Is Anybody at Home?
Nancy E. Houston, C.S., of Urbana, Illinois
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
An expanded awareness of God is
needed to heal family and world conditions, Miss Nancy E. Houston, C.S., of
"As we enlarge our understanding 'of God - expand our sense of love to include all mankind - our home improves and so does our world," Miss Houston said.
A member of The Christian Science
Board of Lectureship, she spoke in The First Congregational Church,
"Is Anybody at Home?" was the title of her lecture. She was introduced by David J. Chesnut, First Reader of Third Church of Christ, Scientist.
Miss Houston spoke substantially as follows:
One warm sunny day some months ago when I was developing this lecture, I sat on the beach watching the ocean waves crest and break against the shore. It was low tide and among the rocks the ocean had left many small pools full of marine life. I found the snails particularly fascinating. Sometimes they inched and crawled along. At other times they curled into their shells, closed the lids, and floated. Because they lived in their shells, they took their homes with them everywhere.
I thought to myself how similar the mode of living is today. I've read that some 40 million persons a year crisscross the country - in motor homes, travel trailers, campers, and beach buggies. They take their houses with them to a new location just like the snails I was watching.
And I began to wonder about the institution of home. Everyone cherishes the thought of home - a place of security where the human heart is nourished, loved, and encouraged. John Ruskin may have had this in mind when he wrote, "This is the true nature of home - it is the place of Peace; the shelter, not only from all injury, but from all terror, doubt, and division."
Of course, it's the concept or idea of home that's important - not just a physical structure of a house in a particular locality. Whether we live on wheels, whether we live in the suburbs, whether we're in a nursing home, a college dorm, in the ghetto - like the snail and his shell, in reality we take our concept of home with us wherever we go. So it's important for us to see just what our idea of home is. And the influence for good it can have upon our lives and the lives of others.
I'm sure we all would agree that home is an idea - not a physical dwelling. As an idea, it's more permanent and secure than any brick and mortar we might call our house. Home is our mental environment - an aspect of our mentality. It's within us, here and now. Home is the core of our being.
Just how can this be? I've learned from my own experience that the first chapter of the Bible offers a most satisfying answer. There God is said to have created man in His own image and in His own likeness, and He saw His whole creation to be good. Now in some languages the word "good" and the word "God" are the same. This suggests that man's mentality is the reflection of good because God is good. This sense of good is what the Bible refers to as the "kingdom of heaven," "a kingdom within" as Jesus called it - and it's our only true home.
Wasn't this the mental home David pictured when he said, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Ps. 23:6)? Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, has an illuminating interpretation of that line from Psalms in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." In it the word "Love" is spelled with a capital "L" and means God. "And I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [Love] for ever" (p. 578).
Home is within us then - not without. This is a revolutionary view of home. But it isn't new. Centuries ago the apostle Paul said, "In him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts ). Wasn't he talking about home? Our spiritual home in God, good?
If we accept this premise - that home is always a spiritual idea within us - then we can never be without a home. We can never doubt where home is. No matter where we are, or what type of house we live in, we can dwell in the conscious awareness of God's presence and, therefore, always be home. We can never be separated from our home. Therefore, we can never be homeless, never homesick. Never have to find our home and can't ever lose it. We already include home as part of our very being.
This is God with us. This truth active in human consciousness is the Christ, the ever-present healing and saving influence of good. Jesus as the messenger of God showed us how to utilize and maintain for ourselves the Christ, Truth. He knew that God, good, is always present, and he continuously demonstrated this. And when we begin to do the same, we make the Christ, Truth, vital in our homes and see its expression as permanent in our consciousness.
So home, then - the consciousness of God's goodness - is where we find the Christ and are touched by its healing influence. This true sense of home is undisturbed, inviolable, indestructible because it's spiritual, not material.
We get an idea of the importance of this spiritual sense of home from Mrs. Eddy. She says, "Next to my love for God is my love for home." And elsewhere, she says, "Home is not a place but a power. We find home when we arrive at the full understanding of God."
To achieve a fuller, more complete sense of home, then, we have to expand our consciousness of spiritual good.
Let me give you an idea of how understanding God helps in establishing a new home. Barbara and Ross, young friends of mine who are Christian Scientists, were moving from the East to a small Midwestern college town where Ross had accepted a new job. But houses just weren't available. On top of that they could only manage one day for their house-hunting trip.
Prior to making the trip the young couple felt a need to clarify their concept of home. So they got busy establishing their spiritual sense of home on the strong foundation of divine Principle, or God. Next, you might say, they built the framework with bonds of God's love. The floor plan emphasized for them harmonious coordination of God, as the one divine Mind. They were spiritually building their home.
They knew that as our understanding of God increases, we become progressively aware of the presence of good in our whole human experience, which, naturally, includes our home.
