Loving to Live
Grace Bemis Curtis, C.S.B., of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
Tonight we're going to talk about the most important subject in the world. Does that seem like a pretty big statement? Well, I make it confidently. We're not going to talk about atomic energy, or space travel, or political panaceas, or economic achievement. Important as these things are, our subject tonight transcends them because it's a matter of life or death. It's a matter of loving to live.
Most people want to live, and they want to live fuller and happier lives. To do this they need to understand better the connection between loving and living. Spiritual love is the vital, constructive, life-giving force of existence. Its opposite, hate, is the destructive, killing element of mortal experience. If people generally took cognizance of this, we would not be experiencing many of the problems that seem to beset us.
We're all aware that this world in which we dwell is the arena for immense conflicting forces. On one hand, we have the heights of human thought expressed in scientific invention, political freedom, gracious living. On the other hand, we have the depths of mortal depravity manifest in crime, war, sensuality, fear, hate. Modern inventive genius must be matched by love's control, or in the midst of material abundance we reap a harvest of disillusionment, anxiety, meaninglessness, despair. And, regretfully, that's the state many are in today.
We're at an historic crossroad where a fresh surge of love must come to counteract a rising tide of fear, frustration, and hate. Spiritual love alone can do this. It's our protection against disintegrating forces both within ourselves and in the world outside. It gives meaning to existence, purpose to endeavor, and reward to right activity. Love is the reason for living.
It is also the remedy for hating, and there's nothing worse than hate. Once long ago, someone said to me, "Everything that's not love is hate." I didn't believe it. I thought there was some sort of middle ground you could stand on. But there isn't. There's no neutral ground. We're either loving and experiencing the blessings of love, or we're hating and suffering the effects of hatred all the time.
Whether we realize it or not, we make a choice between some degree of love and some degree of hate every moment of every day. Each thought we think and each act we perform, from motives of love sends forth health, peace, strength, contentment into the stream of life. Each hateful thought or act tears down and destroys. Thinking doesn't have to be murderous to be hate, you know. Indifference, aversion, condemnation, gossip, self-righteous judging, criticism, hurt feelings, sensitiveness, resentment, revenge are all part of hate's ugly family. A man deeply versed in human motivation. Dr. Smiley Blanton, puts the matter clearly. He says, "Hate causes us to perish - sometimes in a series of little deaths, sometimes at once. If we would preserve life in its fullest sense, we must choose the course of love. We must love - or perish."
Yes, it's as vital as that, a matter of life or death.
Love is the essence of life. The deepest, most fundamental need of the human heart is for love. Everyone longs to be loved. Everyone needs to feel kindness and consideration, to experience justice and fair play, to find understanding, appreciation, approval, all facets of love. In fact, we all need love so much we can't even live long without it. It has been said that disordered feelings caused by lack of love underlie all the problems and miseries of human life from headaches to murders. So the remedy for human woe is love. We all thrive on it. We become well-adjusted and responsible because of it. We do our best work by reason of it and we're happy as the result of it. So, you see, love is far more than just a pleasant adjunct to life. It is life.
That being the case, let's consider carefully two points: what love is and how we live love.
Love Is Divine Principle
So first, what is love? Well, there's much more to it than just human emotion. Behind the love we express humanly there is divine Love. This Love is the Principle of life and the all-encompassing government of the universe. The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes of divine Love, "What a word! I am in awe before it. Over what worlds on worlds it hath range and is sovereign! the underived, the incomparable, the infinite All of good, the alone God, is Love" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 249).
Now, we may have heard the statement, "God is Love," so often that perhaps it has become a cliche without much meaning for us. If that's the case, let's open our thinking, stir our mental habits, and really reason about it. It's a simple sentence to say, but it's a tremendous idea to understand.
I hope we can agree that God isn't a great Someone, off somewhere, who loves, or perhaps fails to love, according as we plead successfully or unsuccessfully for His favors. God isn't a capricious personality. God is divine Principle, Love itself. And as Principle, Love is the purposeful, intelligent power governing the universe and man. It's the creative, cohesive energy of spiritual law. It's the substance of existence, the All-in-all of true being.
