I grew up in France. I had always loved school and dreamed of becoming a teacher, but that dream seemed over when my mother took me out of school at age 15 to work in a factory. After a year there, wanting to become fluent in English, I answered an au pair ad in the London Times to work on a family farm in England and was accepted.
The family worked out a date for me to arrive. When I got there, however, the family was surprised to see me and said that they had hired someone else in the meantime. They told me I had time to catch a boat back to France that evening. I responded by sitting down on a bench, telling them that what they did to me was improper and that it was up to them to find me another job! At that moment I was surprised at myself—at the age of 16, in a foreign country, with my incomplete grasp of the language, managing to be so firm and so clear with those adults. This was different from teenage rebellion. Even though I had no real knowledge of the Bible at that time, I believe I was guided instinctively to be obedient to God’s command, much like this one Moses heard: “I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (Exodus 4:12).
The family made a number of calls to people in the area and at last found another family that would be able to take me in, but only for a few days. As we drove to the new family’s home, I was told that I must be careful how I talked to them because they adhered to an unusual religion called Christian Science. I was able to stay with the new family for three weeks rather than just a few days, and later returned to be with them for an extended stay. The mother in this family was a Christian Science practitioner, and I had a healing of an infected hand through prayer, with this woman’s loving support. (My first healings in Christian Science were recounted in The Christian Science Journal, September 1986.)
At my old lycée (school) in Paris, there were two young women older than I, whom I had always looked up to because they struck me as having such admirable qualities. My sadness at having been taken out of school at 15 was not only for my educational opportunities being taken from me, but also for losing my old school friends. When I eventually left England to return to Paris and became part of the Christian Science community there, I was overjoyed to discover that the two young women I had so admired were Christian Scientists!
Christian Science has allowed me to reshape my character into one less given to anger, impatience, disappointment, and sadness—learning to love, to be gentler, less judgmental. Coming to the United States allowed me to continue my love for Christian Science freely despite the initially severe disapproval of my family in France. My mother was even able to reconcile herself to my being a Christian Scientist and came to love my husband, also a student of Christian Science, as “a son,” as she put it. God had indeed been “graciously preparing” me for things I could never have outlined (see Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 107).
Colette Gilroy lives in Bend, Oregon.