In their spiritualized sense of home could be seen all they appeared to need humanly: spaciousness, and privacy for the entire family, and so forth. They realized, too, that the business transaction would be governed by complete honesty and fairness.
Well, after that, all sorts of things began to happen. Two weeks before the couple's visit to the college town they were sent a notice of a private listing of a house. When they saw the house, they knew this was it! And it took only 15 minutes to consummate the sale. As my friends went through the house, they were overjoyed to see so many aspects of their spiritual sense of home expressed humanly. Even the colors blended perfectly with their furnishings.
Since then there has been a continued happy unfolding sense of home not merely as a place but as a spiritual reality - a power.
Sometimes a happy home atmosphere is disrupted because we allow mistaken notions to clutter our thinking - our mental home. Notions based on the number of years a person has lived, or supposed hereditary tendencies, or the false belief that one living alone must be lonely. We counteract these and other false beliefs as we maintain a spiritual sense of home.
Take the generation gap. Today
this is still given as the cause of the friction between adults and children in
the home. Even Jesus had this problem. You may remember when he was 12 years
old, he and his parents were returning from the passover festival in
His mother's words portray her anguish and relief. "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing" (Luke ). I wonder if she was taken by surprise at the maturity of his reply. "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business" (Luke )?
Mary understood immediately what
he meant because she saw he was being obedient to God. Yet, rather than
alienate himself from his family, Jesus went home with his parents to
Later when Jesus left home to carry his Father's business into the world he never forgot the human need. In the midst of pain and anguish on the cross, Jesus' last request was that his human mother be taken care of. As John and Mary stood by watching, Jesus with his abiding affection and concern said to Mary, "Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother!" (John 19:26, 27). Jesus didn't leave her alone, neglected, perhaps forgotten. He entrusted the care of his mother to a man of rich spiritual qualities, his beloved disciple, John. As Science and Health so grandly states it, "The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus" (P.25).
Until about 50 years ago, the home and family were considered the primary means of developing children. Now, as we all know, there's tremendous competition with the pure healing sense of home.
First, the mass media powerfully influence young minds: television, radio, movies, the newsstands, and the press sometimes presenting surprising and frightening pictures.
Second, the school influence features more strongly than ever the child's development. From six years on the school may greatly affect our children's opportunities, sometimes without parental consent.
Third, and perhaps hardest to deal with, is competition from the "peer group."
In a recently completed study, 750 sixth-graders reported spending, on a weekend, twice as much time with their peers away from home as with their parents. As the peer group gains in importance to the child, the parental influence tends to diminish.
In order to bridge the gap and bring adults back into the lives of children and children back into the lives of the parents, both need to spiritually renew their concept of home. When understanding and mutual concern, purity of motive, honesty, virtue, and love are expressed in the home, these spiritual qualities fortify the child and provide a protection against the many popular false attractions.
Spiritually speaking, Christian Science teaches that age and time have nothing to do with ideas of God. Home isn't peopled with teen-age, middle-age, old-age persons. All men are individual expressions of God, representations of eternal Life, and years have nothing to do with eternity. Everyone reflects the same Mind, the same intelligence. Each individual has a unique place in God's kingdom that nobody else can fill. Knowing these truths encourages him to care about another's well being, respect the rights of others, and respond to their needs.
Regardless of age, every individual is hungry for respect, love, attention - for conscious worth. When the concept of home is spiritual, each member will feel comfortable, needed, wanted, and loved, and will want to be there.
When such qualities are expressed, grandparents, parents, and children alike give new insights and encouraging examples to one another. The home is no longer either child-oriented or adult-oriented. It's lots roomier than that. It's God-oriented.
Once we understand this spiritual basis of home we come to see the universe of God's creating as always and only good, because there's only one true parent. The one true parent is God, infinite Love, the one Father-Mother.
Let's talk about God as our Father for a moment. Christians are used to saying, "Our Father which art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9). The word "Fatherhood" partakes of the nature of a beginning and so it stands for the creative source or cause from which anything proceeds. The underlying law of creation is understood through the fatherhood of God, divine Principle.
But the concept of creator need not be only that of Father. Motherhood is an equally natural metaphor. The qualities of power, stability, strength, courage, integrity, authority, wisdom, as well as the Motherhood attributes of intuition, watchfulness, patience, tenderness, refinement and beauty, purity, and graciousness - may be expressed equally by either parent. These qualities can be exemplified in human life by every one of us. They represent the presence and power of God. They protect us from all evil.
Paul called evil the carnal mind. Mrs. Eddy calls evil "error" or "mortal mind" - a supposed material mentality opposing the all-good divine Mind, which is God. These terms reveal the mental nature of all evil. They enable us to see that the evils in human existence which appear real are errors of material thinking.
