promised. The laws governing rocket propulsion aren't changed by personal opinions or variations of time and space. Likewise, the laws of divine Principle are always impartial, aren't affected by personal whims, by shifts of time or place. Man, relying on divine Principle to govern him, can't be the victim of personal opinions or traditional codes inconsistent with divine law. Our understanding of this fact opens our hearts and thoughts to change, because we know we have a firm foundation on which to meet it. It brings continuing right progress into our daily lives.

When we work at applying the laws of rocketry, we expect to achieve results, to solve the successive problems of getting off the ground, into space, into orbit, and then onto a course for the moon or Mars. In the same way when we work at applying the law of divine Principle to meet changing conditions, we aren't left vainly slaving away and getting nowhere. The very nature of divine Principle is perpetual newness and freshness. So these qualities will always appear humanly as the achievement of progress, of actual change for the better.

Christians recognize God to be Love. As a Christian, Mrs. Eddy knew God as Love and she loved God. Through her youth and young adulthood, she kept turning thought to God's love until she finally began to see how Jesus must have worked − through love and law. In other words, she saw that love is the law to everything. She lived consistently according to her highest sense both of love and honesty, order and truth. Tracing these Christly qualities to their source, she learned to know divine Love as unfailing Principle. In this way she became thoroughly acquainted with the law of God by which Jesus healed. Then she too knew achievement. She was able to help mankind in healing the sick and freeing men from ignorance and wrongdoing. She was able to teach students to do the same, to found the Church of Christ, Scientist, and to share with all men through her writings this healing truth of God.

All of us can individually benefit from the law of Love, of unfailing Principle. We can use it in an unlimited way. In fact, each time we're conscious of integrity, or goodness, we're seeing Principle, Love, expressed. Whoever expresses these qualities has God's support. Whoever sees these qualities expressed in his fellowman witnesses the presence and action of divine Principle, Love. The law of God accepted in human consciousness supports every thought that upholds good. It's a sure base from which all of us can go forward together in the face of today's demands for change. This is a wonderful thing to know.

 

An Illustration of Christian Science Healing

A young man I know proved the effectiveness of God's law in a remarkable way. There was great political unrest in his city. Old ways were being challenged and changed. When mistaken for a political enemy by rioting students, he was suddenly attacked and beaten unmercifully. He was left in the gutter badly hurt, one arm particularly. But he got home somehow and called a Christian Science practitioner.

Some of you know that a Christian Science practitioner is an experienced Christian Scientist who treats through prayer those who ask for help. Furthermore, a practitioner encourages one to rely on God's guidance and supports one's efforts to understand God's care and to apply His healing law.

The practitioner asked the young man to guard his thought against resentment, and not for a moment to accept the idea that his brother-man could harm him, no matter what had happened to him. She reminded him − and herself − that divine Principle, God, being wholly good, could know no violence, or malice, no evil of any kind. She reassured him that as an individual expression of God, infinite good, he could refuse to give any power to evil, either in his thought or in his experience. As they stayed with these spiritual truths, the law of divine Principle, the lad felt strengthened and comforted.

Within a week the arm that had hung limp was healed, as were the bruises. But this wasn't all. During the attack by the rioters, the young man's glasses had been broken. So after he was up and about, he went to have them replaced. Much to his joy he was told he didn't need glasses any more! In working out his physical healing he'd seen the true nature of God and man so vividly that he himself was blessed by more physical freedom than he'd ever known.

Principle and change may at first seem to be in conflict, but actually they aren't. Divine law, when understood and applied, brings about change of thought. Change of thought in turn brings change of experience. And all these changes must be wholly good − because they're from God. So you see, we can respond confidently to God as divine Principle and experience continuing change for the better. First in thought, then in our daily lives.

 

Fearlessness in Face of Change

We've learned something about God as divine Principle, entirely good and loving. And by now we should be aware that divine Principle includes us in its loving and good purposes. But in order to advance from this base and enjoy all the good that can be ours, we must free ourselves from fear in its various phases.