But where is divine Love? It's everywhere, like the atmosphere. We live in it, though we may hardly be aware of it. It sustains us, though we may think little about it. If we were to go into a closet and shut the door, we might feel stifled for lack of air, but when we open the door, air flows in abundantly. So it is with divine Love. We may feel a lack of it, when our thought is closed to it; but when we open our thought, Love flows in abundantly and we become aware of ever-present good. Unlike the atmosphere, Love isn't limited; it's infinite. Infinite, you know, means without limit in time or space. Some people, however, seem to think that infinite means everywhere except where they are. Make your infinite enough to include you. Love is right where you are, even if you don't feel it.
How is divine Love? It's impartial. This means Love doesn't play favorites. It's the same for everyone without exception. Love doesn't love us because we're worthy or unworthy. Love loves because it is Love, steadfast, constant, unfailing. It showers its blessings equally upon all who humbly claim it. We only lack it while we turn away from it. The divine Principle, Love, is available for you and me to feel and know, whether we think we deserve it or not.
When is Love? Now and forever. It's eternal. That means Love doesn't change, it lasts. It is ceaseless, intelligent, harmonious. It's going on all the time. As we become aware of its presence and respond to its power, Love takes over our lives and governs us harmoniously. It inspires, preserves, and cherishes us under all circumstances. Even if you haven't yet become aware of this Love, still it's here for you to know. God is Love and God loves you.
Feeling Divine Love
Many people today arc questioning what God is. They're even asking: Does God exist? The reason for this uncertainty is that mankind in general hasn't felt the Love that is God - and to know Love we have to feel it.
A little girl once told her small brother, "God is everywhere."
The doubting little brother replied, "Do you mean that God is in this room? Is He in that chair? I don't see Him."
The wise little sister said, "Of course you don't sec Him because God isn't a see. God is a feel."
So God isn't understood through a speculative philosophy or the dogmas of theology. God can be known only as the Love that is God is first felt and then lived.
Do you remember, when you were a child and fell and hurt yourself, how you ran to your mother and she gathered you in her arms and comforted you? Do you remember the haven of security and solace you felt in that loving embrace? And later, when you were grown up and you were lonely or fearful or perplexed, did you ever think, "I wish I could go home"? When we turn to God and learn to know love we find the peace and harmony of our spiritual home, we feel the security and solace of the divine Love which is both Father and Mother to us.
I know a woman who experienced this. She had suffered much. She had endured loss and loneliness, long illness and great pain. At last she found her way to the office of a Christian Science practitioner. With a great sense of compassion this practitioner told the woman about divine Love and about the Comforter, which is the activity of divine Love in human consciousness. The receptive thought of the woman responded to the practitioner's words and prayer until she felt the presence and power of divine Love. Then she lifted her head and said with tears in her eyes, "I feel as though I have come home at last." As the harmony of Love grew more and more real to her, an internal growth dissolved and disappeared and she regained normal health.
Later, she remarked, "Before this experience, I had prayed and prayed for God to come and heal me, or else to make me worthy to be healed, but now I know the divine Principle is always here to bless. It was I who needed to know this Love and let it heal me." She had glimpsed the Principle of Christian Science and its healing power.
Many misunderstand such healing and believe it to be an activity of the human mind. But the healing power of Christian Science resides in divine Love. The human mind has nothing to do with the healing except as it yields to the harmony of Love, the divine Mind.
This yielding is simple and easy. It is simple enough so that children can understand it. A very inexperienced substitute teacher in a Christian Science Sunday School once asked a class of little tots, "Why do we pray?" Then she thought, "Oh dear, I've asked them too hard a question. I'll have to try to explain it to them." As she was struggling to find a way to make it clear, a little girl looked up sweetly and said, "We pray to make us know God loves us." That's it. We don't need to pray to make God love us. We do need to pray to make us know God loves us. And when we know this, we feel divine Love and we are healed and blessed.
Unfortunately, to many people divine Love is almost unknown because everyday opinions and beliefs about love are all too often a distortion, even a caricature of its true nature. No word is more misunderstood than love. Popular songs and stories, theater and television, have all too often sadly debased men's concept of love. They have degraded it into raw sex and paraded it before us as such continually.
