Listening to God – Is That Really Possible?

 

Betty Ann Ridley, C.S.B., of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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

 

The whole subject of listening is much talked about and researched today. Think of the infinite variety of listening opportunities provided by communications technology as we approach the twenty-first century! We have ever-expanding communication devices to bridge space: satellites and moving disks; instant telephone communication by wrist radios; synthesized voices of computers answering calls and relaying messages; sophisticated listening apparatus in the field of international espionage; a communications conglomerate the biggest business in the world. And a promise of worldwide computer connections which would claim to be the ultimate expression of infinite, instant information technology!

Besides bridging space, there are communication experts to bridge gaps between families, between races and countries, labor and management. Executives of an international computer manufacturing company have recognized that business runs more efficiently if employees and employers arc careful listeners. They hire communication experts to offer seminars and workshops teaching their thousands of employees the art of listening. Certainly, homes are more harmonious when there's honest listening to one another, and there are experts working earnestly to help individuals communicate.

But basic to all successful and lasting communication on the human scene is our ability and willingness to listen and hear beyond the physical senses - not in any psychic way - but in a purely scientific, spiritual sense. The question, of course, is how can we learn this higher sense of listening?

What better source could we find than the Bible to teach us communication on a divine, spiritual level? This centuries-old book is, without a doubt, the ultimate book on communication. When you think about it, was there ever a greater book written on the subject of listening - teaching a spiritual concept - that is, listening to God.

If we are to consider this book - the Bible - as a kind of textbook on listening, aren't we compelled to heed the statements in its opening chapter as proposals of fundamental fact? And what do we find there that bears particularly on listening? An unequivocal statement of man's spiritual unity with God. The opening chapter includes a description of man and woman as made in God's image! An image can never be different or separate from its original. This oneness relationship of man with God is what insures our ability to hear God. Without the understanding of this oneness relationship, we have no certainty - no insurance - that we can listen and hear instruction and direction from our heavenly Father. If we think of ourselves as mortals separated from our creator, God, what guarantee could we possibly have that we could communicate with Him? So, basic to our communication with Him, is our understanding of our oneness with Him.

The Scriptures say, ". . . God doth talk with man, and he liveth" (Deut. 5:24). They also say, "O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord" (Jer. 22:29).  In the Bible, Abraham is called "Friend of God" (James 2:23) - perhaps because he was a listener to God! Isn't that what friends do - they listen. And we read, ". . . the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend" (Ex. 33:11). And on that same basis, wasn't Jesus a listener - else how could he say, ". . . as the Father said unto me, so I speak" (John 12:50)? With all our space-age technology and counseling programs, do we have a science duplicating consistently this very remarkable and effective communication described in the Bible? Can we say to God, as naturally as Samuel did, "Speak; for thy servant heareth" (I Sam. 3:10), and expect with certainty to hear an answer? If listening to God is possible, as the Bible insists and illustrates, was it possible only in Biblical times or is it possible for each one of us today?

Early in my study of Christian Science I was faced with a physical problem that seemed very challenging. There was a lot of pain and I was frightened. My husband and I had not grown up in Christian Science, and we had no family support backing up the strong stand we were learning to take in turning to God for healing. One evening, when I was in great distress, my husband look our three little children out for a few hours to give me some quiet time. I lay across the bed to pray, and right in the middle of my prayer, I just cried out, "Oh God, help me!" What I heard surprised me, but I've since learned that we hear God speak in language that we can understand. It was as though a loud voice said to me, "I am helping you. Shut up and listen." The healing that followed illustrates that there is a relationship between listening and healing. That experience points up a major lesson in regard to the quality of our prayers. Aren't we usually so busy telling God what's wrong that we're not really listening to Him tell us what's right?

Of course it is as possible for each one of us to listen to God today as it was for the patriarchs, the prophets, and the Master Christian because God's law does not change, and it is His law that the Bible illustrates. Such listening and hearing is demonstrated in our human experience in exact proportion to our understanding of our "oneness" relationship with God and His law.

