Hems and crumbs—a search for healing

Even the simplest desire for good hints at our innate relationship to God, the source
of all good.

Two unnamed women in the Bible have taught me something about heartfelt longing for healing. 

One, part of a crowd whose traditions led them to see her as unclean or impure, quietly and resolutely made her way to Christ Jesus. As the scriptural account records, she “came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: for she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole” (Matthew 9:20, 21).

The other, despite the disciples’ protests, loudly and just as resolutely called to the Master. When Jesus pointed out that his mission was specifically to the Hebrew people, she replied, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Matthew 15:27). 

Hems and crumbs represent such small degrees of Christly power. Yet these women embodied great humility, courage, and determination—and both received healing. Revisiting their stories, I’ve asked myself how much my own search for healing patterns theirs. Do I continue the search no matter what obstacles I’m facing? Brave the disapproval of others? Refuse to settle for less than complete cure?

In lots of instances, I can say yes. One is etched in my memory because I wasn’t sure I was going to survive. During a long-anticipated session at a family camp one summer, I came down with symptoms of pneumonia. Unable to take part in camp activities, I stayed in my cabin, and called a Christian Science practitioner to pray for me. I’d never been incapacitated like this, and I was scared. 

If we’re fooled into defining good materially, we set ourselves up to believe it can be missing or at risk.

Though I yearned to be healed, the practitioner helped me see that something more was needed—an uplifting of that desire. This may sound strange, since the problem seemed entirely physical. But Christian Science had shown me the mental nature of reality, and I’d experienced or witnessed dozens of healings through a spiritual understanding of God and His creation. This time I needed to recognize my real longing as a hunger for more of that understanding, and to seek it in Christ.

Lifelong Bible student Mary Baker Eddy defines Christ as “the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (Science and Health with
Key to the Scriptures, p. 332). Exemplified fully by Jesus, Christ is the way God communicates to us. When the Christ-power is seen in this light, it’s a short step to recognizing it in action. For the two women in the Bible described earlier, Christ was an attracting force for good—and an answer to their profound yearning. Now Christ was attracting me to a higher sense of good—and answering my own yearning for healing. 

Science and Health captures a comforting truth: “Desire is prayer” (p. 1). To me, this means that even the simplest desire for good hints at our innate relationship to God, the source of all good. We’re drawn to good because it’s native to us as God’s creation. If we’re fooled into defining good materially, though, we set ourselves up to believe it can be missing or at risk—and we long for physical change. That’s when it’s imperative to learn that the real substance of good is divine, and that the loss of divine substance is impossible for God’s children. The earlier affirmation about desire continues, “and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds.” 

Lying in bed one quiet night, I felt ready for that molding and exalting action. Like the two women who approached Christ Jesus, I realized I would go to any lengths for even a crumb of spiritual understanding. So I consciously stretched my thought upward and outward in a humble, determined longing to know God. At that moment, my desire became prayer. Fearful preoccupation with the physical condition dropped away, and the symptoms began to recede. Soon I was totally well.

Among the women healed by Jesus, only these two are recorded as seeking him out. But another biblical account tells about a whole throng of people approaching Jesus with the simple intent to touch his garment: “They came into the land of Gennesaret. And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; and besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole” (Matthew 14:34–36).

If we’re fooled into defining good materially, we set ourselves up to believe it can be missing or at risk.

Reaching for a hem or crumb of divine light yields more than small bits of comfort. The Christly garment is seamless, the Christly feast bountiful. “When a hungry heart petitions the divine Father-Mother God for bread,” explains Mrs. Eddy, “it is not given a stone,—but more grace, obedience, and love” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 127). 

Even if we’ve persuaded ourselves that all we want is enough inspiration or healing to get on with our lives, God corrects and lifts our desire. Verses from a hymn describe the regenerative effect of prayerful yearning:

If we pray to Him in secret,
Lift to Him the heart’s desire,
We shall find our earthly longings
All made pure by Love’s pure fire.

Then upon the precious metal
God’s own image will appear,
Faithfully to Him reflected,
One with Him forever near.
(Fay Linn, Christian Science Hymnal,
No. 237, © CSBD) 

Remembering how I was impelled to reach out wholeheartedly to the Christ, Truth, I’m convinced that every yearning heart is being prepared to know more of God. As our desires are “moulded and exalted” by our divine Father-Mother, we awaken to spiritual good—not as just a possibility but as the present reality of our being. A search for physical relief or cure becomes a search for spiritual understanding. And both desires are answered.

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