The truth is that God is all-powerful, ever-present. Nothing unlike Him could be present anywhere. The allness of God gives us dominion over evil in all its phases - over sin, sickness, and even death itself. Recognition of the allness of God demands the nothingness of evil.
Jesus once said about evil or "mortal mind," "he is a liar, and the father of it" (John ). Evil, the "father" of a lie. This word, "lie" reveals exactly what all evil is - a basic lie about God's creation - specifically the lie that both good and evil are substantial, both created by God, and therefore real. But, of course, this is logically impossible. The allness of God demands the nothingness of evil.
So if God is our one true parent and He is good then we can inherit only good. Yet one of the specific attacks on our home is the mistaken notion that our lives are determined partly or wholly by heredity - the belief that we may inherit unpleasant dispositional traits or physical weaknesses from our human parents or ancestors. Hereditary theory argues that someone else's mistakes can and will be repeated in successive generations.
Well, let's look at that for a moment. Who is man's parent? What is his ancestry? If we accept our heritage as the children of God, then we inherit only good.
When we accept our sonship with God, we immediately begin to free ourselves from any belief of an evil heritage. We protect our home, you see, as we root false beliefs out of consciousness, or prevent them from entering in the first place.
At one time I shared an office with a Christian Science practitioner whom everyone called Gigi. She was well into her 80's and much admired by everyone who knew her. An ugly growth began to appear on her nose and wouldn't heal. Gigi became worried, baffled, and even ashamed of her apparent inability to heal herself through Christian Science.
Of course, I loved her dearly so I was naturally glad when she talked with me about her condition. We both realized she was being carefully watched - from the elevator man to the store clerk, by acquaintances and relations alike. I brought out the need to counteract fear of criticism by our knowing she could only be judged as a child of God.
As Gigi and I talked she recognized she had a fear of heredity. Her mother had had a similar condition which was diagnosed by a medical doctor as skin cancer. But she saw clearly that error could have no roots when our real parent is our Father-Mother God. It's the power of Love that heals, and Gigi's childlike loving thought was daily demonstrating this by helping others. As John said, "Perfect love casteth out fear" (I John 4:l8).
As she held to the Truth that Love holds all creation in complete security she never doubted God's love would heal her. The healing came without delay and it was permanent.
She was restored to soundness through spiritual means alone. You see, as we spiritualize our consciousness we improve not only our sense of home, but everything that goes into it - including ourselves. We improve every aspect of our experience, and the healing of the body is a natural result of an expanded awareness of God.
Perhaps one of the most insidious beliefs is that to be happy we need to live with someone. Yet, too often we overlook the man or woman who's single when we think of home - graduate students, young executives, businesswomen, widows. Whether we're single or married, or have been married and now go it alone, we still have to prove our own, independent individuality.
Mrs. Eddy makes this very plain. She writes: "The Christian Scientist is alone with his own being and with the reality of things" ("Message to The Mother Church for 1901," p. 20). That applies pretty well to all of us. We're all alone with our own being and the reality of things.
Now according to my dictionary, the word "alone" derives from two words - "all" and "one." Christian Science teaches God is One and God Is All. He includes within Himself all that really exists, the whole of spiritual reality, all true good. God's allness is His oneness.
Man is eternally individual and distinct from God, just as effect is distinct from cause or reflection from its source. But at the same time man is one with God as the necessary expression of God's infinite being.
Growth in spiritual understanding demands that each of us grow in understanding our aloneness - our all-one-ness - with God, our completeness in Him. This unity in Him - God with us - is what it means to be alone with God, at one with His Love, with divine Mind, the one Principle of being and His marvelous qualities: joy, inspiration, and freedom. Whether married or single, we find completeness in our all-one-ness with God, freedom from fear, of loneliness, discouragement, and frustration.
I once had a nervous breakdown and found I had to reorganize my whole life. I lived by myself and was very lonely. Life looked futile. I was afraid to go into the classroom and to teach. I was desperately afraid to travel, afraid of heights and afraid of mingling with others, especially on social occasions. I drank a lot to escape my fears, became withdrawn, lost all my friends. Night after night I was unable to sleep and this, went on for months.
Then I turned wholeheartedly to Christian Science and asked a Christian Science practitioner to help me through prayer.
My healing of fear came gradually. I began to relinquish a false sense of personality, to become more tolerant of others, more flexible, to stop frantic outlining.
I learned to love mankind better as I became increasingly sure that there's no place in consciousness - theirs or mine - where God is not. All space is filled with divine Love. As I glimpsed that neither I nor anyone else, in our true being, could ever be separated from God, I also saw that actually I reflected joy, confidence, serenity.
As these truths became more and more a part of me, I found I didn't need to drink because I became more consistent and stable in my thinking. I became more reliant upon God for direction, I became less nervous. The insomnia ceased, and my health became normal. Fine friendships developed.
