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“Finding the Jewel in the Ugly Toad’s Head”
Metaphysical Application Ideas for The Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lesson on

 “Love“
for January 29 – February 4, 2024

by Christie C. Hanzlik, C.S.,  of Boulder, CO
ccern@mac.com • 720-331-9356 • christiecs.com

INTRODUCTION: GOLDEN TEXT AND RESPONSIVE READING

In this week’s Bible Lesson, I’m finding the theme that divine Love comforts us in times of sorrow and wipes our tears away. The Lesson contains many references to tears, crying, weeping, and so forth, and yet we are reminded in various ways that divine Love wipes away our tears, and that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (RR, Psalms 30:5). Each of us has likely faced or are facing deep struggles, and this week’s Bible Lesson on Love comforts us by demonstrating that “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (citation S6, 494:10–11). In section three, we’ll see how Mary Baker Eddy–using Shakespeare’s poetry–describes the inspiration that emerges from adversity as finding the jewel in the ugly toad’s head, and thus the title of this week’s Met.

The Golden Text, or main idea of the Lesson is from the prophet Jeremiah, who relays God’s message of comfort to us: “I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn you. Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears: for your work shall be rewarded” (Jeremiah 31:3, 16). Jeremiah lived “during a bleak period of Hebrew history,” according to the Christian Science Sentinel’s Bible Lens. “During [Jeremiah’s] lifetime, the Assyrian Empire fell to Babylon, which then conquered Judah. Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jewish elite of the city were exiled to Babylon. Though he was spared this deportation, Jeremiah suffered ridicule and persecution from his own people because of his unsparing censure of their idol worship. Yet he also offered messages of deep comfort. [In the Golden Text citation] his encouragement is addressed in part to Jacob’s wife Rachel or Rachel (see v. 15), who represents Israel.”  (https://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/2cv9ds8kwsw?s=copylink)

In other words, Jeremiah lived through what Hebrews considered disastrous times, and his message is one of divine Love’s comfort and healing in the midst of trials and tribulations.

The Responsive Reading continues the theme of finding comfort and healing in the midst of adversity. It begins with verses from Revelation that, in the Bible, come immediately after a chapter about the 1000-year punishment of Satan–”the adversary”–and the overturning of all the deceivers. (GT, Revelation 20: 1-15 SH 581: 1). In the wake of this overturning, the Revelator writes, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” Note that “no more sea” is a promise, as, “In ancient Near Eastern thought, the sea was a place of chaos and evil (see note on Ps 32:6). Here its absence represents divine victory and human safety” (NIV Study Bible Notes). The revelator continues, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new…” (RR, Revelation 20: 1-15

Note the Revelator’s repeated references to the word “new–new heaven, new earth, new Jerusalem, and “I make all things new.”  According to the Sentinel’s Bible Lens, “John’s vision of a new order draws on Hebrew Bible prophecy (see, for instance, Isaiah 35:10; 51:11; 65:17–25). He uses the Greek term kainos, translated to “new,” which is actually about quality rather than time. Kainos means being agelessly fresh and vital. Paul cites this concept in a letter: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new [kainos] creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new [kainos]” (II Corinthians 5:17).

With this concept of kainos in mind, God is promising us, “Behold, I make all things [agelessly fresh and vital.”

Finally, the Responsive Reading concludes with the comforting message from the Psalmist, “ . . weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (RR, Psalms 30:5).

When coupled with the verses from Revelation, it is easy to see that this comforting Psalms–”…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”–applies broadly, in both a grand-millennial way and in an immediately intimate-personal way.


SECTION 1: GOD IS LOVE

Section 1 starts us off with one of the simplest and most potent truths: God is Love. This means that not only is God loving, but that God is love itself. Awhile ago, I had the insight that love could be defined by the feeling of connection we have with others…and that the only real connection is the connection we feel through God. God is the connection. So, what unites us all is Love and that is the only source of our unity. We cannot communicate, feel, or know anyone except through Love. And we cannot even have a relationship with ourselves except that it be through Love.

With God being metaphorically like the sun, and we being metaphorically like the rays, we are connected to one another not ray to ray, but rather through our shared connection to the sun. To feel truly connected to someone (another ray), we need to see their connection to the sun and not look at them as being a ray that is somehow floating separately from the sun. To the degree that we feel a shared connection through the sun, we can feel an eternal and inseparable connection to someone. In contrast, “mere personal attachment” is a ray-to-ray connection that leaves out the central sun–God/Love–and thus is impermanent and possessive.

