What Makes a Happy Family?
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Something greater than the ordinary
- a deep, spiritual effort, in fact - is going to be needed to stop the
breakdown of family life in today's world, said Harry S. Smith, C.S.B., of
The basic need, he said, is to discover man in his true nature as "the image and likeness of God."
Having done this, he said, we would reach "a totally new concept" both of ourselves and of family. "We [will] discover the divine family . . . God and His beloved children . . . the universal family of divine Love."
"This," Mr. Smith declared, "is family in its true spiritual sense."
The lecture was sponsored by The
Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in
The following is a partial text of the lecture:
It's a matter of real concern today that we find a growing sense of instability in family circles. The happy home is an essential cornerstone to our very civilization, and a stabilizing influence in our society. Thoughtful people are asking: "Why is there so much dissension, so much unrest, in families; so many divorces and broken homes? What can we do about it?"
A magazine article I read recently shed some light on this subject. It asks the question, "Why do good parents have trouble with their children?" This, of course, is another phase of the over-all family problem, but that's not my point here. The author answers his question by saying, "In the final analysis, mothers and fathers have trouble with their children because the best of parents are never quite good enough. Nor can they ever be."
Well, humanly, we don't seem to be quite good enough. We genuinely want a better home atmosphere. We search for ways to bring more happiness and harmony into the family circle. But all the time, we regard our family as made up of a human father, mother, and children, and we accept as more or less inevitable a certain amount of inharmony, some arguments, some heartaches.
This is a generally accepted concept of family life. It's based on another generally accepted concept - that man is created materially, and is subject to sickness, suffering, unhappiness, human woe. We're told in the Bible that "the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" (Gen. 2:7). Then this allegory tells how the first human family, Adam and Eve, and their offspring, Cain and Abel, suffered family discords, envy, hate, and finally murder. So, family problems aren't new, they've been with the human family from the very beginning.
What we need to do is to change our basic approach. And we couldn't do better than take Isaiah's advice: "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (Isa. 2:22). In other words, get to the very root of the problem. Stop believing in man as material and limited. Instead, discover the true nature of man as the image and likeness of God, as spiritual, not material. This is the man we find in the first chapter of Genesis.
As we consider this account of creation in the light of Christian Science, we gain an entirely different concept of man's real identity. We also find an equally new concept of family. We discover the divine family. We see that God is our Father and Mother, and that man is the son of God. This spiritual concept of man and family, understood and utilized, provides an entirely new approach to the solution of individual and family discords, an approach based on spiritual understanding.
Christ Jesus, on one occasion told his disciples, "Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). Jesus wasn't telling his disciples to cast aside their human family when he said this. He was pointing out the real, spiritual nature of family, the divine family, composed of God and His beloved children.
The Bible frequently refers to God as "Father." Isaiah said, "Thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer" (Isa. 63:16). Isaiah also pointed to the motherhood of God. He said, "For thus saith the Lord. . . . As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you" (Isa. 66:12-13). Christian Science emphasizes that God is our only creator, our only real Father and Mother.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, stresses this point. She writes, "We learn in the Scriptures, as in divine Science, that God made all; that He is the universal Father and Mother of man; that God is divine Love: therefore divine Love is the divine Principle of the divine idea named man; in other words, the spiritual Principle of spiritual man" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 186).
Principle and Love, as used here, are capitalized and are two of seven names, or synonyms, for God employed in Christian Science. The others are Spirit, Mind, Soul, Truth and Life; all of these synonyms are used or implied in the Bible. They express the infinite nature of God as the source of all true being. Christian Science also teaches that this spiritual Father-Mother, God, is all-powerful, ever-present, infinitely wise, tender, forgiving, loving – indeed, He's all we could ever hope for or desire in a parent.
What would be the nature of the child of our Father-Mother God? He naturally expresses the qualities and characteristics of his heavenly Parent. "God created man in his own image" (Gen. 1:27). "Man" here refers to both male and female, and it's in this sense that we use the word in describing the man of God's creating. Mrs. Eddy says in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "Man is the family name for all ideas, - the sons and daughters of God" (p. 515).
