Each New Year, people express their determination to drop unhelpful habits. While it generally proves easier to state the intent than to keep the resolution, the tradition points to both a widespread yearning to better ourselves and the conviction that it’s possible.
I share that conviction. But over many years, I’ve found that betterment comes less from noting human imperfections and striving to change them than from discerning a deeper perfection that actually defines us. Christian Science reveals that we are related to divine Love, God, as the very expression of Love’s perfection.
Grasping this doesn’t negate the need for our honest self-awareness but enhances its precision. Knowing what we truly are brings into sharp relief traits that don’t belong to that selfhood, impelling in turn our desire to relinquish those traits.
The same knowledge gives us the basis for relinquishing flaws. We can’t right our wrongs from a standpoint of believing that they define us. That’s like trying to run a race while shackled to the starting block. Christ Jesus’ unique life and remarkable healings evidenced the power of beginning from the opposite stance of knowing man’s all-glorious, God-reflecting identity.
Today we’re often encouraged to own our brokenness, even wear it as a badge of honor. But resigning ourselves to the belief that we are trapped by physical and mental ailments or moral flaws doesn’t appease the heart’s cry for freedom from all that isn’t true to our nature as God’s offspring.
There is, however, a brokenness that does lead to freedom. Conscious of his sins, the Psalmist lamented: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me…. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalms 51:10, 17).
This brokenness is the penitent self-awareness that sacrifices the part-good/part-bad record of our humanhood for the understanding and acceptance of our solely good, spiritual identity. Step by step, this understanding lifts us out of our sins.
That’s what it achieved for King David, who wrote this psalm after the prophet Nathan helped him recognize the depth of his transgression in committing adultery with Bathsheba and conspiring to kill her husband. His lyrical lamentation shows his resolve to be restored to “the joy of [God’s] salvation” and upheld by God’s “free spirit” (verse 12) through turning to God to do the restoring.
Centuries later, Jesus showed how such restoration takes place. He recognized that a “clean heart” and “right spirit” are the intrinsic truth of everyone’s identity. His was a compassion beyond empathy, and he lifted others out of sickness and sin by seeing beyond the problem to their unbroken and unbreakable godly nature.
We can get better at more consistently bearing witness to the deeper, divine essence that defines us. True selfhood is continuously evolving within the infinite all-goodness of God. As Mary Baker Eddy, describes it, “God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 258).
It’s this steady state of development and growth, then, that is our status quo as God’s idea, and every time we yield even slightly to this reality, we will see it expressed in moral and spiritual progress. Whatever our foibles or far worse flaws, awakening to this ever-expansive identity is finding the enduring Science of our being. The impact of grasping even a modicum of this Science, which is laid out in the Bible and Science and Health, is increasing freedom from distracting highs and depressing lows and a more consistently fulfilling and all-blessing life.
Making a New Year’s resolution and sticking to it can certainly yield helpful progress. Ultimately, though, there’s a more profound, divine call to each of us for an unspoken, ongoing resolve. We’re called to yield to God’s loving but firm demand to increasingly leave behind all that we seem to have learned and experienced of mortal existence – that is, to agree to disagree with all that tells us that we’re not one with God.
We are one with God. Our liberty from the traits that tell us differently comes as we see that the ever-developing, infinite idea “rising higher and higher” from its boundlessly good basis leaves no place for negative traits to enter, germinate, or fester. As we resolve to understand this spiritual reality, we hold to its truth not just for ourselves but for all, supporting our own and everybody’s openness to daily changing for the better.
By Tony Lobl
Adapted from an editorial published in the Dec. 26, 2022, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.