The Life That Is Worth Living
Rose M. Henniker-Heaton, C.S., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Life, if it is to be of value,
cannot be stagnant, but must necessarily be active and vibrant and spiritually
nourished. This idea was central to a lecture given by Rose M. Henniker-Heaton,
A member of The Christian Science
Board of Lectureship, Mrs. Henniker-Heaton spoke in The Mother Church, The
First Church of Christ, Scientist, in
Verne Stanford, a local member of The Mother Church, introduced Mrs. Henniker-Heaton.
An abridged version of her lecture follows:
Freeing the individual
What sort of life do you really think is worth living? Surely it must be one that sets free your full individuality. That shows you what you are, what you can achieve. A life that's rich in giving and receiving, in learning and loving.
But to be like this, it must have a sound basis. And that basis should be a spiritual one – which is why I want to talk to you about it in connection with Christian Science.
Now a life that's lived on a spiritual basis in an apparently very materialistic world may meet challenges. But, then, neither Christianity nor Christian Science has ever offered a soft life. But what they do promise and fulfill is the active peace of a life based on spiritual values and not just on material occurrences. And they show how to live such a life with strength and courage, so that it becomes a joy and not a burdensome pilgrimage.
A perfect petition
There's a poem many of you will know as a hymn. I think it's a perfect petition for such a life.
Father, hear the prayer we offer;
Not for ease that prayer shall be,
But for strength, that we may ever
Live our lives courageously.
And it goes on:
Not forever by still waters
Would we idly quiet stay,
But would smite the living fountains
From the rocks along our way.
(Christian Science Hymnal, No. 55.)
That metaphor of striking a
fountain from a rock comes from the Bible, from the story of Moses when he was
leading the children of Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 17). They'd escaped
There was no water, and they were thirsty. So they became very rebellious against Moses. He turned to God to know what he should do with this people.
The answer that came to him was
that he should go on ahead of the people to
Now the reason I'm reminding you of this story is that in the course of human life we sometimes find ourselves in a comparable situation. We'd love to have a more progressive sense of life. But we don't know how to achieve it.
What can we do?
We can always do as Moses did. We can turn to God in whatever way we understand God. And the same intelligence that told Moses how to release the water from the rock will be there with us, showing us just what we should do in our particular circumstances.
We'll find our fountain. I don't know what your fountain will be. You don't know what mine is. But it will be some fresh inspiration that enables us to go on and walk straight through these limitations in a way that we never could see before.
Vital source of life
One of the great promises in the book of Revelation is this. "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely" (Rev. 21:6). In the Bible, and in so much other great literature, life has often been likened to a fountain or a river. Now these are all on the move because they have a vital source.
The life that is worth living should be like this. It should be ongoing. But it can only be so if it, too, has a vital source. And that source is not to be found in the shallows of mortal experience. It's to be found in and as that one great source of life that is Life, God.
This is something Jesus understood so well. He lived a life uniquely worth living. He knew the source of his life, and the source of the understanding of it that he came to impart to others. And that's why he could say, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John ).
I'll never forget the day when those words first struck home to me.
At the time I was in my late teens. The one thing I wanted was abundant life. And I didn't think I was getting it. The fact of the matter was that I was looking for it in all sorts of unproductive ways. I was looking to people, to places, to circumstances. And I didn't find it. But I did find I had to turn again and again to the one great source of abundant life, and to accept that it was spiritual.
Sense of abundance
At that time someone said to me, "But what use is that going to be to you? What you want is all the thrill of living, all the color and variety and beauty. Aren't you going to lose all these if you're going to say that their source is spiritual?"
Oh, no. I wanted all those things then, and I love them now. And I've never found that you lose even the tiniest bit of them by recognizing that their essential, fundamental source is spiritual. In fact, they become more vital, more real, more meaningful to you.
