What it Takes to Heal
James Spencer, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
A woman I read about had been badly crippled for many years. She couldn't even stand up straight. I'm sure there must have been many times when she felt terribly depressed, ready to give up. Many times she must have cried in discouragement, "Why has this happened to me? What have I done to deserve this?" And probably she hardened herself to live with the condition as best she could.
But she was a religious woman; in fact, she was known to devote entire days to worship. Naturally she was interested in a man who was explaining wonderful things about God.
This man saw her in her unfortunate condition. And in proof of his explanation of God, he said, "You are loosed from your infirmity." Right then and there the woman straightened up. No getting better. No weakness of the back. Just complete freedom: Of course, as you've already guessed, the man was Jesus.
Was Jesus' spontaneous healing method a miracle of his own day, kept forever from the rest of us? That's not what he said. He told his followers to go into all the world and heal the sick. No limitation of time, place, or person was mentioned or expected. The only requirement was, "If", "If ye continue in my word . . ." (John 8:31). If we keep right on in the understanding of God and of man's relationship to Him, we'll be able to know these truths so clearly they'll make us and others free. And that means healing now. It means healing physically, morally, mentally, socially, financially. It means healing for you and me individually and for everyone collectively. There's nothing selfish or clanish about it. Continue in the word, in the understanding, and learn to heal.
Jesus' closest pupils healed. For instance, they healed a lame man with nothing left in life but to sit and beg. With simplicity but authority, Peter and John told the man to stand up. And he not only got up immediately – he walked, he leaped, he ran (See Acts 3:1-8).
Many others around Jesus caught the spiritual impulsion that enabled them to heal. He sent out seventy to heal at one time. And there was Paul. He wasn't even a disciple of Jesus'. He didn't embrace the Christian message until after Jesus' life work had ended. But do you remember how he was protected from the bite of a poisonous snake? How he healed a man of a high fever and hemorrhage? Also a crippled man who'd never walked, a boy from the effects of an accident, and so on? This was spiritual healing – Christian healing. And the healing method Jesus used is available to each of us today.
When I was a teenager, a severe condition developed in my neck. I couldn't move my head without a great deal of pain. One day during this time, I took a walk, and while I was walking I thought about God. I wasn't thinking much about the discomfort. I wasn't praying specifically about it. But I was thinking about God, just trying to understand Him better. And I kept thinking over a statement by Mary Baker Eddy, (she's the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science). In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures she writes: "The starting-point of divine Science is that God, Spirit, is All-in-all, and that there is no other might nor Mind, – that God is Love, and therefore He is divine Principle" (p. 275).
As I walked, I thought about God being Spirit, that He is All-in-all. That He's divine Mind, the source of all intelligence. That He's eternal Love. And for just a moment I penetrated beyond the semantic and intellectual nature of that word "All." I really got a sense of its spiritual and divine meaning.
I glimpsed that since God was really All-in-all, there wasn't anything else anywhere. Anywhere! There was no "outside." All there could be was the perfection of this infinite, perfect, divine Love, or God.
In that very instant I was healed. The neck didn't get better. It was healed. I had complete freedom. It really kind of jolted me. As I look back, I see it started me off on a search to find out for myself more specifically how it happened, how to heal and be healed through prayer. And what I've found out boils down to three points: discipline, love, spirituality.
Discipline Brings Protection
"During the Civil War a soldier in the confederate army was guarding the breastworks (a temporary fortification). All day he had a sense of impending doom. In the afternoon the sense of doom and fear became so strong that he decided to sing a hymn that was close to him, 'Jesus, lover of my soul'. When he came to the line, 'Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing,' all fear left him.
"Several years later he was on a ship, and a song service was held. One of the songs sung was 'Jesus, lover of my soul'. The hymn had become so dear to him that he put all he could into it with his beautiful tenor voice.
Afterwards a man came up to him and said, 'I recognize your voice. Were you guarding the breastworks for the southern army on such and such a day?' He said yes and that he had a sense of fear all day until he began singing. The other man said, 'No wonder. Another soldier and I had our rifles aimed at your head. When you sang 'cover my defenseless head' I said, 'Let's go home. We can't shoot a man who sings that'."
This story is as Mrs. Eddy once told it to someone in her home. The point she brought out was that the soldier wasn't just walking up and down the breastworks. He was disciplined to keep on guard and watch. But a deeper spiritual sense had trained him to keep his thinking on guard. This intuitively made him aware of the danger. His self-discipline enabled him to turn his thought to God's presence and actually feel divine Love's protecting care.
