Giving Up and Going Up
From the Christian Science Sentinel, November 13, 1915, by Louise Knight Wheatley
The trend of the human mind for centuries has been to associate goodness with asceticism, and it is not surprising, therefore, to hear the beginner in Christian Science express a vague fear that if he continues his study to the point where he finally becomes what he terms “good,” he will have to give up much of that cheerful exuberance of spirits which he has somehow grown to think is incompatible with the religious temperament.
No one, however, knows better than does the Christian Scientist that holiness is not synonymous with gloom or depression. Mrs. Eddy says, “I agree with Rev. Dr. Talmage, that ‘there are wit, humor, and enduring vivacity among God’s people'” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 117). The joyless saint is a paradox. As a matter of fact, the better one grows, the happier he grows, for he is becoming more conscious of his oneness with God, the source of all good. So to those who seem to be entertaining a frightened sense that Christian Science is going to rob them of something in spite of themselves, let the comforting assurance be given that it never compels anybody to give up anything. It only shows us something so much better that we gladly let go of the old
Christian Science never leaves the heart empty and unsatisfied. It never tears something rudely away and gives nothing in its place. The very fact that something is gone from human experience which was once deemed essential to happiness, is in itself proof that something else, and something better, has already come. God’s ways are as gentle as the processes whereby a field of stiff little wheat-stalks is transformed into a sea of rippling gold. God’s ways involve progress, unfoldment, accretion, not loss and deprivation. Nothing is lost when spring merges sweetly into summer,—hope is only exchanged for fruition, promise for fulfilment.
As one gathers a rich cluster of ruby grapes, does he sigh because the delicate fragrance of the early blossom no longer lingers on the air? Does the butterfly ever try to crawl back into his chrysalis? Without another glance at his empty cradle, he just flutters his wonderful new wings and disappears in a blur of gold. Why should it not be a matter for rejoicing to leave a thing outgrown? June would be without its roses if every little bud at the first touch of the summer sun should cry out in alarm, Don’t shine on me, or I may have to give up being a rosebud. The desire to grow is as normal in a man as in a rose. “Christianity causes men to turn naturally from matter to Spirit, as the flower turns from darkness to light” (Science and Health, p. 458).
The Father’s plan does not involve a giving up of anything. Through the study of the good, the true, and the beautiful, as revealed in Christian Science, thought is educated out of itself into loftier aims and ideals, but always in a direct line of spiritual advancement. “Giving up;” is simply another name for “going up;” and it is so naturally accompanied by a grateful realization that nothing has been lost, nothing left behind, that unless this joyousness does attend the giving up, one may be very sure the thing has not really been done at all, no matter what the outside semblance may be. Jesus once made this point very clear when he rebuked the thought which should even look with covetousness upon something forbidden. Is it not possible that the adversary sometimes deludes even very earnest workers into believing that they have given up something, when in reality they are clinging to it as desperately as ever? The human will has many disguises, some old, some surprisingly new, and one of its favorite diversions is to pass itself off as a Christian Science demonstration. It tells a man that he has given up some habit or appetite, yet every hour of every day he longs for the desired object. It tells a woman she has done the same, yet the lack of the thing desired leaves her irritable and hungry.
Unless there is a going up, there has been no giving up, we may be sure of that. Then let us turn the white light of Truth upon such a demonstration and look it squarely in the face. That which really demonstrates Love’s omnipresence, leaves no lingering sense of deprivation. A trained musician would not feel deprived of anything because he could no longer stand entranced before that delight of every boyish heart, the circus hurdy-gurdy. He whose ears are attuned to heavenly harmonies, can well afford to relinquish the crudities of uninstructed childhood.
Heavenly harmonies, such as he never dreamed of before, are coming into the life of every earnest student of Christian Science. Things which he once found amusing, now seem stale and profitless. He suddenly discovers what is indeed the truth, that there is nothing in them, and finds himself beginning to take an interest in many things for which he has hitherto had scant regard. He begins to find himself attracted as never before to things genuine and simple, wholesome and unaffected. He likes simpler manners, simpler speech, simpler dressing, simpler modes of living. Better music appeals to him; his taste in art and drama becomes more refined; while as he grows more familiar with the unique, forceful English found in the writings of Mrs. Eddy, his appreciation of good literature is sure to grow ever more keen. Even his erstwhile favorite newspaper is likely to be laid aside in favor of The Christian Science Monitor, whose daily chroniclings uplift thought to behold the good, the useful, the beautiful, and the true.
These changes come about so gently, however, that the student is hardly conscious of them himself. He only knows that the old scenes wherein he once played so conspicuous a part know him no more. The very mental atmosphere they exhale would seem to him now as suffocating as the over-perfumed, superheated air of some conservatory would be to one accustomed to the delicate freshness of the dew-wet morning. Perhaps new friends come to him, whose tastes and aspirations are akin to his own; but if the Father’s plan for him does not for the moment seem to include the sort of human companionship to which he now instinctively turns, he knows that he is not in any way dependent upon it for happiness. He sees that the lesson of the hour is for him to turn more unreservedly to God, to prove that since God is the infinite ever-presence, man, His child, is never alone.
Thus the student finds friends in the birds, the stars, the flowers, the rippling brook. The winds whisper him their woodland secrets, and the pine trees sing him a song which needs no words to be complete. The happy, innocent creatures of the woods grow dear to him, and he wonders how he could ever have believed it sport to overpower them either by strength or strategy, and to carry them home limp and lifeless, “butchered,” like those of old, “to make a Roman holiday.” In fact, he whose heart is going out in truer love for all things, both small and great, through his better understanding of the eternal facts of being, finds that he loves the sweetness of solitude as never before. The whole world has suddenly become for him one vast, ever changing panorama of delight; and as you sometimes meet him, on an early summer morning, returning from an hour alone with his books and the sunrise and his own happy thoughts, and he smiles at you in passing, you somehow remember it was written once of Moses that “when he came down from the mount,” he “wist not that the skin of his face shone.”
God is so good, and we are all surrounded by so many beautiful, true, right things,—just waiting. Let us rejoice if we can see that one by one the old things, all that belongs to “the old man with his deeds,” are already slipping away, and that no matter how fair these sense-dreams of happiness may once have seemed, we can be glad, because we have found that in parting with them we are losing nothing. Some one has written:—
I thank Thee that I know
Those much-desired dreams of long ago,
Like butterflies, have had their summer’s day
Of brief enchantment, and have gone. I pray
For better things.
Let us then welcome any experience, however trying, which enables us to go up to find those “better things” which God hath prepared for those who love Him. They will be gained just in the proportion that we are willing to loosen our grasp on matter and reach out for those things of Spirit which have from the beginning constituted man’s eternal heritage.