A sense of abundant life is such a wonderful thing. And someone who has it in his own way is Artur Rubinstein, the pianist. I think many of you must have heard him play the piano so wonderfully while in his 90s. Years ago he was interviewed by Time magazine. He said at that time, "I'm passionately involved in life; I love its change, its color, its movement. To be alive, to be able to speak, to see, to walk, to have houses, music, paintings – it's all a miracle. I have adopted the technique of living life from miracle to miracle" (Time, Feb. 25, 1966, p. 88).
Now many think that a miracle is a supernatural setting aside of a natural law. But in Christian Science it's understood to be the fulfilling of a law – one of God's scientific spiritual, natural laws of good. So a wonderful way to live a life that is worth living would be to live it from the fulfilling of one of God's laws to the fulfilling of the next one.
Book of adventures
How do we do it? I think we have to be always watching, listening, wondering, inquiring, studying, learning. Always ready for fresh spiritual vision and adventure. Why, the Bible is full of great adventures.
I was thinking a little while ago of one of the first of these – the story of Noah. I heard someone say, "Don't wait for your ship to come in. Remember Noah and build your own!"
But Noah, though he built his ark of safety alone under God's direction, didn't set out in it alone. He didn't go out on the trackless waters by himself. Because he had something else to do. He had to take with him embodiments of all life, for whom he was responsible and for whom he had to care.
Caring. It's akin to love; but it has that special meaning of being aware of the needs of others, and also being ready and willing to fulfill them.
A life transformed
Twenty years ago a friend of mine was living a life that she certainly didn't find worth living. It was a life full of drudgery and drabness and serving others. But today she's a very changed woman.
I asked her what had happened. She said, "When I began to study Christian Science I found out something about God as Life. And I began to see that all true life was a free-flowing out from God. And the change in me began to come when I saw my own life as coming directly from God, as directly as a stream flows from its source."
After this, caring and giving was no longer a hateful personal necessity. And she also got a great deal more appreciation. One of the most interesting things that happened at that time was that she was permanently healed of recurring attacks of very severe internal pain. And since then she's been busy helping other people with her newfound understanding of life, seeing man's true life as flowing directly from God, as directly as the stream flows from its source.
And this brings me to another point. When you begin to see life in this way, you find that instead of always fighting your way upstream to good, you can begin to look out from your divine source, from your unity with it. And feel all its power carrying you on.
Basis of Jesus' work
Can we really say this? Is this honest, when we appear to be so mortal, so temporal, so genetically programmed? Well, let me put it another way. Does the sunlight stream from the sun? Does a river flow from its source? Then does the spiritual individuality of man as the direct expression of God, divine Life, emanate from its divine source, from its unity with it, its conscious understanding of it? Yes, it does.
This is another thing that Jesus understood so well. It was the basis of his great lifework.
He could say with authority, "Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go" (John ).
What was he so sure of? From where did he come? In the answer to that question lies the reason for the amazing impact the life of Jesus of Nazareth made upon the world. If he had believed that he was just what he appeared to be, a mortal man, he couldn't have done his wonderful works. But even as Jesus walked the earth as the son of Mary, he knew himself to be the Christ, the Son of God.
Christian Science understands the Christ as showing the absolute, direct Truth of man's individual being in its relation to God, its only actuality, present always where the material and the temporal appear to be. It was Jesus' knowledge of this, and demonstration of it, that made his life so unique.
Presence of the Christ
In his presence troubles vanished. What was this presence? It wasn't just the presence of the son of Mary. It was the presence of the Christ, the Son of God. In Christ Jesus we have this wonderful example of coincidence of the human and the divine, the divine being the only eternal and lasting reality, present always where the mortal and material appear to be, and shining through them.
Christ Jesus was the Wayshower, the Wayshower to all mankind, and to each of us in particular. We shouldn't forget this, because it's so easy to say, "I'm not worthy of it."
But isn't each one of us worthy to understand truth? Aren't we worthy to understand this truth of our own real being and its relation to the Life that forms it? We are.
