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Habits that heal

From the October 2021 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Originally published in French.

Do you know the phrase “Life is nothing but a series of habits”? One time, my husband and I had rented a car for a week in a country where people drive on the left side of the road. The turn signal was not on the left side of the steering wheel where we were accustomed to it being, but on the right. It took a few days for us to stop pressing the windshield wipers on the left whenever we needed the turn signal! Furthermore, when we got back home and went to drive our own car again, we found that we had already gotten into the habit of looking for the turn signal on the right. We both had to laugh at how quickly the habit had become ingrained.

In those cases, we had to obey the rules of the road. So the adjustment we needed to make took  place very quickly.

But what about habits that we should abandon, but of which we are not aware?

Let’s see what Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes on this subject. In her book Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896 she says: “The nature of the individual, more stubborn than the circumstance, will always be found arguing for itself,—its habits, tastes, and indulgences. This material nature strives to tip the beam against the spiritual nature; for the flesh strives against Spirit,—against whatever or whoever opposes evil,—and weighs mightily in the scale against man’s high destiny” (p. 119).

This is taking things well beyond driving habits. It speaks to our very nature, which Jesus proved to be spiritual and pure. In her primary book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mrs. Eddy writes about the need to “set aside even the most cherished beliefs and practices, to leave all for Christ” (p. 141).

It’s an impactful statement, isn’t it? How often do we honestly pray to know which thoughts and actions we should give up in order to obey Jesus’ divine precepts for living and healing?

The light and love of our Father-Mother God is here to lift us out of unhelpful ways
of thinking.

Let’s take a closer look at one of Jesus’ precepts: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). He said this, by the way, in response to his disciples’ question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Here are a few of the qualities we might attribute to children: enthusiasm, curiosity, creativity, innocence, receptivity, joy, confidence, love. And children don’t worry. Such qualities are inherent in all of us as children of God, our Father-Mother, who always tenderly cares for each one of us. Our divine Parent “shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone,” as we read in the ninety-first Psalm (verses 11, 12).

But sometimes we may not be feeling those joyful, childlike qualities. We may have gotten into the habit of cultivating anxiety, uncertainty, fear in general, distrust of our own abilities. But the light and love of our Father-Mother God is here to lift us out of those unhelpful ways of thinking. Mrs. Eddy explains: “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, pp. 323–324).

One of my sons, when he was about four years old, had an earache one day. He wanted to go out and play with the other kids, but he was too uncomfortable to do so. As he sat on the couch crying, I sat down next to him to comfort him. We talked about God’s limitless love. I assured him that this loving God could certainly never let him suffer.

He looked at me in surprise. His expression instantly changed from sorrow to joy. He said: “Oh, really? Well, then I can go out to play, right?” And then he was already putting on his shoes. There was no more discomfort or indication of an earache after that.

This little boy had so willingly left the “false landmarks”—in other words, the notion that he could be anything less than the cared-for child of God, good—to accept the truth regarding his spiritual being. He hadn’t even questioned it in any way! And he’d been healed, right then.

We don’t have to be literal children to experience this. I once helped care for an elderly lady for a while in my capacity as a Christian Science nurse. She lived on her own and had trouble getting around. I visited her once a week to read the Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly with her, go shopping with her, etc. She was often depressed and had gotten into the habit of believing that if she died, all her problems would be solved.

I did my best to see this lady in her true light—the light that represents divine Truth, Life, and Love. As a perfect, spiritual idea of God, none of us can ever lose the childlike qualities of freedom, joy, lightheartedness, and trust in good. We are all capable of overcoming limiting mental habits that would keep us from expressing these qualities without reservation.

And I began to notice changes. For example, she started to put more care and effort into getting dressed to go out. She made future plans for herself, including how she could help make others happy. She became active and cheerful, facing the future with joyful expectancy.

A final quality I would like to discuss is innocence—childlike innocence.

Let’s go back to the Bible. There are a number of places where God is referred to as the Shepherd. A shepherd keeps the sheep, who listen for and trust the voice of their shepherd. In the Glossary of Science and Health, a chapter that includes spiritual definitions of biblical terms, sheep is defined as “innocence; inoffensiveness; those who follow their leader” (p. 594). When we are receptive to the care and guidance of our divine Shepherd, blessings ensue.

One of my adult sons called me one evening and asked if I could pray for him. He said he’d been unable to swallow properly, for a few days, which prevented him from eating or sleeping normally.

My search for inspiration led me to the Gospel according to John, which refers to the “good shepherd” (see chap. 10). There I read that the good shepherd—the Christ, Truth—calls his sheep by name and leads them out, and that they follow him because they know his voice. Each of us is one of these innocent sheep. Our innate spiritual sense enables us to hear the Christly message that says, “You are innocent; you are My beloved child; don’t be afraid.” I affirmed that this was true for my son, too.

The next day my son came over for lunch, and he ate normally. He also mentioned that he had ended up sleeping like a log.

What better conclusion could I share than this passage from Miscellaneous Writings: “Beloved children, the world has need of you,—and more as children than as men and women: it needs your innocence, unselfishness, faithful affection, uncontaminated lives. You need also to watch, and pray that you preserve these virtues unstained, and lose them not through contact with the world. What grander ambition is there than to maintain in yourselves what Jesus loved, and to know that your example, more than words, makes morals for mankind!” (p. 110).

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