What a tremendous power for good true discipline is and yet, today, discipline has become almost a negative word. But can we really do without it? Isn't it lack of discipline that persuades people to indulge in drugs and then locks them into a life of crime to feed their craving? Isn't it lack of discipline that leads to sexual lawlessness, race hatred, and street violence? Isn't it lack of discipline that leads to apathy, dullness – putting up with our troubles in life and dragging them along with us, learning "to live with them" rather than learning to heal them? And lack of discipline can also lead to sick and painful bodies.
Now I'm not saying everyone that's sick is necessarily doing wrong, or that some people who seem to be healthy and happy aren't doing wrong. But I'm saying that discipline is basic to moral and physical health.
The True Meaning of Discipline
If discipline is so important to our well-being, why do we rebel against it? Why this erosion of discipline in our society? Surely, it's because nobody likes being ordered around by somebody else. Nobody likes having his individuality interfered with.
And rightly so. But here Christian Science makes an important contribution. Mrs. Eddy explains it like this: "Man has perpetual individuality; and God's laws, and their intelligent and harmonious action, constitute his individuality in the Science of Soul" (No and Yes, p. 11).
True discipline isn't something enforced from outside; it's self-discipline. And self-discipline means to obey the laws of God. They don't interfere with our individuality, but constitute it by "their intelligent and harmonious action."
This lifts discipline from a restrictive thing to a compassionate, but orderly thing, built right into our God-given nature. To be disciplined is to be really oneself.
When you think of it, isn't it logical to expect man as the creation of God to express mercy, unselfishness, kindness because God's divine Love? Isn't it logical to expect man to express freedom and inspiration because God's ever-present Spirit? And isn't it just as logical to expect man to express justice and self-control because God's ever-operative Principle? Because God's the one divine lawmaker who, according to Jeremiah, has put his law in our inward parts and written it in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33)? This law's right inside us, the core of our individuality. And it brings healing and safety as we respond to it.
One day I saw a photograph in a friend's office. It was a close-up of a beautiful swan floating majestically on a lake. Nestled on her back was a little baby swan – completely unruffled, happy, assured of its safety. Below the picture was the caption, "he shall dwell between his shoulders." That's from Deuteronomy, and the whole verse goes: "The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders" (Deuteronomy 33:12).
This type of promise was the law of God the soldier Mrs. Eddy told about must have felt in his inward parts. It took away his fear and brought the power of divine law into his individual experience. And it saved his life.
Mrs. Eddy puts it this way: "To live so as to keep human consciousness in constant relation with the divine, the spiritual, and the eternal, is to individualize infinite power; and this is Christian Science" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 160).
Understanding God's Allness
Keeping our thinking in constant relation with spiritual truths sounds like a real challenge, doesn't it? But wouldn't the rewards be worth it? Wouldn't it solve problems of hatred, violence, addiction, sickness?
To maintain that level of thinking and experience God's law in operation we need to follow some rules – just as an astronaut needs to follow some rules to take advantage of the laws of astrophysics.
One rule is to remember God's allness. When we begin to glimpse something of Spirit as the substance, the power, and activity of all, we see that Spirit is completely unrestricted by time or space. It's not subject to wastage or deterioration. We see that it's matter's exact opposite. Then the substance of all true being isn't material particles or energy, but the one causative Mind, God.
One time I was on a military base
during a flu epidemic. People were coming down with it right and left, and
spending a week or so in the base hospital or confined to quarters. One evening
I came home and felt all the symptoms. The weight of it hit me like a wet
blanket. I felt all I could do was get in bed. I did, but then I began to rouse
myself. A quiet self-control impelled me to think of that
I got right out of bed. I refused to be deprived of God's law. This took discipline, willingness to be the effect of the supreme Mind, God.
The more I declared God's everpresent love and power, the clearer was my sense of His allness. I saw that God was eternal good. He leaves no place for evil, no place for sickness at any time, and He destroys even the appearance of it.
This wasn't just an intellectual exercise, or thoughtless verbalizing. It was the disciplined recognition of God's allness. Obedience to this rule began to bring the operation of spiritual law into my experience, the law of spiritual wholeness, and therefore, of health.
By this time I was feeling a lot better, but I still wasn't out of the woods. I went on to apply another rule of spiritual self-discipline. I recognized my true nature, not as a physical, short-lived mortal but as the perfect child of God.
I remembered Jesus' instruction, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Man, as understood in Christian Science, is the very idea of perfect Mind, God. He's the reflection of omniactive Spirit. The rule is that we start with the perfection of God, and then see the perfection of man – that means of you and me and everyone.