But mere physical passion which can result in jealousy, cruelty, fear, hate, and unbridled sensuality, isn't love at all. It's extreme selfishness. It leads to some of the more hopeless and sordid states of living. True human love is more than frenzied romantic passion. It's the steadfast expression of qualities derived from divine Love, qualities such as wisdom, unselfishness, patience, kindness, generosity, humility, honesty, purity, goodness. When qualities such as these are expressed, human love patterns the divine. Divine Love uplifts, supports, and blesses.
We know divine Love by the effect it produces. For instance, we can see the leaves of the trees moving in the wind, but we can't see the wind. We know the wind is blowing, because we see the leaves moving. We see the effect of the wind. So we see people who are kind, gentle, just, and we know that divine Love is activating them. We don't see Love; we do see the effects of Love. If you were to meet someone who inspired you, someone who was intelligent, understanding, and helpful, you might say, "What a lovely person." However, what you would really mean is: "There is the activity of Love, there is Love expressed."
You might have felt this way about Mrs. Eddy had you known her. Divine Love so activated and governed her human consciousness that she radiated love, and healing was often instant. Some who knew her saw her as a lovely person, which she certainly was;
but those who understood her mission better recognized that she was impelled by divine Love and expressed the mothering Love which is God, reaching out to heal and bless all mankind.
Among the many people who went to see Mrs. Eddy one Independence Day was a mother with her two small children. The little girl had a painful boil on the top of her head. It was so painful that she wouldn't let her mother comb her hair, nor could she wear a pretty hat planned for the occasion. Here is part of the mother's illuminating account of their meeting with Mrs. Eddy.
"I wish I could make the world know what I saw when Mrs. Eddy looked at those children. It was a revelation to me. I saw for the first time the real Mother-Love, and I knew that I did not have it. ... there was a bird sitting on the limb of a tree, and I saw the same love, poured out on that bird that I had seen flow from Mrs. Eddy to my children. I looked down at the grass and the flowers and there was the same Love resting on them. . . . This Love was everywhere, like the light, but it was divine, not mere human affection. . . It was not only everywhere present, like the light, but it was an intelligent presence. . . It rested upon everything my thought rested on. When we got back to the hotel, there was no boil on my child's head. It was just as flat as the back of her hand. . . For weeks it had a strange effect on me. I could not bear to hear anyone speak in a cross, ill-tempered tone, or do anything that would cause pain."
Through Mrs. Eddy's great love for God, expressed in overflowing love for man, she discovered Christian Science - the Science of Love and Life, the same Science which Jesus taught and lived. She recorded the scientific discovery in a book entitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Here she writes, "The Christian Science God is universal, eternal, divine Love, which changeth not and causeth no evil, disease, nor death" (p. 140). The spiritual revelation recorded in this book has enlightened and healed people around the world. It has enabled them to understand, in some degree, the relation of God and man.
But at first Mrs. Eddy's spiritual discovery was widely rejected, yet her love for God and man didn't falter. For every hateful thought and act directed against her, she loved more. Through her unselfish love, the sick were healed, the sinning reformed, and the dying restored.
In the face of what would have been overwhelming odds to one less faithful, Mrs. Eddy's love grew purer and stronger. In latter years, when asked the question by one of her students, "Do you love me?" she is said to have looked up in surprise and replied, "I just love. As the sun just shines, I just love." This wonderful, all-embracing love brought healing and regeneration to all who were receptive to it. It led Mrs. Eddy to found the Christian Science movement—the Church of Christ, Scientist, and its many activities. Her life exemplified her statement in Science and Health: "The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love" (p. 113).
Now we come to our second point, how we live love. Does divine Love seem too wonderful for us to express? It isn't. It's the substance of our lives. It does get covered up by false beliefs sometimes, but it's always here.
You remember, divine Love is the fundamental creative and sustaining Principle of life. We can't live without it, even if we believe we can. The more love we live, the better life we have. How we love determines how we live. Without some degree of love in our hearts, we cannot live at all. With only a little love, we live meager, meaningless lives. With the wrong concept of love, we live dissolute, even criminal lives. With normal human affection, we live good lives. With unselfish love for our fellowmen, we live great lives. With true spiritual love, we live glorified lives. When our life expresses divine Love, we live eternally. Divine Love and eternal Life are one.
