“You call this healing?!” I cried out as I threw my Bible and Christian Science textbook across my college dorm room. I had been reading selections from these two books in the current week’s Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly. Through the years these Lessons had anchored my prayers to overcome a long-standing problem—the recurring loss of consciousness known as petit mal epilepsy or absence seizures. Midway through the Lesson, I’d blanked out. Coming to, I had looked at the books in my lap and recalled what I’d been doing. Then, I’d flung them in frustration that bordered on fury.
Afterward, the room seemed exceedingly quiet and spacious. In that vast stillness, I thought about the question I’d hurled into the air along with my books. The deep reflection and spiritual insight that ensued is one of the most vivid memories of my life.
The seizures began when I was eight. Suddenly, out of the blue, I would lose consciousness for 15 seconds or so, and stare blankly into space. It was not uncommon for these episodes to happen several times a day. And yet, I led an active life, doing what kids normally do. In the warm seasons I swam, hiked, and biked. In the winter, I ice-skated, skied, and went sledding. I also had abundant freedom. And joy. We did a lot together as a family, and my parents were always attentive to my needs and safety. There was never an accident related to the seizures.
Spiritual exploration was at the heart of our family. Both of my parents were Christian Scientists, and prayer was our first response to every difficulty.
It was my mother, especially, who helped me rise above the problem through spiritual means, and reach for healing. Early on, she taught me the difference between what appears to be a personal human mind or mortal mind and divine Mind (which in Christian Science is one of seven synonyms for God). She also helped me understand how being at one with divine Mind brings our wholeness into view.
I learned what it meant to transcend the foibles of a limited human mind—such as fear, ego, and anger—by opening up to guidance from divine Mind, which has the hallmark of courage and lovingkindness. Mom kept her explanations simple in my childhood years, telling me that my relationship to God was like the sun and its rays. As a ray of light comes from the sun, I came from God, and my main reason for being was to express the divine qualities. She taught me this verse from a hymn in the Christian Science Hymnal:
Arise, arise and shine,
On thee hath dawned the day;
God is thy sun, and Christ thy light,
Be thou a steadfast ray.
(Mary I. Mesechre, No. 14)
I loved the idea of being a ray.
With each passing year, I gained new insights into the divinely sourced qualities that I came to think of as antidotes to the loss of consciousness, such as patience, attentiveness, alertness, thoughtfulness, and listening. I tried hard to practice these and began to notice that doing so enriched every part of my life. Along the way, there were numerous marking moments when I experienced breakthroughs that deepened my understanding of what it means to be a ray.
For instance, in the fourth grade, my best friend told me that while I was on an errand our teacher chastised the class for teasing me and instructed them to never again call me “Trancer Prancer.” Mom’s response transformed my humiliation: “How loving of your teacher to protect you and teach the class something about kindness.” It occurred to me that my teacher was a ray.
Later, when I was an eighth grader, Mom informed me that I could not be on the water ballet team because the coach and the principal felt it would be dangerous due to the epilepsy. I was shocked, disappointed, embarrassed and teary-eyed. Mom wrapped her arms around me and told me that as she saw it, they were afraid only because they didn’t know what we knew—that I was in God’s constant care, guarded and guided by Him and forever safe. In her inimitable way, she encouraged me to be grateful for that knowledge and called on me to replace hurt feelings and resentment with understanding and compassion. This was part of my being a ray.
I felt heartened, matured, expectant, peaceful. And I had a profound sense of being utterly present in God’s presence.
Mom’s expectation of healing was light emanating from the ray that she was, which never waned and never failed to hearten me.
Yet, five years later, I was sitting alone in my dorm room after another episode. As I thought about it, I realized three things: I’d never once lost consciousness when it was absolutely necessary not to, the incidents of seizures had diminished, and there were times when I was able to feel one coming on and cling to an awareness of God and not lose consciousness.
Then came an arresting idea: Overcoming these episodes wasn’t about my clinging to consciousness, but rather my growing in the understanding that I’m continuously held within divine consciousness. It occurred to me that my primary task in life was to surrender to that divine consciousness, divine Mind, again and again and again.
This brought new meaning to a passage I’d memorized from the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “. . . Science knows no lapse from nor return to harmony, but holds the divine order or spiritual law, in which God and all that He creates are perfect and eternal, to have remained unchanged in its eternal history” (p. 471).
A new insight began to take shape in my thought: the idea that the trajectory of my life had always been healing—not only toward the dissolution of a particular problem but being on the path of discovering the full spiritual measure of my being as a ray emanating from and inextricably linked to the divine source of all being. In its most embracing sense, healing means uncovering the “perfect and eternal” wholeness that springs from this relationship, and I realized that’s what had been unfolding all along. I saw how my genuine desire to be directed by divine Mind had positively impacted all aspects of my life.
At that point, discouragement disappeared. And faith, lit by gratitude, filled the room. I felt heartened, matured, expectant, peaceful. And I had a profound sense of being utterly present in God’s presence.
About two years after that deep contemplation in my dorm room, it dawned on me that absence seizures were no longer happening. I couldn’t remember when the last one occurred. And somehow, I knew that there wouldn’t be another, and there hasn’t been in several decades since. That challenge had ended, but the lessons it called forth would last a lifetime.
In contrast to negative side effects so common with pharmaceutical treatments for petit mal epilepsy, the spiritual approach to healing fostered by my mother resulted in an array of positive side effects—unanticipated collateral blessings garnered during many years. They include a healing of shyness as a byproduct of cultivating spiritual sense, which involves being fully present for others and tuning in to their divine nature.
The most far-reaching collateral blessing of this experience is a keen awareness that no condition is more enduring than our connection to God, divine Mind. The link is as unbreakable as that of the sun and its rays. And this assures us that the desire to overcome any problem—physical, emotional, financial, relational—is actually a call to engage in the divine adventure of continually discovering God and uncovering one’s own wholeness as His child. During hard times, I remember this, and it fuels my faith and courage.
Happily, a majority of children with petit mal epilepsy are known to outgrow it over time. Would that have happened in my case regardless of the metaphysical endeavors nurtured by my mother? Perhaps, but I would have missed out on the transformative influence of divine Mind involved in turning to God for healing. There has been no greater gift in my life.
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