Something to Depend On
Ruth Elizabeth Jenks of Chicago, Illinois
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Prayer is more than petition; it
is a grateful acknowledgment that God has already supplied all good. This theme
was expanded in a lecture given by Ruth Elizabeth Jenks in
A member of The Christian Science
Board of Lectureship, Mrs. Jenks spoke in The Mother Church, The First Church
of Christ, Scientist, in
Mrs. Jenks was introduced by
William A. Baxter of
An abridged text of her lecture follows:
One night I boarded a flight leaving a major city airport. After the plane lift-off, I looked back to the city below. What a spectacular sight! - city lights presenting a pattern of beauty and order. Such a sense of peace!
And yet I knew better. I'd just left that city where I'd been in a traffic jam for 20 minutes, where I was all too familiar with overcrowded blighted areas, crime, pollution - a city struggling to find order.
So I turned my gaze upward to the breathtaking majesty of that clear starlit night. The precise motion of the stars and planets, coupled with their awesome beauty, evoked from the early Greeks the poetic description, "the music of the spheres." That night I could almost hear that music!
And yet, I'd read that right where peace and order seem so apparent in the heavens there are what are called "black holes" that swallow up all that comes near. Just another instance where what has the appearance of order to our physical senses can't really be trusted.
Still we believe there's an underlying order in our surroundings which can be trusted. It's out of this very conviction our physical and natural sciences have grown. We've instinctively searched for cause, for law, for order in everything that concerns us from our own bodies to the most remote part of the universe. Yet, a discovery heralded in one century may be scoffed at in the next. With all the research and attendant discoveries, the world is far from experiencing order either in individual lives or in collective societies.
Why do we have this situation? Could it be we're searching in the wrong place?
There was one man who understood the source of true order and law as no one else. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, knew this. She writes in her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "Jesus of Nazareth was the most scientific man that ever trod the globe. He plunged beneath the material surface of things, and found the spiritual cause" (p. 313).
Jesus perceived reality
He didn't plunge into the material sense of things as many of us do - he plunged beneath them. His clear view of reality enabled him to go to the very source of being.
True order is perfect, changeless, eternal. True order can never be found by searching unpredictable matter. It can be found, however, by gaining an understanding of the changeless realities of God's universe, a wholly spiritual universe.
But right here, we begin to bristle. Everything around us seems to be physical and finite matter - our bodies, our homes, our environment - all governed by material laws. Why wouldn't one search there to find answers? If we can't depend on the semblance of order we do see, how can we be expected to trust a "divine order" which seems so intangible and uncertain?
For a starter, we'd have to admit that mankind's search into matter hasn't brought dependable order, or lasting security. On the other hand, students of the Bible have been encouraged by the practicality of Jesus' works - works which resulted from his complete reliance on the divine order. He was indeed the "most scientific man that ever trod the globe." Let's consider one example of his wholly spiritual method of healing.
One day a group of irate citizens brought to the temple a woman they had caught in adultery. Can you imagine how different the results would have been had Jesus merely accepted the situation on its surface? He well knew the law condemned such individuals to stoning. The accusers saw this as an opportunity to trick him into contradicting his own teachings or breaking the law. But he plunged beneath the surface. His method was to reveal and to heal. He saw beyond the implications about the woman and her accusers to what he knew was the relationship of God to each of them.
Knowing God as the only cause, or source, he knew true order to be divine order. And so he didn't condemn the woman to deeper shame and sin while ignoring the self-righteous sin of her tormentors. Instead, he sought to restore moral order in the woman's life and social order in the community. He uttered a single statement. "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7). Jesus didn't probe the material causes bringing the woman to this level, nor did he question the methods of human justice.
The restoration of order in the woman's life and the practical view of healing justice seen by her accusers were obviously an expression of enlightened thought. Jesus wasn't a trained jurist, a sociologist, or even a rabbi. His discernment and wisdom were the outward expression of an absolute conviction that there is one divine Mind producing and maintaining order. This Mind he knew to be God. Healing that tense situation shows how he applied this understanding in daily experience.
If we are to trust the divine order, we too must have an understanding of God. Ignorance of God, or worship through blind belief, can never achieve the healings possible through spiritual understanding.