So, of course, you can express love and you can love abundantly - not just a little love with a little life, but abundant love with abundant life. As Jesus' beloved disciple John says, "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit" (I John 4:12, 13). Think of it! God has given each one of us the ability to love, so each one of us can share in the blessings it brings.
Yes, God has given us the ability to love and Christ Jesus has given us the rule for loving. It reads, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matthew 7:12). This is, indeed, the Golden Rule for loving. If each of us lived this rule and did unto others - and especially thought about others - as we would like to have them do and think about us, heaven would be right here.
What do we want others to do and think about us? Well, we all want to be understood. So let's try to understand others. Make an effort to think from their point of view instead of always from our own. We want them to put the best construction on what we do and say, instead of the worst. Let's regularly put the best construction on what others do and say, instead of the worst. Let's make them innocent instead of guilty. You know, sometimes the badness we attribute to others may be in our own thoughts instead of theirs. Let's eliminate it from them and from us.
If we've made a mistake we're trying to correct, we want others to forgive and, most of all, to forget about it. You know, a mistake isn't really forgiven until it is forgotten. Let's forgive and forget the mistakes of others. We would like to have them put us in the right light with other people. Let's be careful that what we do and say puts others in the right light. We long to have others have faith in the good that is in us, in spite of appearances. Let's always have faith in the good in others, instead of ballooning up the evils they sometimes seem to present. Most of all, we desire others to look through the mask of false self we may be wearing and see us, with the eyes of love, as we really are, the reflection of divine Life and Truth and Love. What a privilege it is to look through the many masks of self presented to us and see others, with the eyes of love, as they really are, the sons of God.
Let me give you an example. A friend of mine, who is a Christian Scientist, was on a business trip. He was carrying a large sum of company money. He arrived in a big city station with time between trains and decided to get a bite to eat in a restaurant on the second floor. He reached the second story by escalator and walked along the corridor toward a large pillar. As he came near it, a man stepped from behind the pillar and commanded, "Come over here."
There were no other people about, so my friend replied, "No, thank you."
Whereupon the stranger reached into his tweed jacket, pulled out a gun, and demanded the traveler's money.
My friend told me that in spite of some mental disturbance, he immediately reached out to divine Love for help and protection. The powerful words from the New Testament, "Now are we the sons of God" (I John 3:2), came to his thought as though spoken and kept coming repeatedly. The words seemed illumined. It was as though he had never understood them before. "Now" didn't mean some future time, but right then and there. "We" was all-inclusive, it meant both of them - both of them the sons of God. "Sons of God" always love, because God is Love. So there was nothing present but divine Love and its expression.
The two men stood there facing each other in silence for as long as a minute or two. As my friend's thought became filled with real love for his fellowman, he realized that he was completely free from all fear, or resentment, or hate. Gradually he became certain that something was happening to the other man, too. With great joy, he realized that right then each of them was indeed the son of God, the exact image or reflection of Love.
Suddenly, the stranger put his gun in his pocket and said, "O.K., Buddy. You forget about it and I'll forget about it," and walked away.
I'm sure you can imagine how thankful my friend was for his protection, but the important point to me was what he told me about the other man. He said, "Of course, I can't prove it, but I know from that man's face and the feeling that passed between us, he will never try to rob again." You see, love never condones an evil, but it never condemns a person.
Love Is Not Obstructed
Well, I can almost feel somebody thinking, "That was fine for him, but I can't love like that. Love may be powerful and ever present, but I don't seem to have it. And I know a lot of other people who don't." Why isn't Love always expressed? Why is there so much struggle, unhappiness, fear, and hate in the world? What obstructs love in our lives?
The obstruction is our mistaken sense of self—the belief that our identity is merely material, physical. In reality our selfhood is spiritual; it's the individual expression or reflection of divine Love. We understand this true selfhood through Christ, the spiritual idea of divine Love always present in human consciousness - the same Christ which Jesus expressed in such boundless measure men ever since have called him Christ Jesus, or Jesus the Christ.