Recently I had the privilege of traveling extensively in Asia. In learning about Asian folklore, I was delighted by a simple example from nature which taught this basic lesson − overcoming of fear. Stories of a delicate little deer, only one foot tall, appeared over and over. The stories show that this tiny creature, called a kanchil or mouse deer, has a capacity not only to survive, but to stand up against formidable dangers unafraid. I saw the kanchil myself in Indonesia and Malaysia, but it can be found also in the tropics of West Africa.

The stories about kanchils are much the same from country to country. They tell of the little kanchil, outwitting the fierce tiger, slipping away from the threatening crush of the elephant's foot, being unafraid of the lion's roar. It hasn't the physical defenses of most animals, and yet it's utterly fearless, its instinct always protecting it. Resourceful and unafraid in the face of new conditions, it quickly changes direction to avoid danger and so is always safe.

This charming creature has a special message for us in the West. We don't have to be afraid of any changes in our daily life. Change, even radical change, doesn't have to be troublesome, if we're willing to consider new ways − if we're willing to face new conditions like the little kanchil, unafraid and responsive.

Change can come about painlessly where there's no fear. Wouldn't it be possible for us to walk right up to the most colossal obstacle or face the most challenging opportunity, if we weren't hampered by fear? What the kanchil can do by instinct, we surely can do by an intelligent understanding of divine Principle's unfailing care for us, whatever changes may come.

 

Gaining Freedom from the Treadmill

There's another form of fear that tries to prevent us from bringing about progressive change. Not fear of too much or too rapid change but fear that change, though urgently needed, just isn't a present possibility or is much too slow.

To meet this fear, we have to wake up to the fact that we're not dominated by adverse circumstances. We're not on an everlasting treadmill, constantly in motion but never moving forward. By opening our thought to the true nature of God and man, to the operation of divine Principle in our lives, we can see good is right at hand for us − that change is always possible and that under God's direction it's going to be change for the better. All that's needed is our consent.

The point in question is, do we really want to leave the old and familiar for a new adventure? Do we want to leave limiting, personal, physical views of ourselves for the unlimited view of man's existence as building progressively on the solid ground of divine Principle? Science and Health says, "To break this earthly spell, mortals must get the true idea and divine Principle of all that really exists and governs the universe harmoniously" (p. 39). We have the choice either to submit to the treadmill of old habits which gets us nowhere or to work at getting "the true idea and divine Principle of all that really exists and governs the universe harmoniously." If we do this, we can lose our fear. Then we can help bring about the changes for the better possible under God's government − and take advantage of them. We alone make the choice.

For example, I know of a newspaperman who was unjustly imprisoned for his political convictions. While in prison, he closely observed what went on around him. Incidentally, his observations were later published in a prize-winning book called, "Road Without End." After his release he told friends he'd made a fundamental discovery − that when faced with unpleasant circumstances, the first thirty minutes are decisive.

Although he remained in jail for some years, it was no treadmill for him. As already indicated, because of his attitude, he made valuable use of that time. He didn't have any bitterness, no sense of futility. He didn't just accept the situation as a loss. He took every opportunity to get whatever good he could out of it. So mental freedom and progress   permeated his prison experience all the time, and ultimately he gained physical freedom.

There's a similar story in the Bible. In early Christian times, religious and political convictions were practically one and the same thing. The Apostle Paul had been imprisoned in Rome for his religious convictions. He was even chained to his guards. Paul had a choice − either to fret and be belligerent about the situation, or make good use of his time. He chose the latter course − he didn't let despair get on top. He went straight on teaching and writing to his fellow-Christians.

So we needn't be afraid either of change or no change, too fast change or too slow change. The understanding of God's law, of man as governed by his divine Principle, is what best frees us from this fear.

 

A Life Changed For The Better

Recently I talked with a man who early in life had special opportunity to change. This change occurred before the turn of the century, and he has been enjoying his freedom from fear ever since.