I found I couldn't think of myself as a perfect child of God surrounded by a campful of sick mortals like an astronaut thriving in the protection of his space suit in the midst of a hostile environment. I had to expand my concept of man and see God's care and protection of everyone. I had to see that in reality man was never a mortal, sick or well, struggling along on a matter spaceship called earth – instead, that he is truly spiritual.
I caught a clearer glimpse of what Paul meant when he said, "In him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). The image of eternal Mind has to be expressed within Mind's own allness and perfection.
I was so caught up in this line of thought that I felt great love and compassion for everyone on the Post. My prayer wasn't exclusive anymore. It was inclusive. Within an hour I was completely well.
What happened was this: I obeyed more fully some spiritual rules, and at once I began to experience the supporting power of those divine laws that constitute our very being. This spiritual self-discipline – obedience to rules followed by support of law – brought about my quick healing.
Love Opens the Door to Healing
So the starting point for healing as I see it, is mental and spiritual self-discipline. But if it stopped there, Christian healing might appear cold, unsympathetic. We might think we could plug into a computer and come out with a purely analytical answer to the world's problems. It's not like that.
Paul knew. He said, "Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10). Love enables us to reach out and touch another. Love opens the door of our consciousness to things spiritual. And for each of us, the door opens from inside. Obedience to law shows us the door. Love opens it.
Jesus had the discipline to continue all night in prayer if need be. And his discipline of holding so close to the Father gave him access to the divine Love that heals.
Right after his "Sermon on the Mount" – and this wasn't only a high rise of ground, but a high point of spiritual inspiration – right after this sermon, as he came down from the mountain, a man approached him with the most miserable and frightening disease known at that time – leprosy (See Matt. 8:1-6). Not just a mild case – the man was full of leprosy. It had apparently reached an advanced and dreadful state all over his body.
Now here was Jesus with thousands of people around him. He'd just declared such remarkable things as: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). ". . . pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matt. 6:6). ". . . if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light" (Matt. 6:22). He'd come from this mountaintop experience, having spoken with authority. And here, as if saying, "Prove it!" was a tragic cast-off from society. And he said to Jesus, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean."
Simple faith. Complete trust in the power of Spirit to heal. He didn't say, "Do something for me if you can," or "Help me believe." He said, "You can heal me if you just will."
Remember that leprosy was thought to be highly contagious. By Mosaic law lepers were untouchables, completely separated from society. What was the first thing Jesus did? He touched him! He put his hand out and touched him, probably to the horror of those around. Jesus simply said, "Be clean," and the man was clean. No getting better. No slow regrowth of flesh. The man was well.
The mere words, "Be clean," didn't heal the man. It was the love manifest in Jesus' fearless touch. The mere physical contact didn't heal, but the underlying consciousness of man's imperishable spiritual purity. In this purity what can contaminate or be contaminated?
In this healing Jesus' proved his teaching that when your eye is single, or fixed on God in His perfection and on man as expressing this perfection, your whole body's full of light. You embody the purity of divine Truth – the timeless power and perfection of God. Jesus' understanding of these facts touched the leper and healed him.
Love That Expresses Divine Love
I'm sure you realize the love I'm speaking about is more than human kindness. And it certainly isn't license to do whatever one wants to do whenever he wants to do it, regardless of its effects on himself and others. It isn't the kind of thing that lets people think they're being loving when actually they're just turning their backs on the plight of their brothers. Was it love that herded the lepers into unlivable hovels and caves? No, but it was love that reached out to touch the heart, and mind, and body of the leper and healed him.
Jesus gave us the clue when he commanded his followers to love one another, "as I have loved you" (John 13:34).
You might think of it this way: the sunlight isn't the sun, but it's the effortless, abundant, spontaneous effect of the sun. The sun doesn't find you and warm you. It just warms – everyone, everything, everywhere within the radius of its expression. The frozen river yields to it. Sometimes slowly, sometimes stubbornly, but irresistibly. The sun doesn't create the fog. It doesn't know the fog. But sunlight dissipates it.
These analogies aren't perfect. I'm using word pictures to hint spiritual facts. The sun's limited in its outreach into space. But divine Love's infinite, everywhere. There's no outside to Love, nothing beyond its warming, healing radiance. This is the Love Jesus understood. His love was, as ours must be if it's to heal, the very expression of divine Love itself.
Universal Love Heals Individual Anger
Once in a college football game when I was playing, we were going at it toe to toe and head to head with our arch-rivals. After one pile-up a player from the other team couldn't get up. During the time out our team got in a tight huddle, and one of my teammates said, "O.K., that's one down. Let's get another one!" Incidentally, every member of my team was a Christian Scientist! One of them said right back, "No! What's true for us is true for them. And what's true for them is true for us!" Then all of us turned our thought to let the warmth of divine Love melt the anger that had gripped both teams.