This Christ, this spiritual idea of divine Love, is constantly communicated from God to every man, woman, and child. But the opacity of materialism, our love of our material self, and our preoccupation with material affairs, seems to blot out the Christ-idea. We then believe we are Christ-less, or mortal, isolated, and physical. This is a spiritual impossibility; this material isolation exists only as false belief. Through the saving Christ, always present and active in human thought, we can overcome our false belief and know ourselves in the likeness of Love, eternally embraced by divine Love.
But what obstructs the glory of love in our lives is that most of us think about material selfhood most of the time. So most of the time, we're governed by some form of false self, self-will, self-justification, self-pity, self-righteousness, self-condemnation, self-love. Unless this false self-centered thinking is dissolved by unselfcd love, it seems to grow more intense and restricting, until we may become dissatisfied with life, frustrated in our efforts, resentful of others, or just generally unhappy. All because we have allowed material self to fill our thinking, instead of reflecting divine Love.
I might illustrate my point this way. Once there was a large city suffering from an acute shortage of water. This shortage wasn't due to any lack of water. There was plenty of water. It was because great quantities of ice had lodged in the intake pipes and blocked the free flow of water into the city. As soon as the ice melted, the water instantly filled the pipes and supplied the city's needs.
In a similar way, if we seem to feel a lack of love, it isn't due to any shortage of love. There's always an abundance of love. It's because an accumulation of selfish thinking is clogging our intake and blocking the free flow of love into our lives. As the ice of material self is dissolved by the warmth of unselfed love, the bounty of divine Love flows freely into our lives and meets our needs.
Mrs. Eddy has stated this important point much better than I can. She writes, "Self-love is more opaque than a solid body. In patient obedience to a patient God, let us labor to dissolve with the universal solvent of Love the adamant of error, - self-will, self-justification, and self-love, - which wars against spirituality and is the law of sin and death" (Science and Health, p. 242).
The law of sin and death - the law of hate! Isn't this what Dr. Blanton was referring, to when he wrote, "Hate causes us to perish. Sometimes in a series of little deaths, sometimes at once." You will remember that he continues, "If we would preserve life in its fullest sense, we must choose the course of love."
Arguing for Love
To choose the course of love is to change our thinking from self to benevolence, from hate to love. You know, we all mentally talk with ourselves. We even argue with ourselves. The mental argument which changes our thinking from selfish hate to unselfed love, is the road to salvation, the road out of the sufferings of hate into the blessings of Love. We start on this road from death to life by really wanting to change our thinking from hate to Love; we go on to become willing to argue with ourselves on the right side;
and we end by learning to love.
This was how I first became aware of the blessings of Love. And I well remember the mental argument I went through.
At an early age, I had accepted the fact that God is Love and Love is the supreme power, but I didn't understand it. At that time I didn't know much about Love. Oh, I knew a little about human affection but I knew I didn't understand divine Love at all, but I wanted to, I really wanted to. And you know, sincere desire to know and obey God is true prayer. So in this way, I prayed to understand Love and I tried to be loving, but I didn't make much headway at it, except with a few people I liked.
However, as I continued to pray and study the Bible and Science and Health, I began to see that since God is Love, the nature of man in God's likeness or reflection is to love. This spiritual love doesn't need a person to call it forth, nor can a person hinder it. It rests on all and blesses all. It scientifically separates evil from man and scientifically destroys the evil, leaving man free to reflect God's love and goodness in harmony and peace. I saw that real love loves all the time. But most important of all, I saw to love truly is to stick at loving when you don't want to, until you do want to.
Well, of course, I soon had an opportunity to prove whether I understood those facts or not. An acquaintance of mine did something that was very wrong, very unkind, very unjust. I was pretty upset about it. All day long I struggled between my desire to be indignant and resentful, and my honest desire to learn to love. My mental argument went something like this.
Hate said to me, "You ought to go to that woman and tell her how wrong she is. She doesn't seem to realize it."
Spiritual honesty said, "You're just as wrong as she."
"Oh no," said self-righteousness, "No, I'm not. Look what she did."
