Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Learning to multiply

No, this one isn't about procreation. It's about math.

It occurred to me the other day while talking to a Sunday school student that spiritual growth is like math.

Early on in your math career, you learn how to add. Addition meets your needs for a long time. You can add toys, oranges, sticks, even money. You may learn subtraction, and this gets you even further.

But then a problem comes along that you can't solve with addition or subtraction. Let's say it becomes vital to know how many rooms are in a house that's three stories tall with four rooms on each floor. Someone presents multiplication to you as a way to figure it out, but you resist. You say, "No, I can rely on addition," and you start adding away.

But then the building increases size to 25 stories, with 12 rooms along with east edge and 10 rooms along the south edge making a 10x12 grid of rooms on each floor. And, you need to know how many rooms each of 9 people would get if the building was divided up. How do you figure it out now?

My Sunday school student pointed out that you could still get the answer by adding and subtracting. But wouldn't it make your life easier to learn multiplication and its friend division?

My observation has been that there comes a point in every person's spiritual journey where the next lesson seems too hard. We want to fall back on what we already know and do it the long way rather than learn what will get us there quicker. We may be avoiding facing sin or a character trait that needs refinement. We may be resisting fixing that interpersonal problem or admitting we were wrong about something.

All this does is elongate the time we spend dealing with the problem. Eventually, we're all going to have to learn multiplication. It's the natural next step after addition. And, since we've mastered addition, doesn't it make sense that the divine Teacher will encourage us to take the next step? Sometimes forcibly?

Mary Baker Eddy talks about this property of divine Love in the context of friendship (emphasis added):

Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank? Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy; but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love. When this hour of development comes, even if you cling to a sense of personal joys, spiritual Love will force you to accept what best promotes your growth.

--Science and Health 266:6-12

So what would it take to speed the process? Eddy talks about this as well:

Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, — this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.

--Science and Health 323:32-4

I always thought "precipitate" meant simply to "cause to happen." But now I find on looking it up that it means "done with very great haste." Willingness to leave the old for the new, gladness and joy at learning the new lesson—these dispositions hasten the ultimate harmony! Who wouldn't want that?

So, take on those lessons! The great thing is, anyone can learn to multiply. Once you learn it, it's not that hard, and a whole host of problems becomes easier to solve.

And then Love says, "Get out those notebooks friends, it's time for algebra!"

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 10/25/2006 09:53:00 AM, Blogger Kim said...

great blog....and what an insightful Sunday school student!

At 10/25/2006 11:46:00 AM, Anonymous ellen said...

Loved your comparison of math to spiritual growth. Insightfulwriting!


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