The Bible account of Noah and the ark shows him at his finest hour as a man of epic courage and dedication to God. But after the flood, Noah’s story takes a less heroic turn. Genesis 9:20–23 tells us that back on dry land, he became a farmer, planted a vineyard, and got drunk with wine.
One of Noah’s three sons, Ham, found him lying drunk and naked in his tent. Ham reported this to his two brothers, Shem and Japheth, but he did nothing to help his father. By contrast, Shem and Japheth acted with compassion. The Bible says they were unwilling to look on their father’s nakedness. Respectfully keeping their faces turned away, they laid a garment on their shoulders and backed into Noah’s tent with it to cover him.
At times when we or others seem to lose our poise and wholeness, whether because of an accident, disease, or sin, this story of Noah and his sons can point the way to healing. The sons illustrate two opposite attitudes toward problems. One, represented by Ham, sees man as material, and human frailty as reality. In the Glossary of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines Ham as “corporeal belief; sensuality; slavery; tyranny” (p. 587). Ham-like thoughts leave one stuck in problems and do nothing to help restore peace and wholeness.
Shem and Japheth, on the other hand, represent the refusal to see man as material or sensual, and evil as real. In the Glossary, Shem is defined in part as “kindly affection; love rebuking error; reproof of sensualism” (p. 594). Japheth is defined as “a type of spiritual peace, flowing from the understanding that God is the divine Principle of all existence, and that man is His idea, the child of His care” (p. 589). As one turns away from the picture of sickness or sin, the lovingkindness exemplified by Shem and Japheth spreads the mantle of spiritual understanding and restores man to his true, upright nature.
Let me give an example. I was playing tennis one day, and as I ran quickly for a ball, I felt a severe pain in the back of my leg. I stopped abruptly. My immediate thought was that I had pulled my hamstring. Many times over the years, I had heard sports commentators say, as an athlete suddenly pulled up, “Oh, he has injured his hamstring.” Often the person would have difficulty walking and would be carried off the field on a stretcher. So I had come to believe that there could be such a thing as an injured hamstring.
Because I felt unable to continue the tennis game, I saw I had a decision to make. Should I tell my three friends, who were not Christian Scientists, about the problem, or should I pray as I had learned in Christian Science? Since I knew and had witnessed that scientific prayer has a healing effect, I turned to God and silently reasoned that He, who created only good, could not make man subject to injury. I saw that the pain and inability to move freely were expressions of the world’s belief of hamstring injury. I refuted this lie by affirming that God, good, is All and that right activity is of God and could not be hampered or restricted because God made man free.
I recalled a statement Mrs. Eddy makes in Science and Health: “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all” (p. 468). I remembered also that she writes: “When an accident happens, you think or exclaim, ‘I am hurt!’ Your thought is more powerful than your words, more powerful than the accident itself, to make the injury real.
“Now reverse the process. Declare that you are not hurt and understand the reason why, and you will find the ensuing good effects to be in exact proportion to your disbelief in physics, and your fidelity to divine metaphysics, confidence in God as All, which the Scriptures declare Him to be” (p. 397).
Then, in the space of a few seconds, I remembered the story of Noah and his three sons, and especially that Ham represents physicality. I realized I was dealing with a belief in Ham—defined as corporeal belief—in the form of hamstring. I said to myself, “I am not going to get hamstrung with a belief of a hamstring injury!” I smiled—I even laughed—and suddenly the pain was gone. I was able to play a further two sets without restriction, running about freely.
Shortly after this incident, I was watching my granddaughter competing at a school athletic event. In a 100-meter race for boys, about halfway down the track, a runner suddenly fell, clutching the back of his leg and writhing in pain. I recalled my healing of the belief of hamstring injury. I said to myself, “My thought can be there quicker than the medics!” I immediately cleared my own thinking, affirming man’s inviolable perfection and unbroken oneness with God. A short time later the announcer came on the air to say this young man had had an amazingly quick recovery and was now competing in the long jump.
I am very grateful for these proofs of healing, which show us that man has never fallen from his high estate as God’s perfect reflection—or in the definition of Japheth, as “His idea, the child of His care.”
Brian Kissock is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher in Bangor, Northern Ireland.