In the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the author, Mrs. Eddy, has included a glossary of Biblical terms that brings out the deeper meaning of the Scriptures. The definition of God found there is a revolution in theology. It expresses God's exact nature and essence.
Prior to the publication of Science and Health, God was thought of mainly in terms of names like Deity, Lord, Father, Almighty, King, etc. Certainly these are expressive names which every Christian uses and reveres. But Mrs. Eddy yearned to know more of God's nature.
In her search of the Bible she found God referred to as Spirit, Love, and Truth. In fact, she discovered seven synonyms either mentioned specifically or implied, defining God's nature. Her definition reads, "GOD. The great I AM: the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance, intelligence" (p. 587).
Jesus understood the nature of God completely. His decisive action in regard to the adulterous woman stemmed from his awareness of God as divine Mind, the only Mind, the creator and controller of a perfect universe.
In the Bible is an arresting admonition, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). Few people would think of Jesus' "mind" as "brain." Brain is not really the mind of man. The word "mind" implies something much more than even a human intellect. Jesus was so conscious of his unity with God that he expressed the wisdom, the intelligence, the love of God completely. It was this expression which better shows the "mind" of Christ Jesus.
What is commonly termed the human mind, Paul called "the carnal mind" and Mrs. Eddy refers to as "mortal mind." But this so-called mind isn't the source of intelligence. It manifests whatever the senses impress upon it. It can only "know" what the physical senses report. These impressions or reports coming frequently enough are soon looked upon as a kind of law which governs man. Yet we all know the unreliability of the physical senses.
Matter being changeable, unstable, destructible, can hardly be the source of law. The source of true law must be changeless, eternal, perfect. What the physical senses often consider a material law is really just a present theory or opinion. Only the divine, changeless law of God has right to the name of law.
Having the mind or consciousness which was in Christ Jesus frees us from the limitations resulting from these theories or counterfeit laws. It frees from theories concerning disabilities due to age, the bias of race or sex, the limitations of mental and physical ability because of one's genetic profile, and from geographic, economic, or educational restrictions.
These limitations will no longer restrict our opportunities, our potential, or keep us from the fulfillment of our purpose. The understanding of the divine order frees us from believing we're subject to chance, and reveals our true being, established forever under God's law - His control.
The experience of a woman I know illustrates the restoration of order to a disoriented life. Orphaned as a child, she and her sisters and brother had been placed in the homes of different relatives. As a teen-ager she'd felt disillusioned and confused by the bleak outlook life held.
She worshipped God through fear and tradition. It was difficult for her to see much about God to love as she'd felt her troubles were the result of God's will.
Then a promising change came into her life, bringing hope. She was given a copy of Science and Health. As she read the opening chapter on "Prayer" she realized that her concept of God had been completely wrong. Prayer up to now had meant trying to get God to notice and do something about her problems. As she continued reading the Christian Science textbook she saw that prayer doesn't change God; but it changes him who prays to the point of perceiving his oneness with God as His idea. Her longing and desire to know and understand the truth opened the way in her consciousness to see that God is Love and the total intelligence of the universe - infinite Mind.
During the years that followed, she enjoyed a feeling of purpose and security she'd formerly thought impossible. Then 20 years later she found herself again facing a nightmare of confusion challenging her concept of security.
Suddenly there were staggering debts. She was the sole support of three children. The country had been plunged into a depression in which even trained workers were standing in bread lines. Being a woman, and with no training, the outlook appeared hopeless.
As if history were repeating itself, the thought came to ask those same sisters and brother, now grown with families of their own, to take her children. Such a choice would have only mired her deeper into the problem.
As a practicing Christian Scientist, she had discovered when she acknowledged God as the only Mind, her attention was free to use supreme intelligence for direction. Her thought was instantly filled with gratitude for the many times she had experienced the proof of this fact. She had learned before that fear, doubt, and lack were nonexistent in divine order. And yet the problems seemed so overwhelming she'd become tricked by fear. She needed to plunge "beneath the material surface of things."
With a great sense of humility she gave thanks for the knowledge of God as all-knowing and ever-present, and for her established place in the harmonious order of God's government. She'd not fallen from a secure situation into one where there were no opportunities. God's government does not change!
