By Mark Swinney
From the January 15, 2018 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel
On some mornings, to give myself a little head start on my praying, I’ve found it helpful to have a project: to be more conscious of spiritual individuality, both in myself and everyone.
When considering people simply as mortal personalities, I find that I end up with a narrow assessment of everyone. Yet, opening up to my own and my fellow man’s infinite, spiritual nature is much more broadening, insightful—and accurate, according to the Bible.
The first chapter of Genesis relates important information about how we’re designed—that we’re made not to image forth matter, but to reflect God (see 1:26, 27). Divine Spirit’s image must necessarily be spiritual, presenting not the nature of corporeality, but the essence and character of God, who is the infinite Spirit.
More and more, I am seeing that only through a spiritual sense of existence can I truly know anyone, since “material sense defines all things materially, and has a finite sense of the infinite” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 208).
If corporeality were our true identity, we would be dependent, not on God, but entirely on an earthly existence and the vulnerability that would come with it. But God is the only creator, and His creation is infinite, purely spiritual, entirely good. Holding a material, personal sense of ourselves or of anyone else is an error that would dampen the love, constrict the potential, and obscure the beauty that man naturally has in oneness with infinite Spirit.
To exist here and now as God’s image is a deep and very significant concept. When you stop to think about it, we either exist as God’s infinite image or are mortal, isolated persons. We can’t be both. I love how the Bible gives us grounds for seeing ourselves as God’s image, explaining that we each have “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:6).
You don’t have to accept what other people consider you to be.
By imaging forth infinite Spirit, we don’t lose an iota of our lovable, perceptive, humorous individuality. Rather, we uncover the truth that we possess the treasured role of uniquely and expansively expressing the Divine. To fulfill this potential, we must reject completely the suggestion of owning a separate, material, limited identity. This counsel from Science and Health is key: “The individuality of man is no less tangible because it is spiritual and because his life is not at the mercy of matter. The understanding of his spiritual individuality makes man more real, more formidable in truth, and enables him to conquer sin, disease, and death” (p. 317).
If we don’t own a separate mortal existence, and instead exist perfectly at one with divine Spirit, then we can’t be deprived of anything good or worthy. Instead of living either in fear of mortals or in obligation to mortals, we exist joyfully as the humble expression of God. A consistent approach to each day can be: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23).
You don’t have to accept what other people, even your close friends and relatives, consider you to be. They may think of you as simply a human personality—either a dim bulb or a bright light. Don’t let anything coerce you into going along with a limited sense of yourself and missing out on what you really are as the unique image of infinite Spirit.
We truly have no self apart from God. It is only in oneness with divinity that we can experience the infinity of Spirit. With separation from God, limitation would not just be probable, it would be inevitable. But separation from God is impossible in Science; it is a mistaken assessment of existence that must be rooted out of consciousness. That’s why it is powerful prayer to stop occasionally, right there in our tracks, to recognize deeply that because of our oneness with God, we cannot become finite and imperfect.
On any day, watch how helpful it can be to have a little project—to acknowledge that wherever we go and whatever we do, we’re so much more than isolated, barely capable personalities. In claiming our oneness with God, we truly reveal our unlimited spiritual individuality and potential. When our thought is at one with the infinite Person, the one divine Spirit, we’re one-of-a-kind transparencies of divinity! Christ Jesus said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17), and he illustrated each day what is possible to one who understands man’s spiritual individuality.