"Yes," said honesty, "and look what you're thinking. You profess to be a Christian Scientist and, as such, you know it's your duty and privilege to love that woman."
"Well," said self-will, "I don't want to love her. I don't like her. She's a troublemaker."
"Ah," said honesty, "but you must get rid of that hateful thought."
Then self-pity had a try. "Why should I have to do it, when she's the one who's wrong?"
"But," whispered integrity, "you're the one who is indulging self-righteousness, self-pity, and hatred. You must correct that."
So very reluctantly I thought, "All right, I'll correct my thinking, if I have to, but it's getting late. I'll do it tomorrow."
"Yes," urged procrastination, "you may feel more like doing it tomorrow."
"Do it now," said spiritual wisdom, and finally wisdom won.
Well, I struggled to get rid of that hateful thinking without much success until about two o'clock in the morning. Then my self-centered thinking finally yielded and with true humility and honesty - and you know, sometimes it takes a lot of mental struggle to be honest with yourself - I sincerely prayed, "God, show me what divine Love is and teach me to love."
I wish I could fully convey to you the heavenly sense of divine Love's presence and power that unfolded to me. The whole world and everyone in it seemed bright and beautiful. Love was everywhere and it was All. In that all-ness there wasn't any evil, fear, or hate. This wonderful realization of Love's presence was with me for days, everything was so easy, everyone was so lovely. Of course, the trouble with that woman just disappeared.
And I learned a tremendous lesson. I learned that the temptation of hate - and that's what it is, even when we try to call it by some other name - the temptation of hate is always to fight out the problem with the other fellow. The need of love is to fight it out with ourselves and to love, even when we don't want to.
This is how we learn the joy of loving, learn how much better it is to love than to be loved. Material thinking always gets everything reversed. It's always seeking for someone to love it and is never satisfied. Spiritual loving embraces all in outflowing affection and brings contentment. He who loves much is much loved.
After this enlightening experience I glimpsed what Mrs. Eddy was talking about when she said, "I saw the love of God encircling the universe and man, filling all space, and that divine Love so permeated my own consciousness that I loved with Christlike compassion everything I saw. This realization of divine Love called into expression ‘the beauty of holiness, the perfection of being’ (Science and Health, p. 253), which healed, and regenerated, and saved all who turned to me for help" (from a conversation reported by Abigail Dyer Thompson in We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, First Series, p. 74).
In this way each one of us can come to understand pure Christianity and Jesus' great rule, "If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?" (Matthew 5:46.) "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44, 45).
The Love of Christ Carries Us Home
Now all this may sound as if learning to love is just a humanly mental struggle. It isn't. It's much more. It may seem to take human effort but that effort is based on responding to divine Love's presence in our human consciousness. This presence of good, this upward aspiration, this righteous thought, this recognition of Love, is Christ, God's saving love.
Often we don't respond to it, but we always can. It's always present with us, continually unfolding to us our true selfhood as Love's expression. So, as we daily labor to save ourselves from hellish, hateful, killing thoughts, we have Christ to aid us.
It helps me to think of a surfboard rider. It's his responsibility to balance himself on the board, but it's the mighty surge of the ocean that carries him home. We have our responsibility, our work to do to overcome our false sense of self and express love. We can't safely shirk it. But it's the mighty love of God that carries us home to the haven of Love's allness.
So, step by step, we learn that love isn't an ornament, an embellishment, to life. Love is the very substance of Life itself. Love isn't a tenuous, unattainable ideal; it's the fiber and strength of our everyday living. Love is the strongest force in the world - stronger than fear, stronger than hate. Love overcomes the most formidable evil, yet meets the needs of a little child. Love is the most precious thing in the world. The rich cannot buy it; the poor cannot beg it, but all can have it who are willing to express it.
Living to Love
As we daily grow in living love, we find the ultimate meaning of life and the joy of living. We find it is indeed true, as we live to love, we will love to live, for as Mrs. Eddy clearly states, "Love alone is Life" (Poems, p. 7).
There's a tradition that when John, the beloved disciple, was very old, people came to him for a message from the Master, Christ Jesus. All he would ever say to them was "Little children, love one another, love one another, love one another."