Family, in its true spiritual sense, is this infinite Father-Mother God, and His spiritual sons and daughters, made in His image, each one forever the complete expression of his creator. Each one naturally expresses the qualities and characteristics of his heavenly Parent - such as wisdom and understanding, kindness and thoughtfulness, obedience and love. The family where only such qualities are expressed knows no dissension or unrest. The atmosphere is one of unity and harmony.
This is the family we all really belong to. In fact, man, the child of God, can never be outside this holy family. He is never unhappy, unwanted, or unloved. He is never alone, never separated for an instant from his heavenly Father-Mother.
The realization that we are sons and daughters of God, and members of God's family of spiritual ideas gives us a sense of our true self-completeness. It heals loneliness, destroys grief, and brings a lasting sense of happiness and fulfillment.
This was proved in the experience of a man and woman I know. The man had been left alone through the loss of his wife. At first his life was lonely and incomplete. As a student of Christian Science, he prayed daily for a higher sense of his inseparability from God. When he entered his home each evening, he stopped at the door and declared he was not alone; ever-present divine Love was already there before him. As he more fully realized his self-completeness as a son of God, he found a sense of peace and dominion.
The woman lived many miles away. From early childhood she had been unhappy and lonely because of conditions in her home over which she seemed to have no control. She wasn't a student of Christian Science and accepted her predicament as something she would have to live with. Then one day she picked up some Christian Science literature from a distribution box. She immediately became interested, and began to study Science and Health. Then she had help through prayer from a Christian Science practitioner.
As she gained an understanding of her own self-completeness as a child of God, this was expressed in her human experience in an improved sense of home and also a better position in the business field.
Both the man and the woman traveled extensively in their businesses. One Sunday, several years ago, they attended the same Christian Science service in a city far from both of their homes. They met there, a friendship developed, and within a short time they were married. They have since enjoyed a very happy family life.
Now, the point of this experience is that before they ever met, these two had realized individually their true self-completeness and it was this realization, and not the marriage itself, that brought them real happiness.
Whatever our human circumstances may be, once we have gained this spiritual understanding of our complete unity with God we can never again be tempted to accept the false belief that we can be lonely. We gain a lasting and satisfying sense of happiness and peace, of true self-completeness. We know that we are included forever in the universal family of divine Love.
This understanding also helps us recognize and express another aspect of
man's completeness - one which is touched upon in this statement from Science
and Health, "
In Christian Science we learn that God, infinite Spirit, is All-in-all - whole, perfect, complete in every way. As God's spiritual ideas, we reflect this wholeness. We are each of us in our true nature complete and perfect. We each express all the spiritually mental qualities of God - masculine, feminine, and childlike qualities.
Mrs. Eddy's life illustrates this union of masculine and feminine qualities. It was only through complete reliance on God, and through the expression of every Godlike quality that she was able to fulfill her great mission.
Mrs. Eddy was healed in 1866 by spiritual means alone from the effects of a supposedly fatal accident. For three years after this, she studied the Scriptures, seeking to find how she had been healed. Her courage and steadfastness of purpose enabled her to complete the search. Her purity of thought and childlike receptivity made the search successful.
As she began to talk to others about her discovery, she frequently met with scorn and ridicule. She was misunderstood and maligned. But, like Jesus, she could say, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke ).
In 1875 she published the first edition of Science and Health. Then came a period of growth and progress. The Christian Science Church was organized. The Christian Science periodicals were established, one by one, and other church activities were added as the need arose. All this required of Mrs. Eddy sound business judgment and executive abilities. She expressed these qualities without limit, because she always turned to God for the answer to every problem.
Mrs. Eddy expressed her spiritual completeness in other ways. When she discovered Christian Science, she had already reached what was then considered the "prime of life." According to human standards her faculties, and her vigor, energy, and vitality might have been expected to diminish with the further passing of years. Instead, her faculties remained unimpaired, and she met the ever-increasing human demands made on her with an expression of tireless energy that was a constant source of inspiration to those around her.
