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Self-defense class

From the November 26, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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Ahhh. Sunday morning. A day to sleep in, stay in your pajamas, kick back. Uh oh. Your mom’s calling you to get up and dressed for Sunday School. Major bummer.

Sound familiar? But maybe you don’t feel this way. Maybe you like Sunday School and don’t mind the weekly trip to your Christian Science church. I hope you do.

Because look at what you’re learning week after week, year after year. You may not even realize you’re learning it, but you are. You’re learning self-defense. Not the karate or boxing kind of self-defense, but a kind that is more practical. You’re learning how your understanding of God enables you to defend your thinking. Don’t believe me?

Let’s consider the movie The Karate Kid. It was remade a few years ago. But I’m going to talk about the original one since I’m more familiar with that one. In the movie, the main character, Daniel, moves with his mother to Los Angeles. There he soon becomes the target of some bullies who terrorize him. It happens that Daniel lives next door to a martial arts master. Mr. Miyagi agrees to teach him karate, but only if Daniel promises to obey everything he’s told to do without question.

First, Mr. Miyagi puts Daniel to work washing and waxing his cars. Mr. Miyagi is very specific about how he wants it done, and Daniel works into the night. The following day, Mr. Miyagi gives Daniel the task of sanding his deck—again with very specific movements. Next, Daniel is told to paint Mr. Miyagi’s big fence according to his instructions. Finally, Daniel has had enough. He thinks he hasn’t learned anything and Mr. Miyagi has just used him as a source of free labor. When Daniel confronts his teacher, Mr. Miyagi shows him how all the movements he’s been doing in performing these tasks are defensive blocks. And Daniel’s been practicing those blocks without even realizing it. I won’t give away the rest of the movie in case you want to watch it.

Now, what does that have to do with what you’re doing in Sunday School week after week? Somewhere along the line, a Sunday School teacher probably taught you the Ten Commandments that Moses gave us from God. You may even know them by heart. Have you ever considered that those rules for living can protect you when you’re obedient to them? You may not even realize what you’re being protected from. But your obedience to those Commandments can serve as a sort of defensive block to thoughts or actions that would try to pull you away from God, good.

You’re probably familiar with the Beatitudes, too. (Thank a Sunday School teacher.) Why are they important? Because the qualities Jesus taught through the Beatitudes—qualities like meekness, purity, mercy—open your thought naturally to God. And those qualities block out attitudes like arrogance and pride that tend to blind us to God’s presence. 

What about the seven synonyms for God? Through her study of the Bible, Mary Baker Eddy (the woman who started the Christian Science Church) found seven words to describe God. And she shared them in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Those words are Life, Truth, Love, Principle, Mind, Soul, and Spirit (see p. 465). You’ve probably been hearing about them since you were old enough to toddle into Sunday School. Consider how they could be used to defend yourself.

Let’s say the thought occurs to you that you’re overweight or you’re unattractive in some way. That’s a bullying thought. Use the synonym of Soul to block it. The Bible says you are made in the image and likeness of God (of Soul). Soul is the source of beauty, grace, balance. You
reflect those qualities. The presence of Soul in your thought blocks any suggestion of unloveliness.

Suppose the thought occurs to you that you’re bad at math or reading. That’s another bullying thought. Use the synonym of Mind to block it. Is there anything Mind (God) can’t understand? Of course not. Remember—you’re the image of God. You express God’s intelligence, understanding, perception. The Bible reassures us: “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130, New King James Version). The presence of Mind blocks any thought of being confused or lacking ability.

How about when thoughts of illness come to you? You’ve got defensive blocks: Spirit gives you energy, Life gives you health, Truth destroys the lie that you can feel the presence of something other than God. Don’t let thoughts of sickness take over when you’ve got what it takes to defend yourself. 

cartoon of a dog with boxing gloves
Carolyn Decillo—Staff

I first started connecting all these dots myself when I was about 12. I’d gone on and off to Sunday School all my life (when we lived near one). And I’d heard all the same things you’ve probably heard. But I didn’t really get what it could all mean to me until the first time I actually prayed for myself.

I had developed a skin condition on my neck. My dad wasn’t a Christian Scientist and applied some medicine to my neck. The condition disappeared. Cool, I thought, that was easy. But then it came back. The medicine hadn’t worked. It was time for a different kind of medicine. Spiritual medicine. I’d never prayed for myself before, but now it was time to start.

I thought about some of the things I’d learned in Sunday School. I’d learned that the quality of our thinking is important—that it determines the way we feel. It occurred to me that I’d been feeling awfully irritated at one of my little brothers—kind of like the way my neck felt. It seemed to me that he spent a lot of his time making my life miserable. It was time to block those thoughts that clearly weren’t from God and replace them with thoughts that were. I spent some time thinking about the idea that both of us were children of God. Therefore my brother couldn’t be a pest, and I couldn’t be irritable. Then I forgot about my neck. The next time I thought about it, the skin condition was gone. I was healed. And I was a lot less annoyed with my brother. Those Sunday School lessons sure kicked in when I needed them.

The lessons you’re learning each week will kick in for you, too, when you need them. So you’ll be all ready to head off to your self-defense class (Sunday School) this week, right? You may even be the one rousing your parents so they can get you there!

Debbie Whitler lives with her husband, three kids, and many animals in Goodyear, Arizona.

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