And as we learn lo listen, what exactly will we hear God say? Again, don't we look to the Bible for an example?  Jeremiah, the prophet, heard God. We know this because he quoted Him. ". . . thus saith the Lord, . . . I know the thoughts that I think toward you, . . . thoughts of peace, and not of evil" (Jer. 29:10,11). We can hear those thoughts God thinks towards us!

 

Listening to God a present possibility

To illustrate, late one evening I was deep into a Bible research project pondering specific Scriptural instances of those who knew their relationship to God - their oneness with Him - sufficiently to listen to God. And what a difference that made in their lives when they followed through with the message received! With every Biblical character I studied, the idea of uninterrupted intercommunication from God to man became clearer.

I can still remember the inspiration I felt. At that moment the phone rang. It was a long-distance plea for help from a father who's a Christian Scientist. His six-week-old baby had a malfunction since birth. The mother, not a Christian Scientist, had had the child under a doctor's care. Medical attempts at diagnosis had indicated a certain intestinal disorder which the parents were told could be fatal if not corrected as soon as possible by surgery. Further testing within a few days was urged by doctors.

When those parents called me that night, they were both ready to think in terms of God, Spirit, as the only healing power. What an opportunity we had to learn something of what listening to God really means! We certainly needed to hear His "thoughts of peace" - that is health - not "thoughts of evil," disease, or malfunction. We know that it is possible to hear God's thoughts of peace, because the Bible makes understandable and practical the idea of God as the one and only infinitely good creator, at one and communicating perpetually with His creation. Paul's statement, ". . . in him (God) we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28), upholds that same relationship expressed by Moses, by the prophets and Jesus.

I could encourage the parents by assuring them of their ability to hear God's thoughts because of their inseparable relationship with Him. Each of us as the precise image of God is inseparable from Him and has God-given spiritual sense - that is, we always have the capacity to hear and respond to our creator.

The parents and I expected results from our prayer - our attentiveness to God's thoughts of peace. This does not mean mere positive thinking. It's not just a plea to an unknown power outside ourselves. It's not an attempt to manufacture or contrive a oneness relationship with God in some superficial way. It is rather understanding that relationship Biblically and acknowledging that man being the image of his creator, is therefore spiritual because his creator is Spirit. As image, man is forever one with God, Spirit. Our perpetual expectation of results from our prayer is based on recognizing that we have God-given spiritual sense with which to listen - to listen to what God is saying about the child and to believe it with conviction. That's what constitutes a Christian Scientist's prayer - his approach to healing. Within a few days the malfunction ceased. The child's quick and complete healing compelled the mother to begin a serious study of Christian Science.

Was that baby's healing miraculous - an isolated incident? No. It fulfills a Biblical pattern illustrating how knowing and understanding Biblically our oneness with God enables us to hear God's thoughts of peace. And doesn't the baby's healing prove that these thoughts listened to and obeyed - that is, held in consciousness - and lived, constitute God's law of healing?

We can hear God for the same reason and in the same way that people in the Bible heard Him. It wasn't theological degrees, economic status, or mechanical devices that determined the ability of Bible characters to hear God, and neither do these factors determine our ability. We just need to know our oneness with God. Then we realize that listening to Him is always a present possibility.

 

Christ Jesus - teaching the prerequisite to listening

Once we know that listening to God is always possible, and if we're willing to learn how, wouldn't we go to the best authority on listening for instruction? Who, in all the history of mankind, has lived and taught with such authority on the subject of listening to God as Christ Jesus did? He said: "I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things . . . I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him" (John 8:28,26).  What Jesus heard and spoke revolutionized the world!

Specifically, what were the "things" or thoughts the Master Christian heard of God and spoke to his listeners for all time? We can't presume to know what Jesus heard, but if, as he said, he voiced what he heard of God, couldn't the Gospels be thought of as a record of those messages? And what do we find in the Gospels? The Master spoke confidence to the fearful, love to the hateful, hope to the desolate. He communicated in word and in deed health to the sick, sight to the blind, abundance to the poor, purity to the sinful, life to the dead.

What Jesus heard of God and related to mankind is God's law - constituting the eternal divine message - the Christ or Word of God. He not only articulated and lived this healing message, didn't he teach us the fundamental prerequisite for listening to it?

