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Taking a decisive first step in healing

From the October 2022 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Healing through prayer is practical. It relies, like any functional system, on basic, applicable laws. These laws are found in the Bible, and they are spiritual and eternal because they have their foundation in Spirit, which is the divine Principle, God. Such laws enable us to work out the most important questions of existence, such as what actually has substance and what merely appears to be substantial. 

In the practice of prayer, the law of the First Commandment, which says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3), is the defining key to reality and Christianity, with which to differentiate permanent truth from temporary misconceptions. 

The Bible also cogently exposes the way evil deceives, confuses, and manipulates human perception. The story of Adam and Eve shows how deceit—represented by the serpent—preys on ignorance (see Genesis 3). Without a firm understanding that there is only one God—one power and intelligence—Adam and Eve were vulnerable to the deceptive suggestion that God was not all and to the consequences of believing this lie. But if we know and adhere to the First Commandment, the law of God’s allness, we are not ignorant and cannot be deceived. Applying the truth of this fundamental law, we can detect a false suggestion quickly, and find security and be clear-minded about our health and our safety.

Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “To decide quickly as to the proper treatment of error—whether error is manifested in forms of sickness, sin, or death—is the first step towards destroying error” (p. 463). This decisive “first step” is essential to propel and steer our treatment of a challenging situation and to resolve it harmoniously. 

By quickly perceiving the applicable laws of Spirit, we avoid giving “other gods”—resistance, fear, discord, or disease—the opportunity to dominate us, or to assume a history, power, cause, or genuine existence outside of the one God, good. And while we need constant alertness, we certainly do not need anxiety, which can lead us to see danger where there is none and miss an actually needed warning. Confident composure is maintained through spiritual clarity, not careless complacency.

Decisive, immediate, and effective action characterized the healing work Christ Jesus accomplished and instructed his followers to do. This capable alacrity came from his single-minded obedience to spiritual law. He instinctively turned to only one source, Spirit, for the facts at hand. 

By contrast, ambivalence or apathy about a situation tends to leave us vacillating and even becoming anxious. These states of thought conjure up fear and confusion instead of perceiving the calm, steady insights that lead to wise and productive decision-making. 

When Jesus approached a man at the pool of Bethesda who had been an invalid for 38 years, and had most likely wavered between hesitant hope and helpless despair much of the time, he directly told him, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:8). This direction was certainly not a harsh lack of care, but rather a deft and defiant dismissal of disease as a power outside of God, and an instant affirmation of the truth about God’s image and likeness. The man immediately got up and walked. Roused by Jesus’ firm, forthright allegiance to God as the only power, he was able to literally take a decisive first step.

How marvelous and empowering that God has given us His Word so that we can quickly know what is constructive and dependable and true. Thinking consistently from this basis, we have dominion over vacuity, disease, discord, and deception because we are utilizing our spiritual sense and honoring God’s law. This clear vision reveals the spiritual facts right where wavering, conjectural, material sense can only guess at what is real or be duped by false appearances. 

Some years ago, as a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship, I was invited by a church in South Africa to give a talk on Christian Science. I was looking forward to this opportunity to share ideas on how the power of God, Love, keeps humanity safe. On the day of the talk, however, I opened the door to leave the apartment where I was staying, and I found a green mamba snake lying lengthwise across the entire threshold. Green mambas are considered very venomous and tend to hide and ambush their prey. 

For a moment I felt trapped. I could not see my host, and there was no cellphone reception to contact her. But then I quickly remembered the ideas that had inspired me that morning while reading the weekly Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly. The passages that were in the Lesson were all focused on the spiritual power of good to overcome evil, and that morning I had felt prompted to study the full Lesson twice.  

By quickly perceiving the applicable laws of Spirit, we avoid giving “other gods” the opportunity to dominate us.

Although I had bare ankles, a clear thought came to me that I could safely step over the mamba. As I did, it slithered out and slipped through the wooden slats of the deck, falling three stories to the ground where it disappeared into the brush—almost like a graphic illustration of Christ Jesus’ words included in the Lesson I had just read, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18). An unexpected and potentially dangerous obstacle directly in my path had literally fallen away when I was willing to step forward without fear. This ability to go forward fearlessly is what Jesus promised his disciples: “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19). The same is true for all who follow the Christ.

When I arrived at the lecture venue, the little group of church members began expressing disappointment because no one had responded to their invitations to the talk. Some even suggested we might cancel the event. But buoyed by the ideas in the Bible Lesson and my recent snake bypass, I felt invigorated to counter this discouragement with decisive expectancy. We agreed to begin, and during the talk two separate groups of passersby walked in off the street, stayed to listen, and asked searching questions at the end. The host members were thrilled and felt uplifted and expectant of more progress. There was a complete change of atmosphere.

In both of these situations, a higher expectation of good led to a reversal of feeling trapped by obstacles. These higher expectations didn’t come from human assessments of the situations. It was the Christ, divine Truth, present on the scene that lifted thought up and out of fear or despondency. When such obstacles are confronted with spiritually based trust, they turn into blessings—the truth of what God has indeed created.

Through Christian Science, we can put into practice our God-given understanding of spiritual law and of the power of Christ, to navigate safely along life’s road. This Science addresses and resolves individual crises, and has a decided healing influence on issues such as social fragmentation, stagnant economies, political injustices, and all the underlying uncertainties and insecurities of a fragile material existence.

We don’t need to be alarmed if challenging events seem to thwart our good intentions. It simply means a mortal view of life is being exposed and demolished by our adherence to immortal Truth. A wholehearted commitment to God brings evil out from cover and calls forth our courage, unselfishness, foresight, and love. What a powerful, dependable propulsion forward our prayers are, leading us into more fulfilling lives, greater opportunities, freer and more active being.

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