There are no labels of limitation or material identity attached to anyone that cannot be removed by divine Love.
Steadfast prayer and a transformed relationship
A little while ago I bought some pretty china bowls. Removing the sticky labels attached to each bowl seemed impossible, until I soaked the bowls in soapy water. Immersion in the warm suds gently loosened the adhesive, and then it was much easier to remove the labels.
How often we mentally affix labels to ourselves and others, and how hard it is to remove those labels once they become attached in thought! Worse still, the individual on whom the label has been imposed may accept this unwelcome sticker as part of their identity and find it difficult to break free—may even believe the label is something they are permanently stuck with.
In the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible, we learn that God’s creation is perfect, complete, and whole. God made man in His own image and likeness. I’ve learned through studying Christian Science that the only label affixed to the man God created is “very good” (verse 31).
An image can only mirror its original. Being made in the image and likeness of God means that man—the true, spiritual identity of each of us—is God’s reflection. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy identifies several synonyms for God, such as Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, and Love. So we can see man as the expression of Spirit, the radiance of Soul, the activity of Life, the evidence of Love. Man is aware only of Truth and mirrors spiritual qualities, including health, harmony, strength, gentleness, joy—all that is good.
In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy writes, “Adhesion, cohesion, and attraction are properties of Mind” (p. 124). Therefore, it doesn’t matter how long a label has been fastened on someone, it must fall away when bathed in the spiritual “solvent” of divine Love. Love dissolves mistaken false concepts of ourselves and others and lifts restrictions and impositions, including even the most stubbornly ingrained habits and behaviors, regardless of whether they appear to be the result of medical diagnosis, heredity, addiction, or any other supposed cause.
Christ Jesus proved the power of divine Love to heal long-standing illness and disease. Among those he healed were a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years, a man who had been born blind, and a woman who had been so bowed by illness for 18 years that she could not lift herself up.
Jesus lifted off labels attached through years of false identification, and healed instantaneously. He raised the dead, cast out devils (evil beliefs), and taught his followers that they, too, could practice Christian healing.
The healing action of the Christ, spiritual Truth, is explained this way in Science and Health: “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick” (pp. 476–477). As we strive to emulate Jesus, we can pray to see others in this way, too, and this brings progress to even the most seemingly hopeless situations.
When I met and married my husband, a loving and generous man, I reasoned that his sometimes irrational behavior was the result of stress at work or financial worries. When this behavior occurred, I told myself that things would settle down once he had sorted these problems out.
But my husband had an alcohol habit, which he kept well hidden. There were periods when all was going well, and I was grateful for a happy marriage. But then, for no apparent reason, his character would change, and anger would be directed at me. As a result of these outbursts, I would experience panic attacks and was often afraid to go home.
It wasn’t until a relative visited me on one of these occasions that I realized there was a serious problem. Eventually, my husband was diagnosed as a “functioning alcoholic.” From conversations with his family and friends, I learned that this was a long-standing problem, and that many believed it could not be healed.
At first I was in shock and afraid. Family members and friends encouraged me to leave the marriage. Yet I knew that underneath, my husband was good and loving, and I felt a deep love for him and a sincere desire to see him freed. But there were also many moments of feeling overwhelmed and out of my depth.
I recall praying to God, “Father, how do I begin to sort all this out?” The answer that came was from the Bible and was key to how I was to move forward: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). I knew this passage referred specifically to Christ Jesus as the Son of God. But I also knew that since we are all God’s children, we are all capable of expressing the Christly nature. This inspiration didn’t mean that I was supposed to be OK with my husband’s unacceptable behavior. It meant that what I’d heard from God could be my standpoint—a shift away from a downward trend of thought to the truth of God’s perfect, Christly man, letting divine Love make the necessary adjustments for me and for my husband.
Having taken this standpoint to heart, I knew my work was to see the man of God’s creating and refuse to accept anything other than integrity, innocence, uprightness, and intelligence as the true character of my husband. I saw that I could affirm his identity as complete, satisfied, and spiritual.
However, it was also crystal clear to me that everyone, including me, deserves to be treated with respect. So at one point it became wise and necessary to move out of my home. I was grateful for the peace and quiet in a little house I’d found and for the opportunity it gave me to pray and study. I sought the help of a Christian Science practitioner in praying about this troubling situation. With the practitioner’s prayerful work and very loving support, I was able to hold to the spiritual truth about me, my husband, and God’s care for us both, and to make progress.
During this time, however, I became ill and wasn’t able to take care of myself properly. My husband came to the house every evening after his work to cook me a meal and make sure I was all right. He did this until I felt able to look after myself. This seemed to be the turning point for him. During the following months I started to notice lots of lovely qualities resurfacing in my husband’s character and behavior, and I felt able to go home again.
A label strongly affixed to alcoholism is that of addiction, from which it is very hard to gain one’s freedom. After 12 months of abstaining from alcohol, my husband succumbed to this temptation again. Things deteriorated, and once more I found myself leaving my home in order to be safe. Friends and relatives again urged me to cut the ties and quit trying.
I continued to listen and pray for my right steps forward each day. The practitioner did not join the chorus of advice. He stuck to helping me think things through spiritually and continued to emphasize that we always have the freedom to see God’s man where a “sinning mortal man” appears to be.
I was endeavoring to do this, whilst still living apart from my husband, when he asked me if I had a copy of Science and Health that he could use. Unknown to me, my husband had contacted this same practitioner to ask for help in Christian Science. He later told me that they spoke together each day, and that the practitioner shared with him passages from Science and Health, which he would ponder until the following day, when they would talk again. (A Christian Science practitioner’s work with individual patients is completely confidential, so the practitioner of course never mentioned to either of us that he was also praying for the other.)
The practitioner had been speaking to my husband about his status as the pure child of God, and this helped him regain his self-respect. My husband also told me that as this continued, he realized that the practitioner was doing something that no one else had managed to do—helping him find his connection to God. He described this moment as like a light being switched on, awakening him to his true, spiritual identity. My husband found for the first time that he could feel God’s power and love.
At some point I moved back home. As the weeks became months, my husband found that the desire for alcohol had left him completely. His behavior toward me became consistently thoughtful. In the years since, we’ve enjoyed a happy marriage.
The lesson for me was that there are no labels of limitation or material identity attached to anyone that cannot be removed by divine Love. The clean, clear waters of Love wash away all trace of sin and sickness and make apparent man’s innate purity. Submergence in an understanding of God, Spirit, cleansed and purified my thought, healing me, too.
We can rest assured that falsities can be lifted right off of our experience. Learning that they are never part of the man or woman of God’s creating gives us the courage to find individual answers in prayer and to succeed in life.