“Be watchful, sober, and vigilant”.
Mary Baker Eddy
(Science and Health, p. 324)
HOPE—REACHING UP WITH BOTH HANDS
From the April 17, 2006 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel
AN ANCIENT STORY of India tells of a queen who was a victim of a feud with a rival family. When the rivals “win” the queen in a wager, they attempt to humiliate her by unwinding her sari. In a film version of the story, the queen clutches her sari with one hand and reaches up to the Almighty with the other. Then she gives up her attempt to save herself and reaches up with both hands. As she does this, sari becomes endless, protecting her and exhausting her foes.
I love this message that salvation comes from putting all hope and trust in God. It can feel hard—even out of the question—to let go of material hopes and trusts, but the practice of spiritual healing has demonstrated that undivided hope in God allows us to experience a power of good that nothing on earth can equal.
A staff member in Mary Baker Eddy’s home in 1903 recorded in her diary that a fellow worker once asked the Founder of Christian Science what to do when in praying for healing you’ve done everything you know how to do without the desired result, and discouragement and doubt come in. Mrs. Eddy replied, “Shut out the senses and take the side with God; if it comes to you that you do not know which is the side with God, turn to Him alone, shutting out everything else; this is the way” (Diary of Lida Fitzpatrick, August 9, 1903, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library).
Striving to shut out everything the five physical senses tell us we need and turning to spiritual perfection as the truth are daily endeavors. We can pray to have the courage and humility to accept this discipline. It requires obedience to the First Commandment—to have no other gods—an obedience that our Maker not only demands but continuously gives us the ability and means to fulfill.
The means to turn to God are found in countless Scriptural instructions, such as, “Be sober [watchful], and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:13). Christian Science describes this revelation as a Science of harmony that Jesus proved, and that we also can learn and begin to prove. This Science includes facts such as:
- Spirit is reality, the actual substance of the universe, and is also known as Love, God.
- God’s creation, generally believed to be material or a mixture of matter and Spirit, is entirely spiritual and perfect.
- This spiritual idea of God and creation is the ever-present Christ that lifts us out of material illusion and despair, into reality and harmony.
Last year I met a woman who turned persistently to facts like these to sustain her through a series of blows that could have overwhelmed anyone: a miscarriage that caused her intense grief and guilt, a diagnosis of incurable disease, rejection by someone very close to her, and the inability to conceive a child. Before meeting her, I had read about her complete healing through prayer in the Sentinel (Trinka Wasik, “As I grew in my prayers, I was healed,” October 11, 2004, p. 17). This healing came about over a period of years. Through study of the Bible and Mary Baker Eddy’s writings, she grasped a more spiritual concept of relationships and health that gradually enabled her to let go of a more personal and material approach to them.
Two ideas she gained from the book of Job especially impressed me as important to maintaining hope during attacks of fear, guilt, and doubt. First, Job never stopped claiming his innocence. Even though he’d lost everything and friends told him it must be his fault because God only punishes bad people, Job kept maintaining his innocence. The second idea was that God is the power that defeats evil. It strains hope to think we have to fight evil with personal strength. But Job learned the assuring truth that God is both just and omnipotent.
I find these points essential in the practice of Christian Science healing for myself and others. We can’t have much hope in divine help unless we know God’s unconditional love for everyone. And to feel God’s love for everyone, we must somehow feel that everyone is worthy of it. This requires an uncommon understanding of innocence. Sure, it’s easy to claim innocence when you’re blamed for letting the cat out and then someone else admits to doing it. But it’s harder in larger life issues. For example, when you acknowledge that thoughts determine experience—and that your thoughts or those of the person you’re praying for aren’t as unselfish or pure as they could be. How can any human being hope to be judged completely innocent or worthy of healing?
We can’t have much hope in divine help unless we know God’s unconditional love for everyone.
Here’s where the idea of reaching to God with both hands helps. The human view of things is dualistic. It is predicated on the belief in evil and good, matter and Spirit, human truth and divine truth. It clutches what the physical senses say is real with one hand and tries to grasp divine reality with the other. It despairs over losing material good and asks God to restore it.
The hope Christian Science offers is in the non-dualistic view that God alone is Truth and good, and that evil is powerless and nothing; that material imperfection and loss are the illusion, and harmony the permanent reality. This spiritual view shows that a flawed human history can be redeemed and its effects healed by mentally shutting out the mistaken sense of yourself or anyone as material, and turning to God alone for the knowledge of pure spiritual identity. The Father-Mother Spirit knows and loves each of us as completely innocent, and this spiritual innocence is the only possible history of creation. Scientific prayer holds to God’s unwavering love—with both hands—until fear, guilt, error, and the suffering they cause disappear like mist before sunshine.
The second point, that God’s power defeats evil, also underlies hope. In fact, we can’t maintain hope if we don’t acknowledge God as the only power. Maintaining hope requires active effort to take control of what we admit into our consciousness as reality. Constant broadcasting that matter and evil—God’s opposite—govern life, batters hope. The Bible gives an example of such aggressive mental intrusion in a verse that might sound familiar to any consumer of daily news: “An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more” (Ps. 41:8).
Shutting out aggressive reports of disease and violence, and turning to a spiritual view, is reaching to God with both hands. It isn’t naive optimism or psychological denial of the evil happening around us. It is sober discrimination between what the senses say is real and irreversible, and that “revelation of Jesus Christ,” which includes the proof he gave through healing that God’s will is life, health, peace, and love.
Science and Health identifies the cause of despair in the world as the view that man is dependent on matter instead of on Spirit alone. It also gives the method for restoring hope: “Through discernment of the spiritual opposite of materiality, even the way through Christ, Truth, man will reopen with the key of divine Science the gates of Paradise which human beliefs have closed, and will find himself unfallen, upright, pure, and free, not needing to consult almanacs for the probabilities either of his life or of the weather, not needing to study brainology to learn how much of a man he is” (p. 171).
The Bible and Science and Health offer unfailing hope for those seeking healing, and wanting to help others find it. A modern Bible translation puts it boldly: “We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go” (Heb. 6:18, Eugene Peterson, The Message).
Jesus’ life, and the lives of many who have followed Truth, have given us reason for a sure hope. Considering his example thoughtfully, and basing our expectations on the Science of harmony, we can confidently reach up to God and expect good in all circumstances.