Consider Jesus' statement, "He that is of God heareth God's words" (John 8:47). Does this mean that only a special few can hear God? If it does mean that, then the Bible's precious promise of every individual's eternal oneness with His creator is lost sight of. But is Jesus implying that only he or a chosen few can hear God?

Christ Jesus was a student of the Scriptures and turned his listeners there when teaching. His statement, "He that is of God," isn't that just another way of saying what the first chapter of Genesis says? It defines man and woman as "of God" - actually the image and likeness of God. Perhaps Jesus is simply confirming the fundamental Biblical fact about everyone's spiritual origin - man and woman strictly and solely "of God" - created in the precise likeness of Spirit.

Other views of creation or origin have God, Spirit, originating an unlikeness of Himself - for example, the man allegorized in the second chapter of Genesis, which is "of dust," or the man evolutionists speculate about, which is "of monkeys," or "of the sea." Some views of creation consider God not the creative source at all as illustrated in the current "big bang" theory of the astrophysicists.

Aren't many taught by education in general and by scholastic theology in particular to think of themselves as mortals at variance with God - alienated from Him, lost in sin, and already condemned? But is this what the Bible teaches of our true nature? If man and woman are the likeness of God, as stated clearly in the first chapter of Genesis, can a likeness ever be alienated or even momentarily at variance with its original?

If we believe any other than our spiritual origin, this belief in more than one God, more than one creator, introduces to thought, and consequently to our lives, a feeling of separateness from God. Then we sometimes find ourselves thinking we can't hear Him. Instead of looking confidently to God alone in time of need or trouble, we look elsewhere. Don't some people look even to alcohol or other drugs for at least a temporary solace from their pains and problems?

But the message Jesus brought doesn't tell us to look elsewhere. It tells us that when we know our origin to be God, when we feel our oneness with Him, we look directly to God alone with absolute certainty. Isn't that what the Master demonstrated? The uniqueness of Jesus' works is that, more than anyone who has ever lived, he took the written word of God off the pages of Scripture and made it live, made it active in healing and meeting human needs.

When he came upon a lame man, a blind man, or ten lepers, what was he hearing and responding to in thought from his Father that resulted in healing? Was it the conviction of God as the only origin - the Father of all? This is the eternal message of Christ demonstrated consistently by Jesus - showing how the Christ operates in human consciousness. What Jesus illustrated with his life is Science. It wasn't designated Science, however, until the late 1800's when the dynamic impact of the Christ-message was felt again by the world nearly nineteen centuries after Jesus.

 

 

Mary Baker Eddy discovered the Science of Christ

An extraordinary listener, Mary Baker Eddy, insisted that God, Spirit, is the only origin of all that really exists. The Science of Christ which she discovered makes it possible for us to duplicate today the remarkable and effective communication described in the Bible. Mrs. Eddy followed Jesus' example of listening by studying the Scriptures as he did and healing through prayer alone as he did. She says of the Bible that it "was her sole teacher" (S&H viii:30). Can we imagine reading almost no other hook but the Bible for three years? That's what Mrs. Eddy did. She pored over the Scriptures, even studied early texts.

It was Mary Baker Eddy's uniquely acute spiritual sense - her conviction that the Scriptures hold the answer to all questions, the solution to all problems - that made her thought a clear transparency through which God's message in its pure original meaning could be communicated to mankind.

 

Mary Baker Eddy translates spiritual meaning of Bible

Since the Bible is the Word of God, and God is Spirit, wouldn't the Scriptures have begun as revelation from God - as spiritual ideas, or God's thoughts - before taking form in any human language, even Hebrew or Greek? The original language of that Holy Book supersedes human language.

In a sense, Mrs. Eddy was a translator - not in the ordinary use of that word, which might imply the exercise of human opinion or guess work to communicate one human language in terms of another human language - but in the absolutely unique way of listening to and hearing the divine language in which the Scriptures originated. The significant contribution Mrs. Eddy has made to Biblical study is that she discovered and restated the original and inspired language of Scripture - that is, the language of Spirit.