As a lad, he was employed on a Pullman car and led a rather loose life. While on a trip, he learned that Mrs. Eddy was among the passengers on the way to Chicago. He was told she was the Discoverer and Founder of a religion called Christian Science.

In order to see her, he went along to her compartment with a glass of water. Mrs. Eddy hadn't asked for this service. The lad was just curious. But the courtesy she showed him encouraged a change in his sense of values.

As he returned to his quarters he felt ashamed of his rudeness. But he knew he wanted to be a better man, to change his ways.

It wasn't long before he found someone to show him how to study Christian Science. His thought awakened to a greater sense of divine reality and the possibility of a complete change in himself. As he learned more, his whole life progressively changed. This was the scientific action of the Christ, the true idea of God and man, blessing him and helping him choose freedom.

The cynic and the fatalist, having already abandoned hope, often look for relief in the very things that prevent progress − habit-forming drugs, for example. Or alcohol. They've surrendered to fear. They accept intolerable conditions on the assumption things can't be changed, and have to be endured.

How futile these negative attitudes and material remedies are. Fear isn't corrected by them. It's more deeply entrenched. The solution lies in spiritual awakening and in spiritual healing. The need is for the solid building ground provided by a spiritual understanding of God as divine Principle and of man as eternally governed by Principle.

Science and Health describes the glad continuing change everyone can experience in these words: ''God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis" (p. 258). And this "boundless basis" is God, good, the divine Principle, Love. Making it our starting point we can begin to overcome fear and progressively surmount other difficulties.

 

The Way of Prayer

How do we get spiritual awakening? What can we do to experience this true sense of change and speed progress?

May I assure you right here that this awakening can be ours now. Be fearless. Accept change readily. Don't worry if a bit of a struggle is involved. Change doesn't come by wishful thinking or by mere human reasoning, however positive and constructive.      

How does it come then? By prayer − scientific prayer. Mrs. Eddy writes, ''When a hungry heart petitions the divine Father-Mother God for bread, it is not given a stone, − but more grace, obedience, and love" (Miscellaneous Writings. p. 127).

The first thing to understand about prayer is this − we have to pray for what God has, His own good gifts. The human need may be for something quite different. So in Christian Science, when looking for change, we don't pray for material things − for a meal, a house, money. We learn to express grace, obedience, and love.

We acknowledge that divine Principle, Love, is governing all. Then it follows naturally that every human need is progressively supplied − and far better than we could personally plan.

One can't change within and not change without. Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God . . . and all these things shall be added unto you" (Mat. 6:33). He also said, "Fear not . . . for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). The reward of answered prayer is satisfying achievement at every level of our experience.

Our motive is another important consideration in prayer. We have to pray with true and unselfish motives. Trying to cover a lie, asking to avoid an unpleasant situation, hoping for revenge, selfish gain or the physical strength to harm someone else, isn't prayer as Christian Science teaches it. Such prayer couldn't bring satisfying change because the things asked for have no divine qualities. We don't want to be like the woman who made a bad mistake in bookkeeping and then spent the rest of the week, praying her superiors wouldn't discover it. Divine Principle, God, would never answer such misguided prayer. Prayer certainly means acknowledging all good, but it also requires that we expose all undesirable elements in thought and rid ourselves of them. Scientific prayer is an activity of both inclusion and exclusion.

And third, true prayer starts by glorifying God, rather than asking anything for ourselves. There's nothing wrong in asking God for what He has to give − for goodness, safety, progress. harmony, health. But recognition of man's inseparable unity with God, that is, with Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love, is a very important part of prayer. It enables us to expel from our thought such elements as fear, pride, envy, hatred, meanness, injustice and the like. It acknowledges God's presence and power as being everywhere.

