When asked what can be done about the epidemic of drug abuse, some people respond that it doesn’t affect them specifically so they don’t really need to be concerned. Others say that the problem is too big, so what’s the point in even trying to help? Yes, there are many unselfish citizens and first responders in our communities who dedicate their time to tackling this issue, with some good results. But what if we feel somewhat removed from the issue and aren’t sure how we can be of service?
There’s something that people who are studying Christian Science can do right now that can make a difference. It requires unique courage and compassion, an undaunted love for our fellow man, and a commitment to seeing each person’s God-given integrity. Inspired by a spiritual understanding of God, and of man as God’s reflection, we can feel motivated to regularly take moments to pray about this issue until we see results.
I’m reminded of a parable Christ Jesus used in his teachings known as the parable of the prodigal son (see Luke 15:11–32). A man has two sons, and one of them asks his father for his inheritance earlier than usual. The father gives it to him, after which the son takes it, leaves home, and foolishly spends his inheritance on “riotous living,” as Jesus described it—or hard partying, as we might call it today. The money runs out, and a famine comes to the land; the son has nowhere to go, so he ends up working for a farmer who sends him out to feed his herd of swine. Because the son has no way to get normal food, he starts eating the husks he is feeding to the swine. The situation looks utterly hopeless.
At that point the Scripture says that the son “came to himself”—he wakes up, and reasons that he’d be better off going home and becoming a hired servant in his father’s house. Now repentant, the son returns home to apologize to his father and ask if he can become one of his servants.
It’s the response of the father when the son returns that merits our consideration here. The parable says that the father sees the son coming a great way off. But he doesn’t stand there and wait for his son to come crawling back so he can pour out his wrath on him and make him feel ashamed. No, he has compassion: He runs to his son, throws his arms around him, kisses him, and surrounds him with love! It’s an amazing account, so atypical of what one might expect, and it got me thinking more deeply about the qualities of such a father.
We received a call informing us that our son had overdosed on drugs and was now unconscious.
Although the parable doesn’t delve into what the father was thinking, it occurred to me that in order to have such a spiritually mature response, one needs to have a deep and abiding love for his fellow man—for what he understands man’s true identity to be as God’s child. We, too, can strive, as we’re out in the world every day, to be cherishing what we know to be true about others, and providing an atmosphere of tender caring and forbearance that enables people to “come to themselves” and decide to return home. This kind of persistent, steadfast love has the power to restore those who are condemning themselves or have lost hope.
As the father of two sons myself, I sometimes wondered what my response would have been to such a difficult situation, until something happened that clarified things for me.
Early one morning, my wife and I received a call from the boarding school our son was attending, informing us that he’d overdosed on drugs and was now unconscious.
The school’s policy was that use of drugs or alcohol was punishable by expulsion, but that was the least of my concerns; during the four-hour drive to the school, my wife and I didn’t know whether our son would survive.
Although our son had broken the rules and needed to be held responsible for his actions, so much more than anger or disappointment was being called for at that point—so much more. Every minute of the drive to our son’s school, my wife and I turned to everything we had been taught in Christian Science about the nature of God as infinite, divine Love, forever maintaining His sons and daughters in His own perfect image and likeness. We affirmed the scientifically Christian fact that there is only one Mind, God, who is the one and only cause and is governing us all in perfect order and harmony. We rejected the suggestion that man can, or even wants to, act in any way that is contrary to God’s good direction. We affirmed that there is only one attraction, that of divine Love, our Father-Mother, who is always providing each of us with all that is real, good, and true. We cherished the thought that God is our and our son’s Life, and that we have no existence, no life, separate from divine Life and all that Life includes—love, freedom, peace—without any ability to harm or destroy ourselves or anyone else.
By the time we arrived at the campus infirmary, a crowd of students had gathered, clearly wanting to see how we would react to the situation. Our son was now conscious, and we were told that, although he was going to need time to recover, he was going to be OK. It occurred to me that the students who had gathered might be expecting us to be angry, humiliated, and furious with our son for what he had done.
However, all the praying my wife and I had done on the way from home to the school caused us to feel only compassion, gratitude that our son was alive, and a deep and abiding desire to forgive him. The Christ was present, enabling my wife and me to see our son in his true light, inseparably linked with his one true Father-Mother, God—as he had always been, no matter what the circumstances were saying to the contrary.
We rejected the suggestion that man wants to act in any way that is contrary to God’s good direction.
We took our son home, enveloped him with these thoughts and prayers, and watched a gradual change take place in his thought that assured us he had turned a corner in his concept of himself. It became clear to us that he had truly repented of his actions. In a very real way, we watched a practical application of a statement Mary Baker Eddy wrote in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The real man being linked by Science to his Maker, mortals need only turn from sin and lose sight of mortal selfhood to find Christ, the real man and his relation to God, and to recognize the divine sonship” (p. 316).
Divine Love is also divine Principle, and there were certainly consequences our son had to face, including the need to gain back our trust. But seeing the change that had already taken place in him during the time he was home with us was truly heartening. And after some time, the boarding school, showing understanding and compassion as well, allowed him to return. The whole experience became a milestone for him, as he lost the desire to do drugs. While he had some more growing to do related to other forms of rebellion, his outlook had improved, and the spiritual growth and progress continued. He’s now a responsible and caring father of his own children.
Given the millions of people today who are dealing with addiction, it is vital for us to understand that they are not hopelessly lost, without any answers as to how to reclaim their lives. Like the father of the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable, it’s important for us to be steadfast, persistent, forbearing, and merciful in our approach, demonstrating the infinite power of one God, Love, to care for every one of His children.
We can be undaunted by the pictures of hopelessness, suffering, and loss presenting themselves to us regularly in the news. And we can resolve to love enough and care enough to be involved—to embrace our children and our neighbors prayerfully in Christly love; it is this love that heals and blesses everyone. This is something we can all do.
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