This section includes Love-filled verses from 1st John, and right in the middle of them is the statement “No man hath seen God at any time ”(cit. B1, I John 4:7 every, 8, 12, 16). As I understand it, the phrase,“No man hath seen God at any time” is about causation, and means that we don’t see God–the Cause–directly, but we can see the effect–man. Using the sun and ray analogy, this would mean that we cannot see the sun directly…we see the sun’s rays as the outpouring and visible light of the sun. And with the thought that God is Love, we may not see Love–the Cause–directly, but we see and are part of the outpouring and expression of Love, and thus Love can be seen through us. For further consideration on this topic, you may enjoy this article: “Causation,” by Frederick Dixon Originally published in the 1911 Pamphlet titled “Causation.”

In Mary Baker Eddy’s published writings, she cites and expounds upon the exact sentence, “God is love,” over 30 times. (cits S12: 23; cits S S12:23 (only, to ?) A friend of mine who does not study Christian Science once described our church as the “God is Love” church, which I think is an a-okay description.

Note that for the purposes of this Met, I may substitute the word “Love” for God when it makes sense to do so.


SECTION 2: IN MY DISTRESS, I CALLED UPON DIVINE LOVE

After the first section establishes that “God is Love,” the second section emphasizes the truth that we can call upon divine Love for any need. The Psalmist writes, “In my distress I called upon [divine Love] and cried unto [divine Love]. [Divine Love] sent from above, [Love] took me, [Love] drew me out of many waters.” (cit. B4, Psalm 18: 1, 6, 16).

This section includes the story of Hezekiah calling out to God in his distress when he was dying. And, as we learn, divine Love did meet Hezekiah’s need; he was healed, and his life extended.

This healing was an Old Testament glimpse into the efficacy of prayer. While Hebrews in Hezekiah’s time did not yet seem to be clear on the concept that “God is Love,” they were beginning to glimpse this truth, and experience glimpses of the Christ-Truth. Hezekiah was learning, as each of us can learn, that “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need. The miracle of grace is no miracle to Love (cit. S6, 494: 10-11, 15).

Arguably, most of us would not seek to discover more and more about divine Love if not for trials and tribulations we face. Hezekiah definitely grew in his faith after his deep struggle and after feeling the comfort of divine Love. Mary Baker Eddy explains this as “the uses of suffering.” She writes, “The sharp experiences of belief in the supposititious life of matter, as well as our disappointments and ceaseless woes, turn us like tired children to the arms of divine Love” (cit. S10, 322: 26-29).

Even if we don’t already know everything about divine Love, Love will lead the way forward. Mary Baker Eddy explains, “Through the wholesome chastisements of Love, we are helped onward in the march towards righteousness, peace, and purity, which are the landmarks of Science. Beholding the infinite tasks of truth, we pause, — wait on God. Then we push onward, until boundless thought walks enraptured, and conception unconfined is winged to reach the divine glory” (cit. S11, 323: 6).


SECTION 3: THE JEWEL IN THE UGLY TOAD’S HEAD

The third section includes the account from 2nd Samuel in which David hears of his estranged  son, Absalom’s, death, knowing that it was his other son’s battle forces that caused his death. And David cries out, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (cit. B9, I Samuel 18:5, 31–33 behold)

What anguish David felt! And yet, we can pray, even now, and know that David felt comfort from divine Love reminding him, “Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears…For thus saith [divine Love], As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.”  (cits. B10, Jeremiah 31: 16 &  B11, Isaiah 66:12)

Mary Baker Eddy writes of David’s dark times that led to inspiration. She writes, “The Hebrew bard, swayed by mortal thoughts, thus swept his lyre with saddening strains on human existence:

As for man, his days are as grass:

As a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone;

And the place thereof shall know it no more.

When [David’s] hope rose higher in the human heart, he sang:

As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness:

I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.

For with Thee is the fountain of life;

In Thy light shall we see light.” (cit. S12, 190:21–31)

The contrast of these two selections from Psalms–the first sorrowful and the second full of joy– shows an example of divine Love’s comfort overturning sorrow with joy.

Mary Baker Eddy’s life was not easy partly because her struggles with marriage. Her first husband died a year after they were married and while she was pregnant. Her second husband turned out to be a deceitful philanderer. And her third husband, a dear man who she met and married after she discovered Christian Science, passed away after five years of marriage.

It is no wonder that her chapter on “Marriage” in Science and Health contains some of her most insightful inspirations on finding divine comfort in times of trouble. Immediately after a paragraph on uncovering marital infidelity, she writes, “Thou art right, immortal Shakespeare, great poet of humanity:

Sweet are the uses of adversity;

Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,

Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.”

And Mary Baker Eddy follows this with what is perhaps her most often quoted statement on overcoming tribulation. She writes, “Trials teach mortals not to lean on a material staff, — a broken reed, which pierces the heart. We do not half remember this in the sunshine of joy and prosperity. Sorrow is salutary. Through great tribulation we enter the kingdom. Trials are proofs of God’s care. Spiritual development germinates not from seed sown in the soil of material hopes, but when these decay, Love propagates anew the higher joys of Spirit, which have no taint of earth. Each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love. … Sorrow has its reward. It never leaves us where it found us” (cit. S13, 66:1–16, 30–31).

