I used to think family meant just my mother, father, and three sisters. My concept of family, however, has broadened over time.
As a young girl, I went to Christian Science Sunday School with my sisters and learned that God is my Father and my Mother. It was so comforting to know that Father-Mother God is always present, guiding and parenting me.
When I was in my early twenties, I felt lonely at times, even though in the summer, for instance, I was around a lot of people as a camp counselor. One night at camp, I walked down to the beautiful mountain lake and prayed. The moon shone so brightly and its light was reflected on the water. I felt the love of God washing over me like the moonlight and was feeling the “deep-drawn breath fresh from God” that Mary Baker Eddy describes in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany (p. 195). At that moment, I knew that I really wasn’t alone. God would always be with me; I was part of God’s family. This broader concept of family included friends and blessed me with many family-like relationships.
One summer in my newly adopted city, I was a nanny for a young family and was blessed with being included in their home. Love was all around me as I cared for these children, and they cared for me by sharing their joy. Around the same time, one of my friendships with a young man close to my age blossomed into deep affection and this eventually led to marriage.
One of the most important things for me was seeing myself as whole.
When my husband and I decided we would like to start a family, we found we were not able to have children. I felt devastated. In fact, I blamed myself and felt as if I were less than perfect.
As a student of Christian Science, I turned to God in prayer. During my prayers, one Bible story kept coming to me as an angel message from God. In this story, Christ Jesus is surrounded by people who have heard about him. One of these people was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhaging for 12 years. In the culture of the time, she would have been considered unclean and would have been often isolated from society and forbidden from touching anyone. She was likely lonely as well as ill (see Mark 5:25–34).
I could relate to feeling despair and loneliness because of my desire to be a mother and to expand our little family beyond my husband and two dogs. But I knew I could find freedom just like this woman.
The story continues with Jesus walking through the crowd. As an act of faith, the woman touches his garment, and she is immediately healed. The Gospel of Mark explains: “And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? . . . But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”
It was beautiful to see Jesus embracing the woman as “daughter” when her situation meant that the rest of society was shunning her. Christ Jesus knew that we are one with our Father-Mother God. Therefore, we are all God’s children, with no exceptions. This Christlike understanding recognizes that everyone is included in God’s kingdom, His home and family.
One of the most important things for me was seeing myself as whole and complete, not lacking anything. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mrs. Eddy writes: “God is the creator of man, and, the divine Principle of man remaining perfect, the divine idea or reflection, man, remains perfect. Man is the expression of God’s being” (p. 470). A realization of my perfect selfhood brought me out of the despair and feelings of inadequacy.
I prayed to know that this child was God’s child and was her own person.
Over the next several months, my husband and I were inspired to apply to adopt a child. We embraced the idea of including not only a child in our lives, but the child’s birth family as well. Throughout the adoption process, we worked with a Christian Science practitioner, who helped us pray about our expanded idea of family. When a birth mother and her family chose us for adoption, we felt so blessed! Hymn No. 3 in the Christian Science Hymnal was my daily prayer. The first verse says,
A grateful heart a garden is,
Where there is always room
For every lovely, Godlike grace
To come to perfect bloom.
(Ethel Wasgatt Dennis, © CSBD)
During the birth mother’s pregnancy, I prayed to know that God’s family and this child would bloom and grow like a beautiful flower. I also prayed to know that this child was God’s child and was her own person. The birth mother included us throughout her pregnancy, and we shared all the expecting parents’ milestones with her. We witnessed many examples of unselfishness, grace, and strength. Fourteen months after we first started the adoption process, we brought our beautiful baby girl home.
Our daughter has been a tremendous blessing. I am so grateful for a much deeper, more spiritual concept of family. The Psalmist writes, “God setteth the solitary in families” (Psalms 68:6). This is a promise, a covenant, that God has made with each and every one of us.