Perfection that’s possible
Published in the December 2, 2019 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.
A lifelong friend and I were chatting in a cafe. She asked me some questions about Christian Science, and when one of my responses included the word perfect, she commented, “It’s a lot of pressure to be perfect. Why would you want to be perfect all the time? I certainly am not perfect, nor do I want to be.”
I completely understood her point. Trying to be perfect every day would be exhausting. However, we were using the same word but with two different definitions. She thought I was referring to perfectionism, which is the refusal to accept anything short of human perfection. But in my study of Christian Science, I’ve learned about spiritual perfection, something each of us has from God. Human perfection is short-lived and inconsistent, whereas the perfection we find in God is eternal and constant—and striving to express it improves our human character and experience.
Mary Baker Eddy echoes Genesis 1 in the Bible when she writes: “God creates man perfect and eternal in His own image. Hence man is the image, idea, or likeness of perfection—an ideal which cannot fall from its inherent unity with divine Love, from its spotless purity and original perfection.” That's from The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany. Here man is referring to all of God’s children, who—like their creator—are, were, and always will be perfect.
In adolescence, I often felt motivated by perfectionism—to have perfect relationships, to look perfect, and to do all my schoolwork perfectly. But no matter how well I did, I never felt I could achieve perfection. I stopped even wanting to try new things because I knew I wouldn’t be perfect at them.
I decided to listen for what God knew about me. An angel message, or thought from God, made it crystal clear: “It’s not your job to become perfect.” It all clicked. God saw me as already perfect. I’d been holding on to a false sense of responsibility, as if it were up to me to make perfection happen. My thought shifted from focusing on human perfection, based on what others thought of me, to my natural, God-given, God-maintained reflection of spiritual perfection. I saw tremendous improvements in many areas of my life as I recognized that glorifying God’s perfection in my life was my only job.
When I saw that my perfection was in God, it was clear that it wasn’t about accepting matter as perfect. If it were, we’d not brush our hair or teeth, never have our hair cut, and head to wherever we are going in our pajamas. But with the understanding of God as our source of spiritual perfection in thought, we see that our unique expression of perfection includes qualities such as order, beauty, grace, and joy. This brings confidence in God rather than the unreliable belief of security in matter or of a self apart from God. Learning more about how God created his children shows us all that we could never in reality be slaves to human perfectionism. In my case, friends even commented on the noticeable positive change in me with this lifting of an obsession with perfectionism.
Simultaneously, there was another healing—of something I wasn’t even specifically praying about! For a couple of years, I had a skin condition on my face, an appearance of imperfection that was challenging for me. One day as I was walking and taking in the beauty around me, I felt great gratitude and peace. The words, “You are free!” came clearly to thought. It wasn’t, “You are now free.” It was a clear declaration that I had always been free from the skin condition and anything else that would try to hide my spiritual perfection. This understanding removed any belief in the reality of this imperfection, and I was free.
This healing points to an idea in Psalms confirming that I could “hope in God: … who is the health of my countenance, and my God." Countenance means face (or expression), so our outward expression to the world of the perfection of God reflects the perfect “face” of God. The standard for our expression of perfection is God’s image and likeness, rather than a human expectation or judgment. As evidenced in the healing of the skin condition, understanding spiritual perfection brings healing.
One of Mrs. Eddy’s household workers remembers her saying, “Don’t try to please me, but strive to please God; and when your work is pleasing to Him it will be well done.” When our motive is to please others through human perfectionism, we never feel completely satisfied. When our motive is purely to please God, we express His perfection naturally and are satisfied. Simply being God’s perfect expression is not only possible, it’s the reality of everyone’s existence, and this understanding can bring peace and fulfillment.
A full grasp of our divine perfection is not going to come all at once, though. Mrs. Eddy writes in Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, “Perfection, the goal of existence, is not won in a moment; and regeneration leading thereto is gradual, for it culminates in the fulfilment of this divine rule in Science: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ ” Keeping in thought the fact of our spiritual perfection and the goal of expressing it, we are directed forward rightly.
I’ve sometimes resisted the thought of growing spiritually because I was afraid this newfound understanding of perfection would isolate me from others—that the more I learned about my perfection in God by reading Science and Health and the Bible, the more I’d see others’ shortcomings. I didn’t want to feel disconnected from my friends because of this metaphysical study. However, it turned out to be just the opposite. The more we see our own spiritual perfection, the easier it becomes to see God-given perfection in others. This brings us closer to others rather than dividing us, because it makes loving everyone more natural.
If we accept that another’s true identity is less than perfect, then we are holding the door wide open to believe the same for ourselves. But our prayerful thought blesses and lifts everyone we come into contact with, and this brings healing.
Although my friend was initially skeptical about the idea of spiritual perfection, since our conversation she has asked Christian Scientist friends for help and has found healing. Recognizing God as the source of perfection helped her to see that perfection is, in fact, attainable. We all can prove these words written by Mrs. Eddy: “According to Christian Science, perfection is normal,—not miraculous.”