Here Mary Baker Eddy is speaking in universal truths to all of us across all generations, and yet she is also letting us know of her personal struggles and trials, and how she prayed through sorrow to discover more and more of the Christ-Love that comforts and soothes. As she wrote elsewhere in her chapter on “Marriage,” “…Love supports the struggling heart until it ceases to sigh over the world and begins to unfold its wings for heaven” (cit. S14, 57: 22).

While researching Mary Baker Eddy’s use of Shakespeare’s stanza on the precious jewel in the ugly toad, I discovered a testimony that touched my heart. In the 1960s, Thomas Henry Smith wrote,

“I was judged an unsalvageable juvenile delinquent by a superior court judge in a county courthouse in the spring of 1920. I was fifteen years of age. I was sentenced to five years in the state reformatory. I was returned there twice more before going to Sing Sing Prison for fifteen years. For a period of years I was in different state and federal prisons. I was revengeful towards man’s law.

“When Christian Science came to me, I was in an isolation cell in Sing Sing, having been returned because I had escaped. Someone tossed a newspaper clipping into my cell. It turned out to be the metaphysical article from The Home Forum pages of The Christian Science Monitor. I read it over and over many times. It was meant for me.

“I did not change immediately, but a light came on for me. The intelligence and good sense in the article got to me. I was a schemer and wanted something that would work for me. Christian Science began its work, and it is still working. I started a Mary Baker Eddy library. I played clarinet for the Christian Science services in prison. I became an inmate worker for God through Christian Science.

“I learned true freedom in prison through this study. It taught me that except we ourselves build the prison for ourselves there is no prison.

“Now I’m free—not just out of prison, but free. I was off federal and state parole years ago. [ I am now an active branch church member, member of the Mother Church, own my own business and have a family].

“Prison was adversity; it was like a toad, ugly and venomous; but the precious jewel—the pearl of great price—to me was the understanding of God I received through this wonderful study of Christian Science.”

Thomas Henry Smith,
Danbury, Connecticut

Science and Health: The first 125 years 1875-2000

(https://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/1kb9bxu1ruc?s=copylink)

Note that the details in brackets are from another article from Thomas Henry Smith.


SECTION 4: PURE LOVE OVERCOMES DEATH

The fourth section opens with the reminder, once again, that “[divine Love] will wipe away tears from off all faces” (cits B12, Isaiah, 25: 8). In this section, this will include wiping away the tears of Jesus when he weeps during Lazarus’ wake.

The fourth section includes the account of Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus’, who had died and been in the grave for four days when Jesus arrived on site. Mary is upset and tells Jesus that if he had been there earlier, Lazarus would not have died.

“Jesus wept.”

And the Jews said, “Behold how he loved him.”

But the weeping was not the end of the story. And weeping was not the extent of Jesus’ love. Jesus asked his fellow Jews to remove the stone from Lazarus’ grave, and then he prayed, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” And Jesus then said, “Lazarus, come forth!” And Lazarus came out of the tomb, wrapped in grave clothes (cit. B13, John 11: 1-44).

As I understand this account, and its relevance to this week’s Bible Lesson, Christ Jesus was able to heal Lazarus because he loved him beyond mere personal attachment. His love had nothing to do with the flesh, bones, and heart of Lazarus, but rather Jesus beheld the perfect man Lazarus as whole, complete, and at-one with divine Love. Metaphorically, he saw Lazarus as a perfect ray inseparable and shining eternally from the perfect sun. A ray cannot stop shining when the sun–symbolizing infinite and omnipotent divine Love–is its source. Jesus’ connection to Lazarus was through the sun, and the Christ-light shining radiantly all around the sun, united the rays in perfect harmony and eternality.

Mary Baker Eddy describes this conscious moment of awareness that brings about healing when she writes, “Become conscious for a single moment that Life and intelligence are purely spiritual, — neither in nor of matter, — and the body will then utter no complaints. If suffering from a belief in sickness, you will find yourself suddenly well. Sorrow is turned into joy when the body is controlled by spiritual Life, Truth, and Love” (cit. S19: 224: 31).

Christ Jesus clearly demonstrated that “No power can withstand divine Love” (cit. S20: 224: 31).


SECTION 5: DIVINE LOVE REDEEMS

The fifth section contains the account of Peter, in the day leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, denying Jesus three times. When Peter realized his betrayal of Jesus, he “wept bitterly” (cit. B15, Luke 22: 1-62).