I learned all this and more from this book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Its author is Mary Baker Eddy. She discovered the scientific facts, the divine laws of God, which Christ Jesus had demonstrated. And in this great book they are set down and explained.
Mrs. Eddy's historic role
Mary Baker Eddy lived a life that was superbly worth living. So it's no wonder that Christian Scientists gratefully honor and revere her for all that she has done; for her place in the religious history of the world; for her discovery of Christian Science; for establishment of the Church of Christ, Scientist, with all its worldwide activities, too many to list now. Except, perhaps, The Christian Science Monitor and the Christian Science periodicals or magazines.
I'm sure you're aware that there are Christian Science practitioners who devote their whole time to healing work. If you want to learn more of Christian Science, if you need help with healing, if you want to ask questions, you can go to them, and they will be very glad to help you in whatever way you need.
Years ago I used to go very often to see a Christian Science practitioner because I was always full of my own troubles and needed help. One day I went along to her, saying that I was so mixed up I just didn't know how to straighten myself out at all. She picked up Science and Health and she read, "It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony" (p. 390).
The practitioner said, "You see, what you know of God will form and shape your life experience. And if you want a better one, you should get busy and learn more about the nature of God and your own relationship to this."
Well, that was some of the best advice I ever had. And I did begin to do it. And I used to find various passages in Science and Health and enjoy them. One day I came upon this beautiful one: "God's being is infinity, freedom, harmony, and boundless bliss" (p. 481). I put with it another one: "Man is the expression of God's being" (p. 470). And I reasoned that if I was God's man, I could claim that I was the expression of all these wonderful things. I used to think about this. And all I can tell you is that into my life came much more freedom, much more harmony, much happiness and joy, and great love.
Bone disease healed
Years later, I saw how those words helped very greatly in a case where physical healing was desperately needed.
A woman I knew appeared to be in the last stages of a very severe bone disease. Gangrene had set in to an extreme extent. The Christian Science practitioner who at that time agreed to take up this case felt that only the most profound understanding of God and man's relation to Him could bring healing. This woman's husband was also working with her. He never doubted that she would be healed. He looked after her wonderfully. The practitioner had asked them to make an in-depth study of those words, which describe God's being, "infinity, freedom, harmony, and boundless bliss." She said, "Look them up in the Bible, in Science and Health, in Mrs. Eddy's other writings, in dictionaries."
As this study went on, fear began to diminish and the body began to respond. It was not a very quick healing, but it was a sure one. And it was corroborated two years later by a doctor who was attending this woman at the birth of a child. He remarked quite casually that she must have had this particular bone disease. But he said, "It was cured." Now there was no cure ever applied or asked for except the cure that came through Christian Science practice, Christian Science healing.
It does seem as if ignorance of God produces all sorts of discord in human experience. But the far greater truth is that the right understanding of Him restores harmony. And that is what happened in this instance of physical healing. It showed that these great facts of spiritual being are no mere abstractions, but that, when understood and utilized, they have profound effects on human minds and bodies.
World hungers for truths
I've been talking about people. Individuals.
What about our world? Does the life that is worth living concern itself with the world? If it didn't, there might very soon be no world left worth living in.
Our world is one world today. One in a way that the world of Noah and Moses never could be. Time and space no longer prevent us from knowing what is going on on the other side of the globe.
Though our world is one, it is grievously divided. On one side we see amazing good. On the other, amazing evil. Amazing good? Oh, yes – because I doubt whether ever before in the history of the world, in certain areas at any rate, has there been greater concern for the welfare of mankind and for the environment. Nor do I believe that there has ever before been such widespread hunger for spiritual truths.
But the amazing evil? Oh, yes. You watch television. You read the newspapers. Wars and rumors of wars, crime, terrorism, and extreme sensuality, pornography, abuse of power.
What do we do about them?