Of course there was work for her to do. Her work in God's universe had never stopped for a moment. The nightmare of confusion was dissolved in the light of spiritual reality, and with this came practical results.
She was offered a job copying records for an insurance company in a building which was being razed. It meant standing 10 hours a day in the dust and din, laboriously writing as fast as she could. But it was a job. A file clerk's job in the main office followed. It wasn't long before she saw an opportunity to pioneer in a phase of work before closed to women. Her success in this field led to her own business, blessing not only her family but opening new possibilities for work for other women.
What had enabled this woman to turn aside from seeking human solutions to trust the divine order? It really had begun that night 20 years earlier when she first picked up the Christian Science textbook and discovered what true prayer was. As she'd grown in her understanding of God's tender relationship to His children, she'd discovered her natural ability to communicate freely with God.
Many people shy away from prayer not knowing how to go about it. And this is understandable. So doesn't it seem logical as a first step to learn to know God and our relationship to Him? We may think He's a stranger to us, but we're no stranger to Him!
In Christian Science we learn that prayer isn't an attempt to communicate with some unknown deity, to beg for something. Prayer is the sweet communion with One who loves, cherishes, and cares for each of us impartially, always. As the Apostle John put it, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (I John 3:1). And further on he assures us, "We love him, because he first loved us" (I John ). Sometimes prayer is a petition, but more often it's a grateful acknowledgment that an all-knowing, all-loving God has already supplied all good.
There's more prayer in quiet listening than in a wordy barrage of requests. Mrs. Eddy says of prayer, "Audible prayer can never do the works of spiritual understanding, which regenerates; but silent prayer, watchfulness, and devout obedience enable us to follow Jesus' example" (Science and Health, p. 4).
Each account of Jesus' prayers shows us a close relationship, the relation of father and son, of a loving Parent and a loved child. And this is our own true relationship to God. We need only the humility to listen to that Parent, to silence the clamoring of human wants, self-will, and fearful doubts, and to listen.
A little child was asked one day in Sunday School if he knew what silent prayer meant. He eagerly answered, "Oh, yes, it's when you close your eyes and open your thoughts." Prayer is just that simple. True prayer acknowledges God's divine order, bringing harmony into our lives.
Trust brings healing
Now we've seen how moral order was restored in the life of the woman brought to Jesus, how social order was restored to the band of her accusers, and how the restoration of order changed the life of the woman supporting a family. But how can we find order where, a discordant, diseased, or malfunctioning body is concerned? The body certainly appears material. Can one trust God's divine order for restoration or harmony where blood, bones, nerves, and the material organs are rebelling?
In the Bible we read of a Syrian
officer who had leprosy, the most dread disease of his day (II Kings 5:1-14).
Naaman was an important man, not only in the eyes of his peers and the king but
in his own eyes. As a military leader, he was used to order, giving orders,
demanding order. But his sense of order involved human will, and personal
power. When a servant girl told his wife there was a prophet in
So Naaman arrived in a show of splendor, with horses and chariot, expecting some dramatic act worthy of his status to restore his health.
He was furious when Elisha told
him to go wash in the muddy waters of the
That happened centuries ago. Yet the parallel is evident today. We can all learn from Naaman's experience.
At one time I'd come under a great sense of self-imposed pressure. I, too, like Naaman, had a lot of pride in doing many things and enjoying the commendation of my peers. What I did always appeared effortless to outsiders. But those in my home knew differently. The condition of our house reached such a stage of clutter, I dubbed it "chaos cottage." When anyone came, there was a mad whirlwind of activity pushing things into closets, presenting a surface order. The demands of my growing children increased. The pressures built.
One day I found I was in pain. But I pushed ahead with a determination born of self-will, until I faced the possibility of total incapacitation.
The seriousness of the situation forced me to stop, as Mrs. Eddy encourages, and look beneath the material surface. I realized I had gradually become more and more responsive to the demands of time. I'd allowed myself to push and be pushed instead of yielding to God's will and depending on Him to lead me.
When I was little we had a red wagon. My greatest joy was being pulled by my big sister. Squealing with delight, I sat in absolute confidence as she'd pull me as fast as she could. There was no fear on my part for someone I trusted was in charge. But what a different story when she pushed and made me steer! I was terrified - I didn't know where I was going or what to do. My ride always ended in a crash landing and tears.