In her every thought and act, Mrs. Eddy blended firmness and strength with meekness and humility. And through it all, she never lost her femininity, her expression of grace, beauty and purity.
Except for one brief period during those years, Mrs. Eddy had no close family ties. Yet, she saw clearly her complete unity with God, and the fact that this unity constituted, her self-completeness. She writes, "God is our Father and our Mother, our Minister and the great Physician: He is man's only real relative on earth and in heaven" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 151).
As we understand our own completeness as a spiritual idea of God, expressing every Godlike quality, we begin to see that our old view of man as incomplete and limited, as "never quite good enough" is a false view to be put aside for the true. We also learn to reject the false view of family as a lie! God is our "only real relative on earth and in heaven."
How does this spiritual understanding of family help us to establish happy homes? It provides a new approach to correcting human characteristics and weaknesses. It shows parents how to bring out instead, in themselves and in their offspring, those characteristics and strengths which man as the image of God naturally possesses. So let's consider some ways in which we may achieve these goals.
An experienced marriage counselor was asked to name the causes of divorce. He said, "I'll tell you what the common denominator is. In everyday language, it's selfishness."
Selfishness, that is, self-will, self-centeredness, self-justification, self-love, enters into nearly every unhappy family situation. Mrs. Eddy has written, "To build on selfishness is to build on sand" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 298).
Now, we don't generally admit that we ourselves are selfish; we usually think it's our husband or wife or offspring who is!
I recall the experience of a couple I knew some years ago. They often quarreled over domestic affairs. She said he was thoughtless and bad tempered; he said she was too demanding and critical. She became so upset that she began to have severe headaches and nervous disorders. His business was suffering. Matters reached a climax when she threatened suicide.
The man was a student of Christian Science and his wife was casually interested. So, when he suggested that they see a practitioner, she agreed.
The practitioner pointed out that there was selfishness on both sides, self-will and self-justification. He suggested that they think more of each other and less of themselves. He asked both to try to express the qualities which a child of God naturally expresses, to be unselfish, loving, kind, and patient. He strongly advised the man to apply his own understanding of Christian Science to solving the problem; and urged the wife to take up an earnest study of this Science, too. Then he agreed to help them through prayer.
Soon there was definite improvement. The man became more thoughtful and considerate, his wife in turn was less critical. The arguments became less frequent, and then practically ceased. The physical ills which the woman had experienced were healed and the husband's business improved. They have since experienced better family relationships than they had ever known before.
Another source of family problems which is often a kind of selfishness is the indulgence of undesirable appetites. Alcohol, for example, is the most common cause of divorce today. Sometimes the appetite for alcohol results from an attempt to "go along with the crowd." We feel our popularity or success in business demands that we drink socially, and we lack the moral courage to resist,
There are two kinds of courage - animal courage and moral courage. And so often we seem to have more of the animal than the moral! Most of us wouldn't hesitate one moment to act if our wife or child or anyone dear to us was in danger of physical harm. But we don't always seem to have the moral courage to resist a temptation that might endanger our family's happiness and security as well as our own. We do need to express more moral courage! And we can. Paul wrote: "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (I Cor. 10:13).
God's likeness cannot be tempted to believe that popularity and success result from conformity to lowered standards of human behavior. And this is true with regard to alcohol, habit-forming drugs, immorality, or any other form of temptation we may face. The popularity and success that are lasting and meaningful result from conformity to the law of God, good. Obedience to this law brings spiritual strength, and the moral courage to reject every such temptation.
Some face the problem of gaining freedom from an appetite of long standing. For such, there's hope and encouragement in Mrs. Eddy's statement, “The power of Christian Science and divine Love is omnipotent. It is indeed adequate to unclasp the hold and to destroy disease, sin, and death" (Science and Health, p. 412). The hold is unclasped as the appetite is spiritually destroyed through Christian Science.”
Spiritually destroyed doesn't mean destroyed through mere human will power. I remember when I decided to stop smoking. I knew enough of Christian Science to realize any enslaving habit was wrong, but I didn't know how to heal it. So I just forced myself to stop. But I still had the craving to smoke, so time after time I started and stopped, started again and stopped again. Finally I saw a practitioner. She pointed out that it is the power of God that heals.
