Lessons on conquering contagion
When times are tough, it’s natural to turn to whatever we’ve found helpful to get us through. Maybe we also look for something we can learn from others. Whenever contagion is a problem in our communities, I often find myself considering three lessons that have come along over the years to teach me about our ability to confidently face and conquer this problem.
The first lesson is about our relation to God, the infinite Spirit that fills all space. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you” (Romans 8:9 ). We may seem to be physical bodies living in a material world, but that’s not the essence of us as we are known by God. Our real identity is spiritual. What truly defines us are the qualities of God, whose nature we are made to express.
God is totally good, and so is His creation. That means we actually are perfect and whole, forever unlimited by material so-called laws of health. God alone makes conditions for man, and those conditions are always spiritual and harmonious.
The second lesson is that what ultimately determines our lives is thought. What we call a physical experience, which we attribute to material causes and effects, is a mistaken conception of what’s really going on. As the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, explains in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “In proportion as the belief disappears that life and intelligence are in or of matter, the immortal facts of being are seen, and their only idea or intelligence is in God” (p. 279 ).
This experience convinced me that there is indeed a way to defeat contagion through prayer.
Early on in my exploration of these spiritual lessons, I began having some times in which I was untouched by contagion. I recall a college vacation when the whole group I was with caught the flu. I wasn’t experienced at handling this kind of situation through prayer and so wasn’t able to help prevent the problem for my group. But I was beginning to glimpse man’s real selfhood, separate from material circumstances, and I myself never had any of the symptoms. This experience helped me along the road to understanding man’s God-given freedom from illness and convinced me that there is indeed a way to defeat contagion through prayer.
Part of this second lesson is the perception that the causes of sickness aren’t physical. Our health is ultimately related to our awareness of God’s presence and power.
A couple of years ago I got a really bad cough. After weeks, it just wasn’t going away. Of course I was praying, and at some point it occurred to me that the root of the problem was a deep concern about the well-being of the world. My family was currently healthy and secure, but I was worried about things going on around the globe and where they might take us.
I addressed this fear by praying to get a deeper sense of God’s care for His children, to see that the divine activity is always going on in consciousness, guiding us in right decisions and actions. I reached out to God and found a strong reassurance that brought a quick end to my cough. But despite a renewed sense of peace, I felt, and still feel, the need for all of us to be listening and praying together for a fuller awareness of God’s omnipresence and omnipotence.
It also follows from the second lesson that contagion is mental. Again, disease has to do with thought. It’s an experience produced by what the Bible calls the carnal mind and what Science and Health, the Christian Science textbook, refers to as mortal mind: “We weep because others weep, we yawn because they yawn, and we have smallpox because others have it; but mortal mind, not matter, contains and carries the infection. When this mental contagion is understood, we shall be more careful of our mental conditions, and we shall avoid loquacious tattling about disease, as we would avoid advocating crime” (p. 153 ).
Our health is ultimately related to our awareness of God’s presence and power.
It’s insights like these that have brought healing when my family and/or I have been ill. I remember a time when my kids were toddlers and came down with the flu. We had relatives visiting, and they also got sick. Then, on the second evening, I got the symptoms myself. I recall how I kept turning to God and affirming what I was spiritually—not a sick mortal, but a spiritual reflection of God. I knew that because God was my Maker, I expressed qualities of goodness, divine purpose, and health. Despite the material appearance, I knew this expression of good was going on unstopped. And I found myself not just thinking this but feeling it. By bedtime I felt better and went to sleep. In the morning, I felt completely well and was able to help my family members, who were starting to recover. Soon they were all well, too.
Disease is a suggestion that comes to thought, often as fear, which (if allowed) can settle into consciousness and cause us to experience symptoms. But the symptoms themselves are thoughts, and we can refuse to be impressed or defeated by them. We can throw them out as false mental suggestions and instead embrace the truth about ourselves as pure, invulnerable, spiritual ideas of the perfect Mind, God.
The third lesson that has helped me prevent and heal disease is an abiding sense of God as Love. The essence of what we are is the expression of divine Love. Whatever our situation, we can always love. Whether we find ourselves spared of a disease that’s affecting others or suffering on our own or with a group in the throes of the problem, we can love; we can express the divine Love that heals. We can hunger in prayer and throughout the day to know and see the goodness of God for everyone. We can remind ourselves of the qualities of God present in us all.
By turning to infinite Love as the true source of all life and action, and as the only actual presence and power, we can realize that we have the God-given authority to put off beliefs in anything unlike Love. Then symptoms or fears about what people find under a microscope or at the end of a swab lose their power over our thought and experience. We can nullify concerns about whether we’re symptomatic or asymptomatic or a carrier. We wipe thoughts of disease out of our consciousness and find the body healed. And like St. Paul, we can see ourselves as living in the Spirit, which is God. By living the qualities of Love, we find Love lifting us above the material sense of things and carrying us along in a life that expresses our divine purpose.