Mary  Baker Eddy's book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, is the result of years of faithful listening to God, to her Father, and writing down what she heard. It sets forth the original spiritual meaning or translation of the Bible and proves its practicality – its relevance to today and always. The message Mrs. Eddy heard is consistent with the message recorded by listeners to God throughout the Bible. God is invariable. The Apostle James speaks of Him as "Father . . . with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). So God's Word - His communication to mankind - is always consistent whether it's the first chapter of Genesis declaring God to be the only creator and man and woman His image; or Isaiah repeating what he heard God say, "I am the Lord: and there is none else" (Isa. 45:18); or Jesus proclaiming the identical message Moses heard from God: "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord" (Mark. 12:29; Deut. 6:4).

Don't we see an unmistakable pattern here? What these exemplary listeners heard is the Word of God - the revelation of God as All-in-all, the only origin, and of man's inseparable relationship to God as image, and the denial of any other power or presence! This thread weaves itself inextricably through the Scriptures, reaching its zenith of illustration in Jesus - the actual embodiment of that Word.

This same thread - the essence of God's Word - is simply restated and reaffirmed in Mrs. Eddy's discovery of Christian Science.  She declares of this Science: "It stands on this Scriptural platform: that He [God] made all that was made, and it is good, reflects the divine Mind, is governed by it; and that nothing apart from this Mind, one God, is self-created or evolves the universe" (Mis. 364:17). Christian Science stands on the Scriptural platform of God as the only source or origin of all!

God's message - His allness and His oneness with His creation - is as true, compelling, and provable today as when the master Teacher expressed it, proved and taught it on the shores of Galilee and the hillsides of Judea. It simply requires an understanding of the meaning of that message.

Mrs. Eddy speaks of the Master's role as teacher working with his disciples this way: "When he was with them, a fishing-boat became a sanctuary, and the solitude was peopled with holy messages from the All-Father. The grove became his class-room, and nature's haunts were the Messiah's university" (Ret. 91:23).

Jesus' teachings have stood the test of centuries. We find tucked into the four precious Gospels eternal lessons that relate to listening to God - to our Father. Jesus must have considered listening an important subject, else why did he say, "Take heed what ye hear" (Mark 4:24); and "Take heed . . . how ye hear" (Luke 8:18)?

 

Jesus' parable - a course in how to listen to God

We might look at the parable of the sower and the seed, recorded in three of the Gospels, as though it were a course teaching us how to listen to God's thoughts of peace. According to Mark's version, the class opens with the Master's one word command, "Hearken!" (Mark 4:3). There's Jesus' style - carefully chosen words - few and succinct, driving home a point! Doesn't that one word, "Hearken," echo Jesus' familiar phrase, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Luke 8:8)?  The Revised Standard Version of the Bible translates that word, "Hearken," as "Listen!"

"A sower went forth to sow." the story begins. "Some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up; . . . and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit . . ." (Matt. 13:3-8). This parable lifts the whole idea of listening to God out of theory into practice. We might call it a "how to" course - teaching specifics of how to listen to God, and how to recognize when we're being misled. The symbols Jesus uses are ones familiar to the listener, and they are designed to teach a moral. Mary Baker Eddy has written in Science and Health that "Spiritual teaching must always be by symbols" (575:13). Our work is to read the symbols, decipher their higher meaning, and put them into practice.

Jesus interprets the symbols for us by elevating the meaning of words out of their traditional use. "The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11), he explains. That phrase, "word of God," which Jesus symbolizes by the "seed," isn't a formula. It isn't a set form of words to be used in a ceremony or ritual, but isn't it rather a symbolic expression of a principle or rule?

The "seed" or Word of God would always have the same basic principle behind it. What is that basic principle? Isn't it the same unmistakable Biblical pattern we talked about a moment ago expressed by Moses, Isaiah, and Jesus - God's invariable message to all listeners? It's a threefold message: (1) God as the creator or origin of the universe; (2) man, His creation, inseparable from the creator; and (3) the denial of any other origin or power.