God knows no enslaving habits; neither does the son of God. Man doesn't actually find satisfaction in material pleasures which bind him. True satisfaction is in the things of Spirit, not of matter. God made man free, so freedom and dominion are his birthright - freedom from and dominion over wrong desires. Man in reality has only one desire - to express God. Human will is only effective when it expresses the divine will.
As I left that practitioner's office, I suddenly realized that I did have just this one desire - to express God, to express my freedom and dominion as a son of God. I never again had the slightest desire to smoke. That was over 35 years ago.
It makes no difference whether the appetite is for tobacco or alcohol or drugs. The same power of God destroys every harmful appetite. When it's spiritually destroyed through Christian Science, it's not just controlled; it's gone.
Raising children successfully is one of the great challenges in today's society. We've all heard the Biblical proverb, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). Yet many parents who really try to train their children properly, find only failure. The human parent "is never quite good enough. Nor can he ever be." But the divine Parent always is.
And this is how we need to approach the problem - from the standpoint of man's true selfhood as the likeness of God. We need to apply this spiritual fact to both parent and child.
Mrs. Eddy writes, "If you make clear to the child's thought the right motives for action, and cause him to love them, they will lead him aright" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 51). This isn't difficult if we ourselves understand and love these right motives.
The important thing is that we base our education on a policy of "Do as I do" and not just "Do as I say." We can't teach the child to love the Golden Rule while we break it. We can't teach him to be kind and compassionate while we're thoughtless and critical. In other words, we must create that spiritual atmosphere that makes for true happiness. We do this as we ourselves become living examples of love, obedience, unselfishness, thoughtful consideration. We guide the child effectively as we see him as he truly is - not as a child of human parents, but as the child of God, protected by divine Love, guided by all-knowing Mind, under the control of infinite Spirit. We don't ignore problems that arise; we find a higher and more spiritual basis on which to deal with them, and we reach more satisfying and lasting solutions.
As our family grows up, we need to know that God's child is never adolescent, can never act unwisely, or be untrustworthy. In his true nature, he already expresses the wisdom and maturity that his heavenly Father-Mother God has given him. Then we can encourage him to develop his own individuality and completeness with cooperation on our part - not interference. We can still help and counsel, but without being possessive or dominating.
A high-school teen-ager, raised in the Christian Science Sunday School, became interested in a young man. Her parents disapproved of him for sound reasons, and her father told her she must not go out with him. She had always been an obedient child, but now she rebelled. The father lost his temper and there was a bitter argument.
The father asked a practitioner for help. The practitioner pointed out that the father had been dominating and possessive. She told him to lay aside his false sense of human responsibility, and to know that, as God's child, the girl must always express the wisdom and mature judgment of divine Mind. She couldn't make a mistake which she might later regret.
The father prayed daily for the spiritual understanding to see his daughter as belonging to the family of divine Love, guided and protected by this Love. He made no further efforts humanly to keep the young people apart.
Shortly the girl went away to college. For a while there was no change in the situation, but the father made no reference to the boy in his letters, and continued to have help from the practitioner. Then, the girl wrote that she realized she had not been acting wisely and had stopped seeing the boy. Not long afterward, she met another young man on campus to whom she is today happily married.
Raising a family also includes the very important matter of maintaining good health, both for ourselves and our children. When we understand God as, in the Bible phrase, He "who healeth all thy diseases" (Ps. 103:3), we see that actually the most effective treatment of disease is through spiritual means alone. When we rely on prayer, we're giving our child the best help obtainable - the power of God. It's the same power which Jesus used when he healed the epileptic boy and raised Jairus' daughter from the dead. This power is still available today to heal.
In my own family, prayer has brought the answers to many difficult situations including sickness and disease. I remember one occasion some years ago, when our family was protected from contagion through prayer.