The truth about my unity with God has made it possible for me to live happily by myself, to live independently and expansively, yet to benefit fully from the spiritual ideas of home and companionship.
Whether married or single, all of us can find our completeness in our all-one-ness with God. Whatever false beliefs may attempt to enter our consciousness, age, heredity, loneliness - as we work at maintaining our spiritual concept of home we can experience only good.
Now if home is spiritual, it's obvious it can't be limited by four walls. "Home is the dearest spot on earth," Mrs. Eddy says. And she goes on to say, "and it should be the centre, though not the boundary, of the affections" (Science and Health, p. 58).
Properly defined, "centre" indicates it's both a point of convergence and a point of radiation. When the Christ-like thoughts of joy, cooperation, and love converge in home, it just naturally becomes a focal point, a source of radiation and healing - attracting those reaching out for a life with meaning. It expresses real hospitality - one of the truly Christian graces.
The life of Mary Baker Eddy is an outstanding example of what far-reaching effects can come from true hospitality - from sharing one's deeper understanding of God with others. She grew up in a fine home with loving parents and devoted brothers and sisters. But after her husband and several members of her family died and she was deprived of her son, she entered a period of displacement. She had little income and was forced to move her few belongings from place to place, from one lonely room to another.
But during this time she also developed greater inner stability, strength, and moral courage through prayer.
Then at a time of physical distress she made the discovery which, as her understanding of it developed, she later called Christian Science. She had been severely injured, and as she searched the Bible for assurance and peace, she glimpsed the totally spiritual nature of life and was instantaneously healed.
Mrs. Eddy was so impressed by her own healing that she set out to study the Bible still more thoroughly. And she opened her heart and thought to discover the spiritual power which had cured her.
She yearned to share the inspired truths with others. So like Christ Jesus she went out into the community and healed people of all kinds of physical and mental ills. She continued to study and write down what she learned - what she had proved through healing. At the end of that time, nearly 10 years later, Science and Health was published.
She saw the necessity of one further step in this truly broadest Christian hospitality. By her healing and teaching she invited all who would listen to share in her consciousness of good, to share in her inspiration. As she did so, she attracted those who needed to be healed, and those who wanted to know more about God. In this way The Church of Christ, Scientist, was founded.
Today as God's healing and spiritualizing influence continues to expand in the consciousness of men and women everywhere, we're invited anew to share this same spiritual vision. To enlarge and enrich our homes spiritually. To feel the warmth of spiritual affection, the vigor of spiritual life, and the joy of spiritual achievement. Yes, to come into the presence of God, here and now, to be healed, and to heal others. What a magnificent act of hospitality healing is!
Let me give you two steps which illustrate this well. A young girl had been raised in a good home. But during her college years, like many young people today, she became disillusioned. After graduation, she spent a frustrating year in child welfare work. Then she left her job to become a "ski bum," and for three years traveled around the country with a young man. During this time she began to realize that nothing - philosophy, travel, even intimate relationships - none of these brought her peace of mind. Life held little meaning.
In despair she returned to the
Each member of the family, figuratively speaking, ran to meet her. Their compassion and Christly love penetrated her despair and disillusionment.
She started studying the Bible and Science and Health and as she did so, a transformation gradually took place. She saw how much more satisfying a spiritual sense of love is than a physical one. Her life began to take on purpose and direction.
Now uplifted and reformed it is a dynamic expression of good. She had traveled the country in search of an answer and found it at home.
It was the power of good, God, reflected in the love of that family that started the transformation. She felt the hospitality of the divine Spirit expressed through their Christliness. You see, when our concept of home, the conscious awareness of good, isn't narrowly conceived, but expands to include all men, true healing results.
The prophet Isaiah saw this. "Enlarge the place of thy tent," he said, "and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes" (Isa. 54:2).
What stirring words these are! Push the walls of your thinking outward. Expand the outreaches of your thought - let God unfold His limitless supply of right ideas. Deepen your understanding of Him! Extend your concept of God and His creation to include all men - and thereby truly love them.
When we realize that all the sons and daughters of God are "at home" in the consciousness of the power and presence of Love, we're being hospitable. True Christianity is true hospitality. In the words of Jesus' parable, "For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: 1 was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me" (Matt. 25:35, 36).
If we really want a better world, each one of us has to improve his own individual appreciation of the world. The world is our larger home, isn't it? - the world we embrace in our consciousness?
As we enlarge our understanding of God - expand our sense of love to include all mankind - our home improves and so does our world.
The absolute fact is that we live
eternally in divine Spirit - a divine State of
Is anybody at home? Yes, everybody's at home - always, everywhere, in God. In the words of Science and Health, "Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven; stranger, thou art the guest of God" (p. 254).
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 4, 1974, under the headline "We are at home in expanded awareness of God".]