What kind of ground or mental attitude receives the seed or Word of God and nourishes it to grow and bear fruit? "Good ground," Jesus says! And could "good ground" simply mean the receptive thought? One Bible scholar refers to the "good ground" as receptivity so deep as "to allow the seed to let down its roots and draw the nourishment and the moisture it need[s]." He describes the good ground as "clean enough to give the seed unhindered chance to grow" (William Barclay, And Jesus Said [Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1970], p. 19). Another Bible scholar refers to the "good ground" as "rich and mellow soil . . . a heart that submits itself to the full influence of truth, unchecked by cares and anxieties" (Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1963], p. 64).

In summary, aren't we speaking of a good listener - not one who listens and takes in just any old mortal opinion or belief, but one who is a discretionary listener, and so is able to distinguish between what agrees with the Word of God and what does not. By good listener, don't we mean one who understands the Word of God, accepts the Word of God, holds fast to the Word, and obeys it under all circumstances?

What is the Word that the receptive thought understands, accepts, holds fast to, and obeys? Isn't it the Biblical statement - the Word of God - which says that our origin is "of God"? The receptive thought is that which lets the understanding of this fundamental fact govern its days and its decisions. In exact proportion to the comprehension of our divine origin, we rule out of consciousness - out of our mental home - the three modes of thought which stem from a misconception of man's origin and which Jesus refers to in contrast to good ground: way side, stony, and thorny thinking.

 

How to listen to God - stillness

Is Jesus teaching us here by opposites - showing us precisely what good ground is by detailing what it isn't? First, way side kind of thinking. In today's terms, what could that be? A Bible commentator, interpreting the parable as portraying the members of a church, explains way side thinking this way: ". . . dull, indifferent, calloused. Perhaps circumstances have hardened them, perhaps they are self-hardened. In either event the soil of their life is like a pathway through a field. Everything goes over it, weddings, trade, pleasure; and the seed cannot even find lodgment" (The Interpreter's Bible, Volume 7 [New York: Abingdon Press, 1951), p. 409).

Are there moments in our lives, moments that sometimes stretch into hours, weeks, or months, when we forget the true spiritual identity of man as "of God," actually one with Him, and instead listen to scholastic theology's persistent assertion that man is alienated from God? Accepting alienation, we allow fear, disappointment, discontent, discouragement, or thoughts of disease to play themselves over and over in consciousness like a broken record until they harden in thought. That's one way to describe way side thinking.

It is good to remember that way side thinking can always be converted into good ground. Thought is never packed so tightly with anxiety, sorrow, or pain, never so bitter, that it cannot soften and sweeten to receive the seed, and yet remain firm enough to hold it.

To illustrate: For many years thoughts of resentment toward someone spoke loudly in my consciousness. Sometimes after a confrontation, the "she said's" and the "I said's" and the "why didn't I say's" were all I was hearing. My concept of this individual as unjust and cruel became hardened. My instant responses had settled into a pattern: "That's just like her. She always does thus and so."

One night an overwhelming desire to be free of the bitterness resulted in a willingness to silence the mental clamor - to lie still, know my oneness with God, and listen to the message of the Christ always voicing good in our consciousness.

Jesus defines prayer as going into our closet and shutting the door (see Matt. (6:6). That implies a stillness, doesn't it? In the Bible we read, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10). Doesn't that mean to be immovable in our understanding of God as All, as the only origin? And wouldn't it follow, then, that we would be immovable in our understanding that there is no other origin, no other power?  Isn't that really prayer - listening and obeying only those thoughts which declare God's allness, and refusing to accept any thoughts that suggest another power?

Stillness is not inertia, passiveness, or idleness. The kind of stillness we're talking about cannot be a chemically-sedated or tranquilized state. It cannot be transferred hypnotically from one individual to another. Stillness is mental activity -pure thinking - conscious awareness that there's only one God and none else, as the Bible says, and that man is not alienated from but eternally at one with his source.

After a night of quietly but actively knowing my origin and my friend's origin to be God, way side thinking was converted into good ground. My consciousness was ready to receive the seed - the Father's forever message. We find this arresting statement in Science and Health: "Before human knowledge dipped to its depths into a false sense of things, - into belief in material origins which discard the one Mind and true source of being, - it is possible that the impressions from Truth were as distinct as sound, and that they came as sound to the primitive prophets" (213:30).