Most of us have, at one point or another, felt a bit like Peter, and felt sorrowful for something we did or said that hurt someone else. Some of us have made a bunch of mistakes–even years and decades of mistakes–and feel sorrow for what we’ve done. But regret is not from divine Love. Love does not send regret. Love sends healing. Remember that testimony from Thomas Henry Smith? After reading that, we do not judge him for having been a criminal; instead, we are inspired by his redemption.

In the same way, Peter found redemption, and this is the lesson. He sank low in his 3 moments of betrayal, and yet this became a wakeup call to repentance and renewed dedication to Christ-Truth. In the same way, we can all overcome our mistakes.

In one of my favorite talks, Marjorie Dagnall, CS talks about her extreme sorrow after lopping off the bloom of a beautiful flower in her garden. Her friend who was gardening with her said, “Well, would you do it again?” Her friend’s gentle “rebuke” enabled her to move forward without regret.

In a letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains to them that even though he had needed to rebuke them harshly, they need not feel guilty and shamed, and he praises them for moving from sorrow to repentance. Perhaps no one knows more than Paul about repentance, as he demonstrated repentance so clearly in his experience. His message to the Corinthians is timeless, and each of us can take his message to heart when we ourselves are having trouble overcoming shame from our mistakes. He writes, “yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter” (cit. B16, 2nd Corinthians 7: 9-11, NIV).

As Mary Baker Eddy explains, “Like Peter, we should weep over the warning, instead of denying the truth or mocking the lifelong sacrifice which goodness makes for the destruction of evil” (cit. B21: 53: 22).

Our sorrow over mistakes leads to reformation and freedom and joy, and yet these steps must be sincere. Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Sorrow for wrong-doing is but one step towards reform and the very easiest step. The next and great step required by wisdom is the test of our sincerity, — namely, reformation” (cit. S22, 5: 3-6).

It is not our guilt or shame or sorrow that does the reforming. It is divine Love that re-forms us. As Mary Baker Eddy writes, “The design of Love is to reform the sinner” (cit. S23: 35: 30). The sinner, as I understand it, means someone who believes they are separate from divine Love, or someone who is acting in a way that makes them believe they are separate from divine Love. They may feel like a ray that is separate from the metaphorical sun of divine Love. But no ray can truly be separated from divine Love.

Mary Baker Eddy begins Science and Health with the statement, “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, — a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love” (cits 24, 1: 1-4). This “unselfed love” is loving ourselves–not as persons separate from God–but as inseparable, at-one, and aware of the fullness of divine Love.

We may wonder if we are on the mark, if we are doing right and moving in the correct direction. Mary Baker Eddy offers us a clear roadmap to assessing our progress. She writes, “To ascertain our progress, we must learn where our affections are placed and whom we acknowledge and obey as God. If divine Love is becoming nearer, dearer, and more real to us, matter is then submitting to Spirit. The objects we pursue and the spirit we manifest reveal our standpoint, and show what we are winning” (cit. S25, 239: 16).


SECTION 6: DIVINE LOVE PROTECTS

The sixth section includes the account of when Jews stoned Paul, dragged him out of the city, and left him for dead. But Paul’s fellow Christians circled around him, and he rose up and continued on his mission. (cits. B19 Acts 13/ B20 Acts 14)

And again, we have a scriptural reference of tears turning to joy. From the Psalmist, we read, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” (cit. B21, Psalm 126: 5, NIV).

Mary Baker Eddy explains that “Human hate,” like the Jews had for Paul when they stoned him,” has no legitimate mandate and no kingdom. Love is enthroned….Love for God and man is the true incentive in both healing and teaching. Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way” (cit. S27, 454: 9-10).

We are protected by our desire to do good and love well. You are never more safe than when you’re doing God’s work. As Mary Baker Eddy writes, “At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil. Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you. The cement of a higher humanity will unite all interests in the one divinity” (cit. S28: 571: 15).


SECTION 7: “SORROW SHALL BE TURNED INTO JOY”

The seventh section concludes with reminders of the joy and singing and praise we can all feel as our sorrow is overturned. Isaiah says, “Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted” (cit. B22, Isaiah 49: 13).

And John tells us, “Your sorrow will be turned into joy…your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (cit. B23, John 16:20, 22, NKJ).

Mary Baker Eddy may have experienced difficult times and sorrowful moments, and yet she found joy and peace. She writes, “In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as ‘a very present help in trouble.’ Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters’” (cit. S29: 12: 31).

Divine Love meets our needs collectively–as all the infinite rays of the sun–and it meets our needs individually, reaching each of our hearts with the comfort and tenderness we need to overcome pain and sorrow. Divine Love has no limits, no boundaries, and no restrictions. In Mary Baker Eddy’s words, “Universal Love is the divine way in Christian Science” (cit. S32, 266:18).


 

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