Whose life is it?
Life is not given or taken away by God; Life is God.
Prayer that is firmly based in Jesus’ teachings and Mary Baker Eddy’s revelation of Christian Science is a powerful healing agent. Look for occasional articles in the Sentinel, The Christian Science Journal, and The Herald of Christian Science that are specifically designed to help realize the healing results we’re looking for, explaining and correcting common misconceptions about practicing Christian Science.
Forty years ago, a movie came out called Whose Life Is It Anyway? It was about a sculptor who had been diagnosed as permanently paralyzed and wanted to die. As the movie’s title suggests, we often speak and think about our life as though it’s something that belongs to us. From that perspective, life is a thing: It can be smooth or rough; it can be short or long; it can be given or taken away.
But the Hebrew Scriptures speak of God as our life. Moses told the Israelites, “The Lord thy God . . . is thy life, and the length of thy days” (Deuteronomy 30:20). The profound spiritual thinker Mary Baker Eddy writes in her magnum opus, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Mortals have a very imperfect sense of the spiritual man and of the infinite range of his thought. To him belongs eternal Life” (p. 258). To be able to say that God is our life involves a radically new way of looking at ourselves—of thinking about our real identity. Then we see that life is not given or taken away by God; Life is God.
We can begin to redefine ourselves, starting with the simple idea “God is my life.”
Now, today, we can begin to redefine ourselves, starting with that simple idea: “God is my life.” Among other things, this fact enables us to acknowledge that we have inexhaustible vitality, indomitable strength, graceful movement, and endless energy.
Some time ago, on returning from a strenuous trip to Africa, my wife came down with a severe case of yellow fever. Total fatigue was one of the symptoms. We prayed together to understand more fully Moses’ statement that God is our life.
Strikingly, Life is one of the names by which Eddy identifies God, and as part of her answer to the question “What is Life?” she states, “Life is neither in nor of matter” (Science and Health, p. 469). My wife and I saw that our goal was not to do something with or to matter—a material body. Rather, we prayed to appreciate more fully that she was the direct manifestation of divine Life, God, Spirit. What a difference!
Next came the need to acknowledge her relationship to God, to Life itself. Here, Christ Jesus’ model as illustrated by his declaration “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) was invaluable. Jesus was speaking of his inseparability from his Father, God. And as God’s children, we, too, are inseparable from Him. We could see so clearly that my wife was inseverably one with her divine source, with her Father which is in heaven, that the notion of a life separate from God began to appear ridiculous. We gradually came to appreciate the idea that just as she was reflecting God, divine Life was living her.
In prayer, it became clear to both of us that to identify God as Life, the source and nature of all existence, is to turn away from the notion of life being infused into matter. The concept of a physical body receded from our thinking, giving place to a spiritual sense of life as vibrancy of thought.
In fact, we were able to relate this vibrancy of thought to poetry. Writing poetry was a special delight of my wife. She loved capturing a sense of movement and vivacity in a wide variety of artistic mediums, but especially through words. I recalled a poem she had written about the bounding joy and playfulness of squirrels, and reminded her of it. We saw these traits as God-given qualities of life, constantly coming from the source of all life, which we were recognizing as Life with a capital L. Even when we couldn’t physically see the bounding joy, we could sense what it represented spiritually.
As we prayed, the return of vivacity in her own manifestation of Life came gradually but surely. The yellow complexion disappeared; movement became natural, even joyous. The healing was complete, with no lingering effects. This experience showed me just how important it is to turn away from all the information that our physical senses are reporting when we’re focused on the body, and to turn thought instead to divine Life and its vibrant expression.
Science and Health explains: “Evil has no reality. It is neither person, place, nor thing, but is simply a belief, an illusion of material sense” (p. 71). Previously, my wife and I had been impressed by what our material senses were communicating. Now, as we turned away from those reports, we began to appreciate what our spiritual sense was capable of perceiving.
“Person, place, or thing” is exactly the way grammarians define the word noun. It’s a word that indicates substance. Substance, in turn, is a word that Eddy totally redefines. In Christian Science, substance is 100 percent spiritual; God, whom the Bible tells us is Spirit, is defined (in part) as “all substance” (Science and Health, p. 587). Thus, in our prayers, we had begun redefining man in general, and my wife in particular, as made of true substance—the spiritual substance of joy and boundless energy.
Is it possible to do this consistently? This is a crucial question. If we are not consistent, we are using prayer merely as a remedy for physical or other problems then setting aside prayer until another need arises. Being consistent in our prayers enables us more readily to recognize God as Life at all times.
According to Jesus’ biographers, the Gospel writers, he speaks frequently—even urgently—of the kingdom of God. He particularly addresses the tendency to see this kingdom as something far off—a tendency that is still common today. But Jesus assures his followers that they can and must “change [their] hearts and minds—for the kingdom of Heaven has arrived” (Matthew 4:17, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Student Edition). We, too, can and must enter this kingdom mentally, with our “hearts and minds.” We do this when we see Life as God—rather than as something given by God, which would imply that God could take it away—and therefore, permanent.
This kingdom is mental, and thought is where we perfect the utilization of our spiritual sense. Then we understand God’s kingdom not as distant but as actually here. It is here, mentally, where we turn away from identifying ourselves and others as material beings with material histories and all kinds of physical needs and turn toward an acknowledgment of all of us as God’s creation—the pure, perfect, image of Life, bubbling over with originality, activity, and beauty.
As we see this kingdom as a “here” and not a “there,” we begin to see it as our home, where “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and we begin to obey Jesus’ command to change our hearts and minds. Our spiritual sense enables us to identify ourselves as well as our neighbors and all creations of God spiritually. Nothing has a life of its own, separate from God; each is a beautiful expression of divine Life itself.
The New Testament in Modern English by J.B. Phillips copyright © 1960, 1972 J.B. Phillips. Administered by The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. Used by permission.