Now right at the beginning I said that this life of which we're talking should have a spiritual basis. So it's on this basis that we begin our work for our world. It's here in our own deep, quiet, silent thought that the work is done. And that work is prayer.
The vital statement of Christian Science is that in absolute truth, in ultimate reality, God, good, is all. Absolutely all, without the possibility of an inverted image, of a misstatement, of an opposite called "devil" or "evil" in any shape or form.
So it's here in our own deep, silent thought that we begin and continue this work, this prayer. It's here that we support and cherish every evidence of good of which we know. And it's here, too, that we reverse and refute and deny all the manifestations of evil which may be presented to us. But that isn't all we do. We live in a world that has a wealth of wonderful things going on, and many problems. And surely that's one of the reasons Mrs. Eddy established The Christian Science Monitor, that we might be aware of these progressive and wonderful things that are happening. And that we might also be ready and learn how to take care of and help with the solution of problems.
Mastery over storms
As we view the things of our daily lives, we sometimes find them distressing. But if the spiritual facts of being are held deeply in thought, we shall be able to glimpse these even when storms are raging. And so often storms will just fade out.
Mary Baker Eddy was a woman of remarkable spiritual perception. In the course of her long life, she faced many great storms and came triumphantly through them.
But I want to tell you about a day
when she faced just a little storm. It was told to me by someone who was with
her at the time. This was when Mrs. Eddy lived at
As I heard this, I caught such a glimpse of how possible it always is to look through the problem, the lack, the grief, the sorrow, to see some evidence of what Mrs. Eddy described as "God's face," some evidence of God's presence, right there in a form that will be intelligible to oneself just where one is.
I've found the thought of this to be so helpful in many things, and not least in the little things of life.
The little things of life
One day I went into a big department store. I had a little camera case with a broken strap. When I got there, the camera counter was loaded with expensive equipment. There were lots of customers examining it. And behind the counter there were also quite a few assistants. They were all running up and down so fast that no one would look at me. Well, I waited and I went on waiting, and I got very irritated.
And then I thought, "It's no good feeling like that." So I started reasoning that if God was all and everywhere, there could be no place where there wasn't some evidence of God's presence. And then I'm afraid I thought, "Well, I don't see very much of it around here." I realized, "Well, that won't do either." Then I thought, "Yes, all these assistants are running up and down so fast they must be alive!" And life, even seen humanly, is an evidence of the presence of God. Because Life with a capital "L" is one of the terms Christian Science uses for God. I got very busy thinking about this, reasoning that if Life was there, then Love must be there, and Mind or intelligence must also be there.
Suddenly there was a slight movement in front of me, and an assistant said, "What can I do for you, dear?" So I said, "I would like to buy a new camera case, please." And she took it and looked at it and said, "Oh, no. We couldn't let you buy one. It shouldn't have gone like that." So she went and got another, gave it to me, and out I went!
It was a very small occurrence. Very small indeed. But it wasn't small to me, because it served to remind me once again that there is no place where you can't see some evidence of God's presence, if you will watch for it.
Beholding God's nature
Years ago I took a book off a library shelf with this title, "Their Eyes Were Watching God." I don't remember what was in it, but I've never forgotten the title.
To watch God, to learn more of His nature and qualities, is a lifework. But it's a work that makes life so much more worth living. How do we do it? Well, I began in that store by using three of the seven synonyms for God. You will find them all in Science and Health: Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, Love. Wonderful words! Great, beautiful, strong words. Varied words which denote the varied nature of the one God. If we will take these words, if we will enjoy them and sometimes take out just one and say, "How wonderful! That's what God is like," something will happen to us. It must be what Paul meant when he wrote to the Corinthians, "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Cor. 3:18).