Interestingly enough, I was standing in my closet the next morning when I heard such impressions from Truth. The words that came were of love - God as Love, the only origin of everyone. God as Love, holding each and everyone secure in His love, and the inevitability then of His children loving one another. A wonderful freedom followed. The bitterness of years dissolved in a moment, and a sweet affection took its place. Stillness of thought is one quality of good ground or consciousness that can bring forth fruit - healing. In this case, healing of an embittered relationship.

But the same method, the same truth, applies in cases of disease, disaster, or whatever. Practicing stillness - mental immovability from the fact of God's allness and man's oneness with God - only takes a moment, but then, of course, it must be moment by moment by moment, ad infinitum.

 

How to listen to God - a consistent "yes" to His Word

The second kind of soil or mode of thought Jesus describes is stony ground. What is this stony ground in terms of today? A thin layer of receptivity willing to hear God's message - willing to consider God as the only origin and man His image. In this shallow layer of mental soil the seed takes hold and begins to sprout roots. But when the tender roots come in contact with the rigidity of some educated opinion, perhaps theological, maybe medical, or possibly even financial, the collision sounds something like this: "Yes, but . . ." Stony thinking is easily recognizable because it usually announces itself by that name, "Yes, but . . . ."

To illustrate: At one time a poor investment triggered an enormous financial loss for a family I know. They prayed earnestly and soon detected stony thinking. The encrusted layers of human opinion, apathetically accepted into their consciousness, had to do with the world's concept of economy. It sounded like this: "Oh, yes, we believe God is the only origin, the source of all good and supplies us always with everything we need, 'but' our individual prosperity is affected by high interest rates, inflation, and fluctuating world markets." Doesn't "but" contradict "yes" - showing that we don't really believe as we profess?

A crisis in the pocketbook forces one to do more than just passively hear God's Word. It compels listening - compels us to convert stony thinking into good ground - detect the "Yes, buts," dissolve the human opinions which contradict God's allness, and receive the seed - let God's message take deep root in consciousness. Then we maintain with conviction: "Yes, God is the only origin, the source of everyone's supply, substance, or income. And because we are eternally at one with our source, every need is perpetually provided abundantly, not meagerly, in ways we can see and feel." No "buts" about it!

In a world that appears to be a composite of variables, is it practical to affirm God's invariable nature as the one origin? Yes. In proportion as we lift our thought to see only our Father's view of what we term business, markets, commerce, then business will be to us whatever business is to God. We will see it as in perfect order - that is, controlled by the one and only power or law which is infinitely intelligent, always productive, impartial, ethical, all good.

Inflation, depression, excessive interest rates, and unemployment -any abnormalities of balance - are then seen to be no part of God's infinitely good creation. And if they don't originate in God, they have no origin and so we needn't fear them. Individual prosperity  conforms to God's law - not to the world's economy.

My friends learned a lesson in listening - what one of the qualities of good ground thinking is. It's a consistent "yes" to God's Word with no "buts." Conforming one's life to God's message eliminates the contradictions and has a healing effect on one's health, one's family, and one's wealth. Within months the financial loss was recovered in unforeseen and unplanned ways.

 

How to listen to God - putting God first

The third kind of thinking Jesus contrasts to good ground is where the seed fell "among thorns." Luke records the Master's description: ". . . they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life" (Luke 8:14). Translated into our daily thought and lives, what is thorny thinking but priorities out of kilter?

To illustrate: A young woman, in great pain and discouraged, came to my office one day. She said doctors had diagnosed an inherited arthritic condition. Months of extensive testing, experimentation with medications, and therapy had failed to produce better health. Bad physical reactions to the drugs only multiplied her problems. Just two years out of college and in her second year of a promising teaching career, she had to quit, physically unable to continue, and faced with the prospect of semi-invalidism.

Her effort in coming to the office of a Christian Science practitioner to seek help through prayer indicated a willingness to begin thinking in terms of God as the only power - the only origin. It was the Christ in consciousness compelling a straightening out of priorities.

