Seeing ‘the perfect man’
Working with children who have been labelled as having special needs has allowed me to apply Christian Science to my daily life. I have learned to expect that barriers can be broken and to practice patience while working to see beyond physical limitations.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “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). This lesson of beholding the perfect man has guided me through my life, especially through times where circumstances have seemed overwhelming.
One of the times when I was best able to see the necessity of following Christ Jesus’ example was when I traveled to Rwanda. My friend and I were looking for an opportunity to volunteer overseas, and in searching for a trip, we had both been praying. We were struggling to make a choice between two trips: one to Tanzania and the other to Vietnam. As we were nearing the deadline to make a final decision, she and I came across a trip to Rwanda that we hadn’t seen before. We signed up for this trip with confidence that we were being led to our right place.
Once I was in Rwanda, I began working with a group of kids who were all orphans. They had been cast out of their families as a result of their differences. The limitations they were dealing with were often viewed as signs of “the devil” or sinning.
After my first day, I felt so sad I was tempted to never go back to the orphanage. To overcome this, I was able to take some time for myself with my Christian Science Hymnal and pray. The hymn I looked at was No. 203. Here’s part of the first verse:
O Father, may we bear each hour
The flag of hope and peace unfurled,
And mirror forth Love’s sacred power
To feed and bless a hungry world.
(Lewie Prittie Castellain, © CSBD)
This verse had a powerful influence on me. The idea of bearing “the flag of hope and peace” gave me a sense of purpose. My confidence in fulfilling this purpose was found in the lines “And mirror forth Love’s sacred power / To feed and bless a hungry world.” I could probably go on forever about how every single word of this hymn had extreme significance and inspired me to continue my work on this trip!
I was also dealing with an internal struggle of feeling animosity toward people who would stare at the children on our daily walk, but I prayed to know that “Love’s sacred power” was in charge. Each day while I was volunteering at the orphanage, we would walk out of a house onto the streets of our town. The teenagers and staff would hold the hands of the children and begin walking up the street, laughing and playing games.
Over time, we began actively expressing love and waving to the people who were staring. The children got the biggest smiles on their faces as they greeted the townspeople. It still brings a smile to my face when I think about the lessons that children constantly teach me in opening my eyes more to divine Love.
Gradually, more and more people responded to the children, and a few even came over to say hi. This experience taught me that my initial feeling of repulsion toward the bystanders who, in my eyes, were being judgmental was actually a reflection of my own thought toward them. It was incredible to see how a change of thought to loving our neighbors as Christ Jesus taught manifested itself in a more positive interaction with the locals.
This lesson of beholding the perfect man has guided me through my life, especially through times where circumstances have seemed overwhelming.
I’d like to share another healing I witnessed one summer when I volunteered at a camp for young people who are labelled developmentally disabled. The camper I was working with often tried to harm herself, and this was very scary for me.
One day, this sweet girl threw a tantrum that was worse than any she’d had in the past. The situation looked very bad. The camper was screaming and attacking anyone who tried to stop her. She had already aggressively antagonized me and a few other of the camp staff before the nurse was able to help us move her into another room. I sat by this camper’s side until she would let me move closer, then tucked her in for a nap.
While she napped, I sat next to her praying and thinking to myself: “She doesn’t have to go through this.” She was created by God, not with a disability, but in His image and likeness.
Those ideas stuck with me for the rest of the session, and whenever it seemed that this camper was going to throw another tantrum, I was able to look into her eyes and say: “You don’t have to hurt yourself. You’re perfect. I love you.” This was my way of voicing to her what I was seeing about her in my prayers. I never experienced another issue with tantrums from my sweet camper. Her behavior was flawless, and we were able to have a great summer.
These are just a few examples of how a change in my thought led to a change in circumstance. To me, the significant progress I witnessed in my camper is proof of the benefit of seeing people as spiritual, even if full healing for them hasn’t come yet. I love to pray from the basis of knowing that we are all created whole and complete by God, and that I can help bring progress for these children by acknowledging this.
Whenever I feel anxious as a result of things that take place during my continuing work with children, or even when praying about illness or social issues, I turn back to some of the lessons I learned working at the orphanage in Rwanda and working with campers at home in the United States. I am able to see that, in trusting God, everything in my life does “work together for good” (Romans 8:28).