Never far from home: How I broke free from fear and chronic ailments
When I was growing up, my favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz. The protagonist is a girl named Dorothy. When she wanted to go home, she could click her ruby slippers together and say, “There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home.” And in moments, she was back home, safe and sound. Although this was imaginary, I thought it was an interesting concept—that Dorothy could just have home in mind, and then be there.
As I’ve studied Christian Science, it’s inspired me to see home as an idea that is with us wherever we go. But this is not wishful thinking. At times when it feels like we are the furthest from home, we can pray to feel the spiritual truth that we are always right at home with God. Home is actually a God-given consciousness of spiritual qualities, such as peace, joy, comfort, love, protection, and security.
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God never leaves us, so none of the good that God bestows can leave us either. This spiritual sense of home is not confined to or dependent on a place—city or country, house or apartment number; it is not dependent on person. Since God is always present with us no matter where we go, home is where we are at all times.
I learned a lot about this as a little girl. For a long time, fear felt like a very prominent and normal part of my life. This had a lot to do with being away from home, which I knew as the safety of my house. My life revolved around fearful memories of stressful past experiences and different phobias, such as fear of feeling trapped in enclosed areas and of leaving my house. I also experienced panic attacks. Because I often missed class for long periods of time, I was a part of my school’s mandatory wellness plan for children in these situations, and was officially diagnosed with agoraphobia and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Avoiding enclosed areas also greatly affected my life.
Eventually, I stopped going to school, because I couldn’t leave the house without feeling very ill. Then I stopped leaving the house altogether.
My parents went through a divorce during this time, and I felt nervous about everything. Although one parent stayed in our family home, the other parent moved out, and I moved with this parent many times. The divorce, moving, and feeling physically unable to leave the house made me feel displaced, and I longed for the comfort and peace that comes from a clear sense of home.
Both my parents did their best to love and support me during this time, and I was also going to therapy sessions (mandated by my school and the court because of my parents’ divorce). When I was in the fourth grade, after I had missed months of school, my parents decided the time was right for me to try to go back.
During a tearful car ride, my dad, who studied Christian Science, comforted me, reminding me that I wasn’t actually leaving safety and peace, because God was with me, so fear did not have power over me. That helped me get from the car into the school building. To some, that might seem like a simple task, but for me at that point, this was major progress.
I soon realized that I wasn’t afraid of going to school—I was afraid of being afraid. Fear did not have the substance I thought it did. It wasn’t long before my view of myself began to transform as I embraced the concept of God being wherever I was.
My view of myself began to transform as I embraced the concept of God being wherever I was.
Things improved, and for years after this I felt much better. But I knew the complete healing still needed to happen. When I began high school, I struggled again. For example, I was told I would be stuck with stomach pains my entire life, after years of stress and fear. For a couple of years, I could eat only rice and cooked vegetables and could drink only water. During this time, I remember a parent putting a sticky note on my dresser mirror with a helpful idea. It was a Bible verse from Second Timothy: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (1:7). Mind is a synonym for God, the true Mind of everyone, and this is not dependent on location or experience. This meant to me that I was a resilient, buoyant, spiritual, and fearless expression of God.
Being a student in the Christian Science Sunday School was also very helpful, as the teachers helped me understand that God’s love is present, available always, and all-powerful.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Home is the dearest spot on earth, and it should be the centre, though not the boundary, of the affections” (p. 58). A Christian Science practitioner once shared with me that “Love, God, doesn’t know what distance, time, or miles are,” and this is so true. When we see home spiritually, we know that because God is All-in-all, home can be found anywhere. I held on to these ideas. This healing did take persistence as I strove to apply spiritual facts to each situation that came up.
For a few months during my struggles, I’d taken medication, since some people in the school wellness program had urged me to; they told me it would help take care of the panic attacks. However, in my heart I felt this was not the road for me—I didn’t like the side effects and yearned to find a permanent solution instead of feeling as if I were patching up a deeper issue—so I’d stopped. When I wasn’t taking medicine, I’d sometimes called a Christian Science practitioner for help.
I read Science and Health during this time, and reading it was a turning point in my healing.
Ultimately, I decided that what helped me the most wasn’t medicine or therapy; what helped me the most was Christian Science. So at a certain point I decided to rely fully on Christian Science treatment. I had often read the Christian Science Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly (made up of passages from the Bible and Science and Health), but I also wanted to read Science and Health by itself. I read the book during this time, and reading it was a turning point in my healing. I was realizing that the fear was never really a part of my identity.
God, divine Love, is everywhere, and “perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18). With the knowledge that Love and home are truly everywhere, I was completely healed. The stomach pains stopped, and I was able to eat normally. Gradually, I was able to leave the house for longer periods of time, and the fear and anxiety left, along with any trace of the phobias I’d dealt with for so long. Because of my healing, I feel confident that we can each find full and permanent freedom from any kind of anxiety.
This complete healing when I was in my early teens solidified my love for the teachings of Christian Science. In my later teens and early adulthood, I often performed in front of large audiences, including singing and participating in plays, without a second thought. My friends and family could not believe I was the same person as before. The words of Hymn 497 in the Christian Science Hymnal: Hymns 430–603 complement the truths I learned from this healing. Here are the first two verses:
Home is the consciousness of good
That holds us in its wide embrace;
The steady light that comforts us
In every path our footsteps trace.
Our Father’s house has many rooms,
And each with peace and love imbued;
No child can ever stray beyond
The compass of infinitude.
(Rosemary C. Cobham, alt.)
This new understanding of home has continued to bless. A couple of years ago I was traveling in a developing country. Many things were different than what I was used to at home, although I didn’t think much about it and was having a lot of fun. One particular day, my husband and I were on a boat in a floating market. On one part of the ride, we were stuck in a traffic jam of boats trying to get through. There was no way to get off the boat or sail through; we had to wait. To pass the time, we bought some food from the adjoining boats.
I was given a piece of food that I had never tried before. Right away, I could feel my mouth and throat start to swell, and I was having trouble breathing properly. I immediately prayed to know that there was nowhere I could possibly go that was outside of the comfort of my true, spiritual home. If God is All and fills all space, nothing really changes, because God is changeless good. Home stays with me wherever I go. God is All and the only power. It became clear that I never really left my true home of security, protection, and peace. My husband prayed silently with me. In a matter of seconds, my fear lessened; the physical reaction completely stopped, and the swelling went away.
Home is not limited to a building or a place on a map. Our specific dwelling only modestly represents God’s spiritual home. We can take to heart what the Psalmist says: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalms 23:6).