We knew divine Love's protecting care operated on both sides of the football. We saw our purpose wasn't to harm or be harmed, but to play as perfect a game as we could. This meant expressing as much as we could of timing, coordination, cooperation, courage, intelligence, and so on. We saw God as the source of all these qualities – for everyone.
This broke the harshness of the game for both teams. The player was able to return to the game. We played the rest of the game harder and better than before, both sides really bouncing each other all over the field. But no one else on either side was hurt again. And when the game was over we were all friends.
We did win the game, incidentally.
But that wasn't the important part. We learned a lesson in universal Love. And
today we need just as much to know that Love's care is operating on both sides
of the neighborhood and of the
In commenting on the importance of Love, Mrs. Eddy once wrote this in a personal letter: "Love is the only and all of attainments in spiritual growth. Without it healing is not done and cannot be, either morally or physically. Every advanced step will show you this until the victory is won and you possess no other consciousness but Love divine."
The Need of Spirituality in Healing
In this preparation for healing and being healed we've looked at spiritual self-discipline, orderly obedience to divine laws that are within us and actually make us what we are. We've also looked at love, the very heart and soul of Christian Science. It all adds up to spirituality or Christliness.
Those who've been considered the most spiritually-minded through history have often been called Christly or Christlike. What does this imply?
By Christ, I mean the true idea of God, the true understanding of what God is and does, operating as divine power in human experience. And because God is All, this true idea of God must include the true sense of man and the universe as they spiritually are. The Christ, then, comes as divine Truth to heal and save mankind from ignorance and suffering. Christ Jesus is so called because more than anyone else he taught and lived the divine message – or Christ, Truth – of God's goodness and of man's expression of this goodness.
Then Christliness, or spirituality, might be defined as sensitivity in things that pertain to God. It's God-given to each of us. And just as in Jesus' parable of the talents, if we use it, it increases. But if we neglect our spirituality, we appear to lose it.
The importance of cultivating spirituality is that it enables us to respond to the Christ, Truth, quickly, because our thought isn't cluttered by materialism. It's like the clean window that lets the sunlight flow right through it. The cleaner the window, the better the transparency.
Windows don't stay clean automatically. In fact, we know they get clouded quickly from pollutants in the atmosphere. To keep them clear we've got to see they're regularly cleaned.
What clouds the window of our own consciousness? Self-will, self-love, selfishness of every kind, personal sensitivity, and of course letting ourselves be mesmerized by the biggest lie of all – that we're all material mortals and that most of us are sinners one way or the other. Whatever grimy particles would keep us from getting a clearer view of what we really are – and living up to that view – whatever they are, those particles need to be removed. We can get rid of them because they're no more a part of our true being than the dirt is a natural part of the window. It's not always easy. The window may have been dirty a long time. It may even appear as if we've been born into a house with dirty windows. But, if we're willing to go to work to exercise and increase our spirituality, we can wipe clean our windows of consciousness.
How then can we go about it?
Developing Our Spirituality
The answer is implied in this statement from Science and Health: "Spiritual sense is a conscious, constant capacity to understand God" (p. 209). A friend of mine was trying to develop his true spiritual sense. Every now and then he'd come to a mental detour in his search and be thrown into turmoil. He asked me, "When you drive along and look out the window of your car, what do you see?" I told him, "Trees, and mountains, and rivers." He came right back, "Are these material objects real?" I said, "Only within the context that there is life and reality in matter, but not otherwise."
For instance, with a computer you set up a set of parameters, or measures. And then within these parameters you input into the computer. And within the context of those parameters, you get your printout.
Now, you can be annoyed with the computer. You can argue with it. You can shake it. You can encourage it, or flatter it. You can take it to church or to see a marriage counselor. But that won't change the printout. You have to change the parameters, the input, in order to change the printout.
Jesus was in effect telling this
to Nicodemus centuries ago. He said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot
see the kingdom of
Matter is never the reality of being. Remember that one of the rules is to change the parameters. Start with the perfection of God, ever-present Spirit. Then see the perfection of man, Spirit's eternal expression, and the whole spiritual universe – which includes whatever is true about trees, mountains, and rivers. With this input, the printout or conclusion has to agree.
So if we see a mother gently caring for her child – holding it in tender affection – the gentleness, the goodness, the kindness expresses divine Love. To that degree it's real and enduring. But if we see a man beating and robbing another man, the brutality, the greed, the hate expresses the opposite of God – the carnal mind Christian Scientists sometimes call "mortal mind." To that degree it's unreal. It's not of God. And scientific Christianity applied through clear spirituality – "a constant, conscious capacity to understand God" – can control and correct it.
