I had gotten upset about something related to my larger family, even though it didn’t really involve me (in fact, that was what upset me! J). Even though I knew better and no one had set out to offend me, the bad feelings I had about it kept rehearsing in my thought until I’d made myself pretty miserable. So I went for a walk, yearning for a spiritual answer that would release me from this sense of hurt feelings and resentment. We had talked briefly about the Lord’s Prayer in Bible Study that week, and it was so simple and accessible. I began praying it, along with Mrs. Eddy’s spiritual interpretation, as a prayer for family, and this is what God showed me.
Our Father which art in heaven,
Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious,
My family! My father, whose very presence with me is heaven. My family is right here. I’m included! All the fathering and mothering I could ever want is with me, loving me, and including everyone. As the Bible says in James 1:17: “Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” The Father of lights is my father, and every bit of goodness in my life comes from Him, directly to me. And that is true of all of us. So nothing that happens over there can diminish or take away from the good and perfect gifts coming to me right here and right now. Ever. I am confirmed as the loved, cherished child of God.
Hallowed be Thy name.
We are all named with the name of God. It is the one name, or our “last”name, our family name. It designates our permanent place at the table, our forever place in the family. With one name, there’s one family, which in God’s eyes includes no hierarchy — no steps or half-anything, no blood relatives or in-laws, no first or second anything, or family once-removed! There was only One: not even God and man, but God-and-man — one. One nuclear family of one, that included me, and everyone.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present.
My family is right here. Not somewhere else, or some other time in the past, or happening without me. Family and its fullness is ever-present, I prayed.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Enable us to know, -- as in heaven, so on earth, -- God is omnipotent, supreme.
Enable me to know the forever stability of family, I continued, not as a relative human structure, subject to “variableness” and “shadow of turning.” But the strong, omnipotent arms of God holding us all in His embrace. As in heaven, so on earth.
Give us this day our daily bread;
Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections;
Here is where this prayer really got me. How incredibly sweet, this provision to be filled up, and especially, as Mrs. Eddy adds, to have our famished affections fed. I prayed very earnestly for God to fill my famished affections, to give me grace for my human relationships. And He did! In poured the assurance again that — really and actually — every good and perfect gift came to me from God, not from a person, my work, money, time, sleep or anything else that might seem to be the source for filling up one’s life, the absence of which we might blame for being grumpy, sad or ungracious. My affections were already full! And they’re fed continually, whether I’m alone or with others, in a beautiful place or just fulfilling the ordinary tasks of a day.
This did not feel at all like so many words, as I walked along. A genuine sweet sense of fullness, contentment and satisfaction took root in my thought, and I just stayed on this part of the prayer for a while.
When I came back to the next part, I was shocked by what I realized.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And Love is reflected in love;
Only after we’ve been filled up, do we ever get to this line about forgiveness!! How sweet is that?! If you’re full after dinner, you don’t want someone else’s piece of chocolate cake! When you’re satisfied, when your affections are fed, what is there to be mad about? When God fills you up, who can take anything from you? What can offend you? And what is there to forgive?
Coming to the demand to forgive from this perspective, I also realized that this line was never about God sort of sizing up how forgiving we had been, and dishing out a generous or stingy measure of forgiveness as a consequence. I knew that, yet that impression still lingered. I knew it was right to forgive. I knew that was what we all were being asked to do, and what we were praying to be able to do.
But on this day I saw that we no more have debtors than we have debts. Every — every — good and perfect gift comes from God. And that source is never depleted in the slightest. There’s no borrowing and paying back in God’s economy — just this outpouring of gifts. Just as I could never take anything away from the allness of God, nothing could take anything away from the fullness of my life and happiness, because I received it all by reflection! No debts! No debtors! Because our affections are full.
My Christian Science teacher requested us to repeat often, daily, these words of Mrs. Eddy’s: “The Christian Scientist cherishes no resentment; he knows that that would harm him more than all the malice of his foes. Brethren, even as Jesus forgave, forgive thou. I say it with joy, — no person can commit an offense against me that I cannot forgive” (’02 19:11).
It’s not a matter of an extra allotment of human niceness. The only way you can say it with joy is if you know that every good and perfect gift comes from God, and no one can take an iota of it from you. The poison of unforgiveness harms in that it would prevent us from seeing the good from God that is right here, and tangible right now. Aware of the goodness coming directly to me from the Father of lights, I could know that no person could commit an offense against me because I would be so full I couldn’t have eaten that piece of cake, anyway! (And, actually, they are so full of God, too, they don’t really want it either.)
“Even as Jesus forgave.” Well, Jesus knew the secret of course! He gave us the Lord’s Prayer in the first place, after all. He knew how to be filled up by God before ever considering this question of forgiveness. He knew his oneness with God, so that even the sharp hurts and betrayals and misunderstandings of those humanly closest to him never tempted him into the sins of resentment or self-pity, or even touchiness.
Now I had arrived almost at the end of the prayer, and was feeling so filled up and then washed clean — like a clean slate with no tally marks of debts and debtors. Like a child before bed, I had had my warm milk and bath. I was feeling very satisfied and happy.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;
And God leadeth us not into temptation, but delivereth us from sin, disease, and death.
Once again I was struck with the utter tenderness in the sequence of this prayer. Satisfied and happy was a wonderful frame of mind to consider this question of temptation. How kind of Jesus to lead us first to be filled up with our daily bread, then to be washed clean with forgiveness, before ever dealing with us about temptation.
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,” we read it James. Now I could see how we could count it all joy. God leads us not into temptation by first filling us up and washing us clean. What could tempt a full and happy child, fully aware of her security in God’s love? I felt so satisfied by this point that the temptation to resent, envy, covet — or any of the unlovely sentiments that break the 10 Commandments — could have no play in thought and no power to tempt. All because first I’d prayed for my affections to be fed!
The mighty power that delivers us from evil, it turns out, is the tender Love that said to Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). This was the anointing that sealed him from hate. It is the Father of lights who says to you and me, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3).
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
For God is infinite, all-power, all Life, Truth, Love, over all, and All.
Yes! Praise God! and Amen.
I was healed and free to see and receive the good and perfect gifts for me, not least of which was this precious insight.