A STORY OF GRACE
I was introduced to Christian Science in the late 1970s by relatives who had recently discovered it for themselves. They gave me a copy of Science and Health, and I read the book from cover to cover, concluding that if any religion were true, it would be Christian Science. I started attending a Christian Science church, and experienced a few healings through prayer with the support of a Christian Science practitioner. But, as I continued to read Science and Health, I grew increasingly uncomfortable with all the references to God and Jesus.
At the time, I was drinking heavily, and occasionally smoked marijuana. Although I really wanted to escape from the pain associated with a materially focused life, I was struggling to hold on to the pleasures sought in drugs and alcohol. Soon, I decided that Christian Science might work for others, but that it just didn't work for me. I stopped attending church and reading Science and Health. After several more sporadic attempts to reconnect with the goodness I'd gained from my earlier spiritual study, I gave up on Christian Science altogether.
Decades had passed when I found myself facing a serious situation. I was a heating, ventilating, and air conditioning contractor, and the building industry was in a severe slump. After a major payment problem with another contractor, I was charged with a criminal transgression and sent to jail for keeping a piece of expensive equipment as collateral.
I spent the first four days of my incarceration in a temporary holding facility that was under lockdown 24 hours a day. It was a pretty bleak environment. Each cell was designed for only one occupant, but my cell normally had two, sometimes three. There was no radio, television, or exercise yard—and only two things to do. I could talk to my cellmates, or I could read the New Testament of the Bible provided by a local Christian church.
One day, out of sheer boredom, I picked up the Bible and started to read. To my surprise, I ended up reading the entire New Testament, paying close attention to the parables Jesus shared. In reasoning out their meaning, I gained a very real and precious sense of God's love for me. As I read and reread favorite passages, I began to feel on fire with the spirit of Love that the disciples expressed. A lot of what I had read in Science and Health years before came back to me in a fresh way, and suddenly made perfect sense.
The Bible parable of the householder who hired several laborers was especially enlightening. I found it intriguing that the householder paid each of the laborers the same wage, even though some of them had worked all day, some half a day, and some only an hour (see Matt. 20:1—16). The application of this parable to my own experience of using alcohol and marijuana dawned in my thought. I realized some people are never tempted to turn to drugs or alcohol because they genuinely feel the goodness of God's gentle presence. I saw these people as the "laborers" who work all day. Then there are those who might look for satisfaction through material sources for decades until they also come to feel God's gentle presence; these are like the laborers that came to work later in the day. But each of the laborers, regardless of their situations, received the same reward and were free to experience God's goodness together. This was also my story! It was the story of grace I needed to hear.
After being incarcerated for four days in the county jail, I was transterred to a long-term facility and held in a 48man cell, pending trial or release on bail. There was an exercise yard, a television, books, and a lot more things to occupy my time. With the Bible by my side, I was holding on to the idea that I could trust God to guide my forward steps, and had moments when I felt a real unity, or closeness, with Him.
Soon after my arrival, I was invited to join a prayer session, where I learned one of my cellmates was suffering from a slipped disk in his back. The inmates were asked to pray for him. Since a slipped disk was not considered to be a lifethreatening condition, the only medical treatment being given to this man was an occasional pain reliever. Fellow inmates carried him to and from the bathroom, and smuggled food back to our cell for him to eat.
Jail was a pretty bleak environment. One day, out of sheer boredom, I picked up the New Testament of the Bible and started to read.
Still on fire with this spirit of love that I felt from my recent exploration of the New Testament, I wanted to do something to help this man. In particular, I had enjoyed thinking about Christian Science as the Comforter mentioned in the Bible: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things . . . . Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:26, 27). I felt confident that sharing what I was learning about Christian Science was the right thing to do.
Later that day, I approached this inmate's bunk, told him a little bit about Christian Science, and asked if he wanted treatment through prayer. He said he did. I went back to my own bunk and pulled out the copy of the New Testament that I'd been reading. I found every reference to "Comforter" and marked its place. I then went back to the man's bunk and explained that the Comforter, the presence of God's love, was right there in the jail cell to ease his pain. I told the man that the Comforter revealed that he was not material, but spiritual, and so he was not subject to material suffering except in his belief.
He was very attentive to my words, and each day, for the next two days, I shared spiritual ideas with him. When this man explained that he was worried he could do nothing for his family during his incarceration, I told him that the Comforter was with his family, too, and he could do much good by trusting that God was looking after them effectively. This simple idea seemed to ease his fear, and, the next day, he was completely free of pain, openly attributing the healing to Christian Science treatment.
Just as this man was leaving our cell block to participate in a game of basketball, I was summoned to go before a judge in order to find out when I would be released. On a previous trip, the judge had set bail too high for me to meet. But this time, I was released on my own recognizance. The timing was not a coincidence to me. I had stayed long enough not only to learn valuable spiritual lessons but to help my cellmate and witness his healing.
After returning home, I felt such a deep sense of spiritual satisfaction that I flushed all of the alcohol and marijuana in my apartment down the drain. I then called the contractor who'd had me arrested, and thanked him for the week in jail. I told him it was the most enlightening experience of my life. He found my story moving, and agreed to drop all charges against me. We decided that I would return the equipment I had kept as collateral, and he would pay me the amount he owed. All of this was accomplished smoothly. Neither of us harbored hurt feelings against the other, and we parted ways amicably.
In the 13 years since that incarceration, I have never been tempted to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana again, and I've been a devoted student of Christian Science ever since. Using the ideas in Science and Health to improve the way that I think has permeated my life with true substance and goodness.
Science and Health brings out the benefits of leaning on divine Love to transform our experience. Mary Baker Eddy stated, "The design of Love is to reform the sinner" (p. 35), and, "Through the wholesome chastisements of Love, we are helped onward in the march towards righteousness, peace, and purity, which are the landmarks of Science" (p. 323). I like to think that this is what happened to me. I went from believing that Christian Science didn't work for me, to helping someone I barely knew find freedom through Christian Science treatment. I've made it my life's work to continue this discipleship, always learning more about how to share the spirit of God's love with others.css