God's glory reflected
What a word! What does it mean? If you look in a Bible concordance, you will
find that it comes innumerable times. It's used to describe the splendor, the
brilliance, the magnificence of God in all his aspects and attributes. It fills
the tabernacle; the heavens declare it, and the promise is that the earth shall
be filled with the knowledge of it. It shines round about the shepherds as they
watch their flocks by night near
One day I was trying to explain something of what I saw in this to a friend. But he said, "Yes, I grant you it's beautiful. But isn't it rather visionary? Isn't it a bit abstract? Isn't it far off, like a beautiful sunset? What I want to know," he said, "is what use is it to you and me and the man in the street?"
Oh, but have you ever watched a great glowing sunset in all its brilliance and color? And have you ever looked to watch the face of whoever might be standing beside you? And haven't you seen all that light and color reflected in their face and in their eyes?" I'm sure you have. It's what Paul said. We shall be changed. Oh, not all at once. But we shall have just a little more of that reflected radiance which comes from beholding the glory of God.
That radiance and warmth is just what we most need if we're going to help other people.
Healing hidden troubles
It's often said that troubles in a person's life are like a tip of an iceberg, with more underneath. It's the things that lie hidden underneath that produce these troubles, things like frustration, anxiety, depression, anger, fear of not being loved or appreciated, fear of not being able to give love, the belief of not being needed by or necessary to someone or something.
Today there are many systems which endeavor, very sincerely, to help people with such problems. They search the human mind for solutions. But the human mind is just where the troubles have begun and developed. That's why Christian Science takes exactly the opposite approach. The starting point, the standpoint, of its work is the infinite consciousness of the one Mind. It doesn't neglect the human mind, but from this altitude of thought it touches the human mind deeply. It teaches how to utilize the present capacities of this divine Mind. It shines its radiance into the cold, dark places of human thought.
Christian Science doesn't repress problems. It resolves them. Often it brings to the surface things that people really should understand about themselves, because if they will face them they can cope with them on this basis of the allness and goodness of the one divine Mind and their relationship to it.
The action of this Science is always to set right a misstatement about life, a misconception of it, to show that good, the good of God, is always present, always present to be utilized. The human mind is so fond of putting everything off. It's always saying, "When – when I can get a job." "When I can retire." "When I can go home." "When I can get away from home." "When I can get married." "When I can get unmarried."
Good never postponed
But have you ever thought that divine Love, divine Life, divine Mind, doesn't postpone any good because it is ever-present good? And, as the Bible tells us, we and all creation are daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.
True life begins in God, continues in God, remains in God. There is but one Life. No inverted image to distort it. No mist of many little minds to confuse it. This is the great glory as understood in Christian Science.
But here we have to ask another important question: If this is so, then where and what are we who appear on the human scene as so many little lives and consciousnesses? Isn't this some sort of obliteration for us? Oh, no. We are safe where we have always been. Safe in this spiritual infinitude, safe as its individual ideas, expressions, manifestations. Surely we can conceive of divine Mind delighting in each fresh revelation of its own individuality, its intelligence, its vitality. Not one of these ideas or expressions could ever be lost or stray outside this infinitude. Neither could anyone be compressed or stifled within it. And equally, each idea is always held in perfect relationship to every other.
Fresh dimensions appear
Such ranges and reaches of thought expand in the light that comes as we study Christian Science. They don't make us visionary or abstract. Instead, they make us more practical, more intelligent. Fresh dimensions define our sense of life, and in turn give place to still higher ones.
Day by day we walk this earth into which we appear to have been born. But day by day we walk a little more surely in the spiritual sense of being. Day by day we utilize more certainly all the qualities and capacities that flow to us from our inexhaustible divine source. And then we shall be able to say in the words of a poet:
Happy are they who live and delight in living,
who do not weary as the scenes slip by;
they make their peace with life every morning
and at the closing of the day.
(Peter Henniker-Heaton, "Jubilee and Other Poems," p. 25)
Accepting our oneness with our divine source, our divine Life, in this way, we shall live freshly every day. It will be newness of life – a life that is well worth living.
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, July 21, 1978.]