This was much the situation I'd gotten myself into. Now in adulthood I was doing the same thing. I'd let the arguments of self-will push me faster and faster until I'd crash-landed in the middle of a problem. I'd clung stubbornly to what I mistakenly felt was my real identity. I had to let go to find out who I really was - and know my true self, as God made me.
I began to see that perhaps the greatest single deterrent to experiencing order is interference from a false sense of self. And we don't like to give it up because we're afraid we'll lose our own unique individuality. But discovering our true selfhood as God's image and likeness doesn't deprive us of our individuality. On the contrary, it enlarges human individuality with limitless opportunities. All we lose is a false sense of personality.
As Mrs. Eddy explains, "Mortals are egotists. They believe themselves to be independent workers, personal authors, and even privileged originators of something which Deity would not or could not create. The creations of mortal mind are material. Immortal spiritual man alone represents the truth of creation" (Science and Health, p. 263).
What is this immortal spiritual man? This is what I so badly needed to know.
Christian Science helped me really understand that God created man in His image and likeness. The man of God's creating then couldn't be a matter man. Brain, bones, nerves, muscles, couldn't give him identity. Man would have to be spiritual, since God is Spirit. This identity doesn't begin in embryo nor change with age. It can't become diseased, decayed or depleted.
I realized, as Science and Health points out, that man is the compound idea of God. He expresses all of God's qualities - the order and authority of Principle; the discernment and intelligence of Mind; the beauty and harmony of Soul; the integrity and completeness of Truth; the pressure-free activity and continuity of Life; the imperishable, unlimited substance of Spirit. As the expression of Love man is loved, loving, and lovable. These qualities are individually expressed by each of us. The real man is conscious of his true identity. He can never be lost on a sea of confusion as to his source, his place, his purpose.
Now, this immortal spiritual man is who you are, right now. It's the current and forever identity of each of us. As I became willing to silence human will and to express more of my true, spiritual nature, healing took place. More important than the physical healing was my mental freedom from the tyranny of pressure.
I came to realize in the divine order all power belongs to infinite Mind. There can be no pressure in the infinite. It takes a finiteness to create pressure. Boiling a pan of water produces no pressure, but put a lid on the pan and pressure mounts.
We've accepted the theory that where there's power there must be pressure. We've allowed "lids" of time, ambition, opinions, responsibilities, fear, to be clamped on our activities with the result of pressure acting as a power in our experience. Such pressured activity claims to foster irritation, fatigue, and exhaustion. When we know the source of all activity to emanate from the power of inexhaustible Mind, our human activity can be "lid-free" activity, expressing spontaneity, joy, fulfillment.
Jesus never acted under pressure. He knew his inseparable relationship with the source of divine wisdom and energy, so he was able to work with multitudes, instructing them, feeding them, healing them. His total commitment to God's will freed him from the effects of human will.
Jesus always saw and expressed the real man. The unbreakable bond he felt between God and himself was evidence of his awareness of the Christ. Jesus' mission was to reveal the Christ nature, the real or ideal man to the world. Therefore, he alone will ever be the one to have the title, Christ. Yet the eternal Christ that Jesus expressed is here today. In revealing this ideal man, expressing the spiritual, eternal nature of God, Jesus has shown us how we, too, may express the Christ nature.
We see this nature, this divine manifestation of God, in unselfed, universal, impartial love, the Christ-love. We discover the Christ nature in the wisdom which Jesus always expressed, the Mind of Christ we spoke of earlier. The Christ nature enables us to discern the unreality of what the material senses present, and the truth of spiritual evidence. The divine order we've been discussing is the presence of God's self-enforcing, invariable law, the Christ-principle.
Understanding the nature of the Christ and expressing this nature in our daily life, heals.
As Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mrs. Eddy learned to obey the divine order explicitly. Her discovery reinstated primitive Christianity, the teaching and practice of Jesus, as witnessed and lived by the earliest Christians. Mrs. Eddy saw that Jesus' works were never in conformity with material laws, but that he healed in strict accord with divine, or spiritual laws. She writes, "Jesus walked on the waves, fed the multitude, healed the sick, and raised the dead in direct opposition to material laws" (Science and Health, p. 273).
