Belief or Understanding?

I’ve been thinking today about belief and understanding.  Belief is a really important thing.  It’s foundational and helps establish a trust in whatever it is you’re engaged in, be it sports, employment, spirituality, relationships…you need to believe that you’re at least fairly safe doing what you’re doing, that there’s a point to what you’re doing, and that you can trust those around you.  Belief is a pretty vital thing!

But is it the culmination of our experience?  Is belief all we need?

I was thinking about this question in terms of a pastime I’ve really come to enjoy: board games.  Fairly frequently, I play a new board game with a friend, and I need to rely on his teaching of the game.  I believe that he is teaching me correctly and that by following the rules he lays out, I can play a successful game.  However, if I only stick with believing what he says and playing completely based off his moment-by-moment instruction, I will only ever be able to play that game when he is there.  In other words, I can have a good time in that specific situation but I can’t go anywhere with it.

Recently, Lindsey and I have gotten some new board games.  I’ve since read the rules several times and every time my wife and I play, I keep the rule book handy so I can continue to broaden my understanding of the games.  Not only do I believe that the rule book is teaching me the proper way to play, but I’m understanding how the game intrinsically works so that I can learn to deepen my strategy and teach it successfully to others.  I still needed to believe that the rule book wasn’t deceiving me, but I was also committed to understanding all the mechanics of the game and not just play on a surface level.  Interestingly, as I understand the game more and more, my belief in the wisdom of the structure and presentation of the rules has also continued to grow.

What this analogy showed me is that belief and understanding have quite a crucial difference.  With belief, I can be quite secure right here.  With understanding, I can continue to grow and learn – I’m not left in the same mental place I was before.

After this thought process, I looked up the words “belief” and “understanding” in Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, written by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science.  This statement caught my eye: “Practice not profession, understanding not belief, gain the ear and right hand of omnipotence and they assuredly call down infinite blessings.” (page 15, line 28)  I’m seeing that belief, if not pursued into understanding, leaves me feeling sort of like a spectator, pleading with the concept of a separate God to do something I believe He can do.  On the other hand, understanding the immediate presence of God, divine Love, allows me to listen to Him each moment as He tells me what He knows, and about who He is.  Understanding is an active thing, not a passive event.  If I understand that God is Love, I can respond to that, instead of waiting to see what God will do while I just sit back and believe He is there somewhere.

I do need to be discerning in what I look to for this understanding.  If I want to learn how to play my new board game, I can’t keep picking up the rule book to Monopoly.  Likewise, if I want to understand my health more clearly and see a healing demonstrated, I can’t keep staring at what seems to be wrong.  “For right reasoning there should be but one fact before the thought, namely, spiritual existence.” (Science and Health, page 492, line 3)  My understanding that God, Love, has never made me able to be sick, injured, sad or confused, is the consciousness that brings healing.  I can’t heal by looking at a problem, holding it firmly in thought, and then trying to justify how omnipotent God, good, can coexist with something unlike Him.  I start with the foundation (the rules of the board game, the divine laws of God…) and then I stick with them!  This obviously makes playing board games more fun, since it’s not a muddle of confusing games, and it also makes healing fun (and supremely effective).  Every healing involves a deepening of my understanding, of my consciousness of God as infinite Love, and the Christ comforter, always present and cleansing thought.  We’re never left where we (thought!) we started.

Again, Mrs. Eddy describes this concept perfectly, on page 258 of Science and Health: “God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis.”  What a foundation!  I’m so grateful for these effective healing messages.  Thanks for rejoicing along with me today!

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