If cares, riches, or pleasures have been occupying our mental home until we hardly think of anything else - that's thorny thinking. It keeps us so busy with household duties, responsibilities, making and managing money, or just having fun, that thought is held to the concept of man as a mere physical being.

When we yield apathetically to the habit of thinking of ourselves as mere physical beings, somehow separate from God and at the mercy of any disease or disorder, aren't we, whether we realize it or not, believing in more than one power or origin? It's not unusual, then, working out from that basic misconception, to take our bodies when they appear to malfunction to another physical being who is knowledgeable about bodies to fix them.

This kind of thinking may accept the seed, or Word of God, philosophically or theoretically. It doesn't particularly resist it. It may even know and recite the literal or letter intellectually, but simply has no understanding of its real spiritual and healing meaning and little time for pursuing it. If God is on the priority list at all, wouldn't He be somewhere below first place?

But aren't we often forced into a position of receptivity which puts God first? And what does that really mean - putting God first? That we stop all productive human activity and devote ourselves to a life of seclusion? No. It simply means that more than anything in our lives, we want to know and understand God, that we make the time and effort to learn His law, and then to live as though we are His obedient sons and daughters. When that desire constitutes conscious thought, then priorities begin to get straightened out in our mental home. And this inevitably affects every facet of one's life - "cares" will not seem burdensome, "riches" will never be ill-gotten, unwisely used, or absent. And the "pleasures" we choose will never be immoral.

When we've made the all-important choice of knowing God, Spirit, as the only origin and man and woman as "of God," not "of dust," - then we naturally look unto Him, that is, unto God, Spirit, not unto matter, to be saved from believing in disease and consequently suffering from it.

Now, the question arises, must one refrain from drugs to put God first? Sometimes people ask, "Can't we take drugs and pray effectively at the same time?" Many attempt to do this, but the Scriptures say, "He [God] sent his word, and healed them" (Ps. 107:20). It does not say He sent drugs. If prayer and drugs could mix, wouldn't the loving Master have left us the example in his healings for such a mixture? He was the great physician of all time who said he came to show us the way.

Five months elapsed before I heard from my friend again. No longer able to drive, she asked me to come to her home. Willing to quit all drugs now and medical theories, she

requested Christian Science treatment. That's prayer based on understanding God as the only origin and as infinite good, and knowing man as God's image - spiritual - one with His creator, and, therefore, not subject to disease. Why? Disease doesn't originate in an infinitely good God so it has no origin. If disease is not in the original, which is God, it cannot be in the image, which is man.

Within a few months the young woman was completely healed and teaching full time. What is the lesson? Priorities straightened out - thorny thinking converted to good ground!

Mary Baker Eddy - prime example of good ground

A prime example of priorities in order is the life of Mary Baker Eddy. She was representative of good ground, and this is proved by the fact that she was not only a hearer but a doer of God's Word. To illustrate this: At one time, when Mrs. Eddy went shopping for chairs, the salesman had a bandage over an abscessed eye. Seeing his need, she lost interest in shopping. When reproached by her companion for lack of attention to the business at hand, Mrs. Eddy said, "Could I think of chairs when the man was suffering?" (Irving C. Tomlinson, Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy [Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1945], p. 53). After they left, the salesman removed the bandage, and there was no trace of the abscess. Mary Baker Eddy was a healer. Many have studied her writings, followed her leading, and even call her Leader, because she leads us to understand, Biblically, our inseparable relationship with God.

Mrs. Eddy is not an intermediary for students of Christian Science in the sense that she doesn't communicate with God for them nor govern their decisions or lives. Rather, she leads each one to see that we, individually, can listen to and follow our Father's communication. That's Biblical. In Isaiah we read: "For thus saith the Lord . . . thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it" (Isa. 30:15,21).

If, in the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus is defining by opposites what good ground thinking is, what have we learned? What is the opposite of way side thinking?

Stillness! The opposite of stony thinking? "Yes" to God's Word, with no "buts"! And the opposite of thorny thinking? Priorities in order - God in first place! In proportion as we practice these three qualities of thought, aren't we then representative of the good ground which listens to God, hears His message, and heals?

 

[1982.]

 

 

HOME PAGE                INDEX OF LECTURES