Mrs. Eddy discovered and applied the laws of God, and found that she, too, could heal and teach others to heal. Because these laws are universal, Mrs. Eddy realized all are spiritually capable of healing spiritually as Jesus did if they yield to the divine order. This is no personal ability. Mankind can reflect this healing power through the understanding of God's laws and through living them.
In her role as Founder, Mrs. Eddy discovered that trust in the divine order was imperative. Women had seldom been given an active role in religion nor were they considered church organizers or administrators. The early history of her church was full of challenges. But this pure-minded woman, who'd walked alone so much of her earthly experience, had proved her complete trust in the power of prayer, in that quiet communion with the divine Mind.
By the late 1880s Mrs. Eddy's teachings had begun to gain a surprising degree of acceptance. A church had earlier been organized. The demand of eager students for teaching resulted in waiting lists. Everything pointed to growth and prosperity. Yet, contrary to what one would expect, and in obedience to the divine order, she took steps to dissolve her church, and other organized aspects of her Movement, and ceased teaching.
This last step in particular appeared unwise to those around her. Many saw this as the end of Christian Science.
One of her biographers writes of the reaction of her close associates, "In their eyes she was an inspired teacher who knew nothing about business. Evidently, she simply failed to realize that it would be madness to shut down a flourishing and greatly needed institution at the height of its success" (Robert Peel, "Mary Baker Eddy, The Years of Trial," (p. 252).
Some students went to plead with her to change her mind. Hearing her humble explanations of obedience to divine order and direction, the account continues, "As they listened, they were filled with a kind of wonder and shame at their own attitude" (ibid, p. 252).
Mrs. Eddy had no fear of going
forward, of losing an opportunity, so secure was she in the power of divine
Mind to direct every event. With absolute certainty of the rightness of her
action, she retired to relative seclusion in
The result was not the demise of her church but its complete reorganization on a permanent basis, freed from the influence of personality. She saw church not restricted by human organization, but rather the human organization supporting and protecting the idea of Church.
True security stemming from such trust will never be established in our lives until we, too, learn to plunge beneath the surface picture and are willing to discern reality.
A friend of mine wanted to believe more than anything in the world that real security existed. He was confused by the incongruity between the world he saw with disease, war, corruption, tragedy, and the perfect universe of God he was learning of in Christian Science.
One day, hiking in the mountains, he discovered an inspiring sight. The reflection of the mountains, the cloudless sky and the aspens were perfectly mirrored in a lovely mountain lake.
The order and beauty he saw represented the world he wished did exist. But as if to support the argument that it could be destroyed in an instant, even if it did exist, he went to the water's edge, picked up a stone, and skipped it across the surface, distorting the calm reflection into one of blurred confusion.
True security discovered
Just as quickly, he fell to his knees and plunged his face into the water. There to his delight and astonishment he saw below the rippled surface the perfect reflection untouched by the surface commotion. Now an underwater scientist would say the light from above was reflected by a thermocline, a deeper layer of cold water.
But the experience had for my friend far greater meaning. He remembered a passage from Science and Health, "We must look deep into realism instead of accepting only the outward sense of things" (p. 129).
He realized something of the meaning of true security. It's never in the outward appearance but always in the deeper spiritual reality.
It's spiritual perfection which is real, not the distorted picture. Mankind has been so busy trying to straighten out the distorted picture that it's failed to plunge "beneath the material surface of things" and find "the spiritual cause," as Mrs. Eddy said of Jesus. Not in the shallows of matter, but in the depth of spiritual reality is the divine order seen. Once seen, this divine order has tremendous consequences in human lives.
As we learn more of God and of His divine order, a solid sense of security comes, and we're enabled to trust this order with complete conviction.
In this order we find man's relationship to God has never been lost or disturbed for even a moment, regardless of the surface picture.
As Mrs. Eddy assures us, "The relations of God and man, divine Principle and idea, are indestructible in Science; and Science knows no lapse from nor return to harmony, but holds the divine order or spiritual law, in which God and all that He creates are perfect and eternal, to have remained unchanged in its eternal history" (Science and Health, p. 470).
There is something to depend on. We can trust this divine order.
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, July 26, 1977.]