Our young son contracted scarlet fever. I phoned a practitioner to help the boy through prayer, and also for protection from contagion for our two young daughters. In obedience to a state law regarding contagious diseases, I also notified the health authorities. Then we turned our thought to God in earnest prayer, while having daily help from the practitioner, our thinking was lifted above the sense of fear and anxiety as human parents to the spiritual understanding of the care and protection of the one heavenly Parent, divine Love.
An examination required by the health authorities was made three days later. It showed the boy had had scarlet fever, but was now fully recovered. The doctor commented on the quick recovery, but said the girls would surely contract the disease. He quarantined the house for the period prescribed by law.
We continued to have help from the practitioner. And when the quarantine period was over, the doctor was quite surprised to find that neither girl showed any symptoms. He released us, and we resumed our normal happy family life. We had seen the truth of Mrs. Eddy's statement, "A calm, Christian state of mind is a better preventive of contagion than a drug, or than any other possible sanative method; and the 'perfect Love' that 'casteth out fear' is a sure defense" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 229).
We've seen how a spiritual understanding of the true nature of God, man, and family heals loneliness, resolves family differences, destroys enslaving appetites, and helps us in raising our children.
Spiritual understanding isn't a humanly mental process. It isn't human psychology or psychiatry. It's an understanding of the things of Spirit, of God.
In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy says concerning spiritual understanding, "This understanding is not intellectual, is not the result of scholarly attainments; it is the reality of all things brought to light" (p. 505).
Spiritual understanding can't be gained by human means. It's gained through prayer. Now, prayer is much more than a petition to God. It is spiritual communion with God, an affirmation of His allness and goodness, and of man's perfection as God's spiritual idea.
For example, when the practitioner prayed for the husband and wife who were having difficulties, he didn't ask God to make the husband more thoughtful, or the wife less critical. In his prayer, he knew that man, as God's image, is already good, unselfish, kind, compassionate. Man, the creation of a wholly good and perfect God is himself perfect, expressing the qualities of God, and only these qualities. An understanding of this spiritual fact is the basis of scientific prayer, or treatment in Christian Science.
The practitioner also insisted in his prayer, that God's completely good creation includes no element of evil. God made all that was made and pronounced it good. Therefore evil, of whatever type or description, has no origin, no power, no reality. On this basis the real man couldn't possibly include or express selfishness or criticism, or any other un-godlike quality. No belief of evil is ever part of God or of man.
We need continued persistence in recognizing these spiritual facts and rejecting the material lies. As we persist, the spirit of the healing Christ enters into consciousness. Our thought is lifted above the view of man as an unhappy, discordant, or sick mortal, up to the Christlike understanding of the allness of God, good, and of man's eternal unity with God.
Mrs. Eddy writes, "On the swift pinions of spiritual thought man rises above the letter, law, or morale of the inspired Word to the spirit of Truth, whereby the Science is reached that demonstrates God" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 238).
This spirit of Truth, which is the Christ, was the power behind Jesus' healing works. It is this spirit of Truth, the Christ, that heals today. As we gain this consciousness of the Christ through prayer, we find healing. We are freed from whatever human difficulty we may be experiencing.
Christian Science was discovered a century ago. Today there are families who over three and four generations have relied on scientific prayer for physical healing as well as for the solution of all their other problems.
As we adopt this Christianly scientific approach to the resolving of family difficulties and put into practice the spiritual truths of God and man as revealed in this Science, we recognize ourselves, as sons and daughters of God, and as members of the spiritual family of God and His perfect ideas. Then as we progress, we gain that larger sense of universal family which Mrs. Eddy saw when she wrote, "It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established" (Science and Health, p. 467).
All men have one God and Father! Then all men, regardless of race, nationality, creed, or color, are members of the universal family of God. How can there ever be hatred, disputes, wars, among members of this holy family? These will cease in proportion to our understanding and acceptance of the true brotherhood of man, and as we approach our human relations with all mankind from this standpoint of spiritual understanding.
In the degree that we do this, the words of the Apostle Paul will be proved in our daily lives, and progressively in the daily lives of all men, "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Eph. 2:19).
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 19, 1966, under the headline "Deeper concept of family found in Bible explanations".]