And what are the results of such prayer? By bringing our thinking and our actions into line with divine facts, we're learning to love God and man. By being loving to those around us − by exercising justice, kindness, order − we're putting prayer into action. In so doing, we have no time for the temptations of materialism and evil. We can't think of opposites simultaneously. As a natural consequence of Godlike thinking, change   inevitably comes about. And it's always change we can wholeheartedly welcome, change for the better.

 

The Right Kind of Prayer in Action

This, then, is the need in scientific prayer: to bring thinking into harmony with the divine facts, with divine law, and so free ourselves from fear, doubt, confusion. What would a beautiful oriental rug be if seen only from the underside? You would see traces of the pattern only in faint outline. But change it to the other side! Oh − the unspeakable beauty − the rich colors − the blending − the contrasts! And this beauty seems to increase with use and care! In our lives we need to turn from any dull routine or confusion. Instead, we need to consider our lives from the standpoint of divine Principle's government of man. Then changes will bring us more spiritual fullness and beauty. Spirit always has goodness for us − more joy, peace and satisfaction.

Doesn't this mean we have to see ourselves on the right side? We have to see our true nature, entirely spiritual, as the idea of divine Principle − as the perfect likeness of Spirit. In this way can we be in harmony with God. Science and Health tells us, ''Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it" (p. 2). When we're in harmony with divine Spirit, we're what we should be − our true selves − right side up!

When an understanding of divine Principle and of man's spiritual nature touches a disturbed condition, it doesn't solve the immediate problem alone. It can reach into avenues not known to us where healing is needed.

I know of a man who was seriously afflicted by internal bleeding. He had lost a lot of weight. His life was in danger. An operation was considered essential, even though no great hope was held out for him. But, as sometimes happens these days, he wasn't able to get into the hospital right away.

In the meantime, a friend told him about Christian Science. He readily agreed to have help from a Christian Science practitioner and did his best to study and live according to the teachings of Christian Science. He learned something of God as divine Principle and as infinite Love governing all. He learned that man, as the likeness of God, Spirit, isn't a physical mortal at the mercy of blind change and chance. In short, he learned something of what life truly is.

My friend didn't use any medicine during this time. However, because of mandatory requirements of his office, he had to report to a doctor once a week. All this time the kind of prayer and living I've spoken of was continued by my friend and the practitioner. When the operation was to take place, the doctor said it wouldn't be necessary. The bleeding had stopped. My friend had regained almost normal weight. He was released from any further medical observation. Soon he was able to return to work.

And now for an interesting sequel which illustrates the far-reaching effectiveness of scientific prayer. After this man's return to work, an unpleasant conspiracy by employees was uncovered. Because of jealousy they had been scheming to have him removed from his post. Now, when he returned, the employees welcomed him back and apologized for their behavior. Not only did he receive a remarkable physical healing through claiming his unity with divine Principle, Love, but his reliance on divine Principle also destroyed the hateful thinking in his office. Now there was friendliness and cooperation.

Prayer, divinely enlightened thought, draws on the All-power of divine Principle. This power destroys fear, ensures cooperation, and speeds change for the better − change based on divine Principle operating through divine law.

 

A Doorway Never Shut

Some of you have seen the walled cities of medieval Europe. It wouldn't take more than ninety minutes for us to walk around most of them. Yet, the walled city with the countryside immediately around was the ''world" for most people of medieval times. Few ever ventured much beyond the city walls. Today we not only venture far beyond our cities but men have circled the entire globe in the same period of ninety minutes it takes to walk around the walled cities of Europe.

This dramatically illustrates the vast changes which have come to mankind. Conditions in the modern world demand change. Because divine Principle is waking us up to our divinely bestowed heritage, this change can always be for the better. Divine Principle and progress aren't conflicting elements. They go together for our benefit. Change for the better is always right, and we can know that Principle, divine Love, always supports it and us. That which inspires the change will protect the change and our part in it. No one is hurt by progress, pressed down by progress, or excluded from progress.

Change for the better, then, is possible for all of us.

And it can be a blessing for all of us, too.

 

 

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