Healing From the Depth of Spirituality
For example, some time ago a friend told me about an experience she had many years before. This was before we had cars – if you can imagine such a time! My friend was waiting in a Christian Science Reading Room when a Christian Science practitioner drove up in his carriage with a woman bent over, much like that woman Jesus healed. He helped her down from the carriage and was going to take her into his office to pray with her, to give her Christian Science treatment.
Someone said Mrs. Eddy was about to come by in her carriage. So my friend and others stood by in the street to greet her. The crippled woman was in great pain and leaned heavily on the practitioner's arm. When the carriage came by, Mrs. Eddy seemed to look only at that woman, so great and so obvious was her need.
The carriage didn't stop. Not a word was spoken. But when it drove by, the woman straightened right up and said in a strong voice: "I'm healed! I'm healed! I don't need a Christian Science treatment!" The practitioner smiled and said, "That's how I lose my patients!" And that's Christian Science healing, Christian healing in the twentieth century!
It was the depth of Mrs. Eddy's spirituality that brought about this healing. She was a disciplined follower of Jesus' teachings. She consistently and prayerfully turned to the Bible for deep inspiration. Her book Science and Health, explains Jesus' teaching to each of us today. But we must study and live these spiritual precepts, if we, too, are to heal.
One basic question we all need to ask ourselves is, "Are we really willing to spiritualize our thought?" Are we really willing to put all the weight on the side of spirituality and not try to balance it off against pleasant materiality? No one wants the burden of being a sick mortal, or a deprived mortal, or a lonely mortal. But are we just as willing to give up the concept of being a charming mortal, or a successful mortal, or a healthy mortal?
Mrs. Eddy writes: "You cannot simultaneously serve the mammon of materiality and the God of spirituality. There are not two realities of being, two opposite states of existence. One should appear real to us, and the other unreal, or we lose the Science of being" (Unity of Good, p. 49).
A Christian Science practitioner received a call from a woman who was helping to bring up her grandson. The young boy was burning up with fever. He had been unable to retain food for several days and now had lapsed into periods of delirium. During the long night there were several calls to the practitioner. One time the grandmother's fear was almost overwhelming when she said in desperation, "God's always taken care of us. I hope He doesn't forsake us now."
In that call of desperation the practitioner sensed the root problem – duality, a belief in two opposite states of existence, the belief that God comes to look after a mortal creation. The practitioner utterly rejected this in his own thought. Here's how he prayed. He saw there was just one evil, not many evils of sickness, fear, contagion, deterioration. That one evil was the belief in a power and presence apart from eternal Mind, God. He saw there was in Truth just one reality – God and His perfect spiritual creation, man. In God's sight this perfect man wasn't a suffering mortal, but the pure uninfected, uncontaminated image of eternal Love. Right where the material senses were projecting danger and dread, right there spiritual sense was revealing safety and freedom.
The practitioner's spiritual sense cut through the clamor of mortal mind's aggressive fears. He was convinced of divine Love's care and of man's continuing freedom. He felt this so clearly he confidently placed the case in God's hands where it had always really been. Mrs. Eddy says: "To the material sense, everything is matter; but spiritualize human thought, and our convictions change" (Misc. Writings, p. 217).
No more calls came that night. The next morning the grandmother called to say the boy was fine. He woke up completely well, wanting food, and ready to play.
I've told you about several healings tonight: muscular difficulties, protection in time of danger, contagion, anger, fever. In each of these healings some deep spiritual stirring took place either in the one healed or in the one who brought out the healing. And this is one of the hallmarks of spiritual healing. Something happens within us. Paul told us we would be transformed by renewing our mind (See Romans 12:2). The inward renewing comes first, followed by the outward transformation.
Part of this renewing comes from the recognition that divine law operates within the very fiber of our being. Man is the evidence of divine Principle, God, the true lawmaker. Man is what this guiding Principle causes him to be – well and free.
Part of the renewing comes from the awakened sense of love that recognizes everyone's true identity as the outcome of divine Love. Man is because divine Love causes him to be. And what must he be? The image of Love.
And part of the renewing comes from the depth of spirituality, the Christlike transparency of thought that enables us to be what we really are, and always have been – God's beloved expression.
With this renewing of the mind, our life, our body, our surroundings, even our world is transformed into health, harmony, freedom.
Discipline, love and spirituality are inseparable from each other in Christian healing. Spirituality, especially, lifts us out of the slough of materiality. It provides the union of discipline and love which is Christliness. And this is what it takes to heal.