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The only picture that counts

From the April 2006 issue of The Christian Science Journal

AS A YMCA CAMP COUNSELOR, one of my responsibilities was to round up and feed the horses. One morning as I got close to the "alpha" horse, trying to keep out of range of its back hooves, I suddenly heard what sounded like a gunshot, followed quickly by what I realized was me crying out in extreme pain.

As a Christian Scientist, I've had many healings over the years, so when I realized that the "gunshot" I'd heard was the horse's hoof connecting with my shin, I turned to God in prayer. The first thought I had came from Second Corinthians: "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" (5:8). I knew that's what I needed to do in this situation—turn from the fear and pain to the thought of God's constant care for me.

This incident occurred about 6:30 in the morning, and since we had a full day planned, I stayed on my horse and continued to work, all the while diligently filling my thought with what I knew about God and my relationship to Him. I knew, with conviction, that my oneness with God gave me the right to reject thoughts of accident and fear, and accept only that I was whole and free, just as God made me. This helped to calm my fearful thoughts.

On my ride back to the barn, I happened to look down at my lower leg and realized it was so swollen that it was pulling at the stitching of my jeans. The picture was alarming, but I held firmly to God's view of me as unharmed. I dismounted, found I was able to put a little weight on my big toe, and rejoiced at that.

I thought about how Mary Baker Eddy spoke of God as Spirit and of us as His perfect, spiritual ideas. I knew that, because of this, God knows me as complete, unbroken, and pain free. The truth was, I had never for one second been out of God's care, and for this reason, couldn't have—and hadn't—experienced an accident. I was spiritual and whole, just the way God made and maintained me. That, I knew, was the only picture that counts!

I also saw that I had a choice to make. I thought about how Jesus never seemed to worry about what a physical situation looked like—he was always thinking spiritually. So I knew that if I looked at my swollen leg, I would have to believe in pain, accident, and days of recovery. If I looked away from my body and understood that my health and harmony were untouched because of God's ever-present love and care for me, my thoughts would change from fear and pain to joy, freedom, and health. Mrs. Eddy described my task this way: "Realize the presence of health and the fact of harmonious being, until the body correspondswith the normal conditions of health and harmony" (Science and Health, p. 412). As I did this, I saw that it was still not too late to say there had been no accident!

I was able to feed the horses, and then it was time to head to breakfast. It was now close to 8:00 in the morning, and although I'd been praying, I hadn't had to walk a significant distance yet. As if in answer to my prayer, a verse from a hymn came to thought, and I considered each line of the verse as I dismounted:

I walk with Love along the way,
And O, it is a holy day;
No more I suffer cruel fear,
I feel God's presence with me here;
The joy that none can take away
Is mine; I walk with Love today.

(Minny M. H. Ayers, Christian Science Hymnal, 139)

The first few steps I took were very painful, but I knew I could keep my thought on the ideas in the hymn, especially the fact that, since I'd already gotten rid of the fear, I could focus on God's presence and the joy that comes from knowing I had remained unharmed. The next few steps were shaky, but better, and I think because I hadn't bought into the fear and had been able to keep focused on what was true, the healing came very fast. I was able to walk the quarter mile to the breakfast hall with my co-worker, who didn't comment on any limp. I was walking more and more freely with every step.

After breakfast I walked back to the barn for a full day of horse riding, teaching classes, and barn work. I was able to do all of my regular work, and my leg didn't bother me! I rejoiced at God's goodness and care throughout the rest of the day. That evening as I was getting ready for bed I noticed the swelling was gone and the leg looked exactly like my other one.

I have had no aftereffects from this incident and, since then, have run road races, hiked hundreds of miles, biked long hours, and ridden horses many more times. To this day I cannot tell you which leg was hurt.

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