From what I've learned through Christian Science and my reading of the Bible, I know that there is a loving God. I know that God's love and presence bring healing, and that no health verdict is irreversible.
But as I watched the almost nonstop television tributes to Senator Edward Kennedy and his fight against brain cancer recently, I saw them from a personal perspective—as one who was in a similar state 15 years ago. The terms "hopeless," "tragic," and "unfortunate" were used to describe me. My journey started there, but led to real healing and a place of love.
My story begins in 1993, before I'd ever heard of Christian Science. I was in what was, at best, an uncomfortable marriage. My husband and I had two boys ages five and seven. Symptoms I was experiencing led me to have a medical exam. I was told I had an inoperable brain tumor at my brain stem, and that I had a couple of months left to live. The doctors suggested that I go home and make final arrangements.
I felt as if I were watching a movie about someone else's life. And it didn't help that my marriage was on the rocks. I'd never felt worse or lower in my life. I'd always tried to make everyone else happy, and now it didn't mean anything at all.
I'd been raised in a devout, born-again Christian family, and my childhood was not a happy time for me. I believed that God was going to "get me," if my daddy didn't first. Love and God were just empty words to me in a religious climate where the emphasis was on hellfire and brimstone. I'd also suffered from severe depression most of my life.
With those elements in my background, when I was told I had a brain tumor, at first it didn't dawn on me that the diagnosis was anything but a just sentence. With the history of depression, the news seemed almost like something I deserved.
Still, the verdict didn't feel totally right. The thought of dying was understandable to me, but why would a God do something so cruel to two young boys as to take away their mother? There hadn't been much in my life I was very proud of, but what I'd accomplished as a mother was the one thing I could look back at and see that I'd done well.
During that time, though, a new mental pattern began to emerge. I started to ask myself questions. Somewhere in all that darkness, even though I didn't see myself as worthy of a different outcome, I knew that God couldn't be so cruel to two innocent children.
At one point I went to a psychotherapist for support in my struggle, but the support I gained turned out to be more spiritual than psychological. I asked the therapist what felt like silly questions: Do you believe in prayer? How come it never seems to work? For me at that time, prayer amounted to a glorified Christmas wish list, rather than an act that bought real help. But something was continuing to unfold in me as I asked questions. And it wasn't just these new questions. I was also mentally going back to even ask questions for which I thought I already knew the answers.
I'd never realized that there could be another way of looking at the world or life. Now, though, I had nothing to lose by asking the harder questions and being a little more open for new answers.
One day, I finally came to an incredible place of peace. Although I still wasn't sure that I knew who God was, I could feel this presence with me, and I somehow knew that my boys were going to be fine, whatever happened to me. I'd stopped outlining that the only way that things were going to be fine was if I was healed.
While it hadn't dawned on me yet that I was worthy of being healed, I felt this amazing peace and happiness in knowing that my boys were going to be fine. There was no logic to it yet, but that was to come in a big way. My happiness had a depth to it that made it real and undeniable. Those who know something about prayer as pure desire and gratitude will know what was happening to me. "Desire is prayer," wrote Mary Baker Eddy, "and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds" (Science and Health, p. 1). The mental darkness was being broken by what I now know to be the light of the Christ, God's message of wholeness. When your thoughts are changed by divine Truth, your body mirrors the improvement.
Following the doctors' request, I went in for MRIs every two weeks. I never spoke of it to the technicians and physicians, but I knew something was changing within me. I was spending my time trying to understand whether there was a God and just who He might be. And I had a lot of time on my hands.
One unforgettable day, I was lying on my bedroom floor looking out onto a deck at the birds and a squirrel around my bird feeder. I'd been doing battle with this squirrel for a while.
I'd thrown pens and pencils at him to get him to leave the birdseed for the birds. That day, as I lay there thinking of all that was going on in my life, I realized I'd neglected to put out any birdseed. That little critter saw me there on the floor and had the audacity to come over and bang on the screen as if to say, "Lady, where's my food?" I got the food and laughed at how smart that creature was—and behind its innocence and meekness there seemed to be something unexplainably solid.
Maybe, I thought, all the other things I think I'm so smart about—like the condition I'm in—actually aren't as real as this creature's intelligence.
As I lay there, I thought about God. Was He kind and loving? Did He have something to do with this peace that I'd found about leaving my boys? Then the most revolutionary (and funny) thought came. All those years in Sunday School had taught me my Bible pretty well. I remembered that in the Old Testament there was all this talk about smiting—the Israelites smiting so and so, and being smitten by so and so. But now, I knew, God wasn't "up there" with a big "smite button," and He would never say that today was my day to be the one who gets the smiting! It sounded so crazy that I laughed out loud. At that moment I knew that there was an answer for me—and that it would be a spiritual answer.
Several months later, well beyond the few months I'd originally been given to live, I went for another appointment with neurosurgeons I was seeing at a renowned facility near Boston. One of them said to me, "Suzy, it's a miracle. We don't know what's happened, but you're getting better."
I replied, "I know, and I have better places to be than in hospitals."
While "a miracle" seemed the only explanation then, I've learned that blessings that are unexplainable from the conventional view of things are not random and unnatural. I've come to see that "the miracle introduces no disorder, but unfolds the primal order, establishing the Science of God's unchangeable law" (Science and Health, p. 135).
By that time, though, my husband and I had divorced, and my children and I were left homeless—we slept on friends' living room floors and in hotels until I began to receive welfare. As healthy as I now felt, once prospective employers heard about my medical history, the interviews ended. And yet, even though my boys and I were now without a home, it was actually the happiest time of my life, and the boys also had a positive outlook. In response to a minister telling him how sad it was that he didn't have a house to live in, then-eight-year-old Brent responded, "That's OK. Houses come and go, but we have a family."
So why, even well before the doctors had given me their new outlook on my health, was I filled with joy? Well, the day I saw that God didn't have a dreaded "smite button," I was healed almost instantly of life-long, clinically diagnosed depression. Before, I had thought dying was easy; that it was the living that was hell. Now, I couldn't wait to get up in the morning and see where God would take me. I knew that just being healed physically wasn't the source of my happiness, and I was determined to find out what had happened to me.
But at first I tried to outline for God how my answer would come: It wouldn't, I was sure, be in the form of a church. The word spirituality had come into my vocabulary, so I went to bookstores searching for ideas on spirituality and abundance. One book I found by a church minister threw light on the concept of tithing and God's abundant ideas.
I felt I belonged to God, and I realized that there was sanity of life that had previously escaped me. It wasn't as if I'd discovered something new. This truth and its divine Principle had always been there.
By this time we were living on welfare, but I came up with the idea of organizing a "designer show house"—a charity-sponsored event in which decorators redesign the rooms of a big home and charge admission. I found an organization that worked to reduce homelessness and offered my services. Even though it was the middle of winter, our proceeds equaled those from typical summer events.
What I'd told no one was that my family and I had lived in the show house during the renovations and preparation time. But I decided to tell the head of the charitable organization what I'd done.
That was the day all my questions about God and my healing and spirituality began to be answered.
As soon as I explained my situation to this woman, she went out to her car and brought me a grocery bag filled with Christian Science literature, including a copy of Science and Health, as well as many Sentinels and copies of its sister magazine, The Christian Science Journal. She told me to read them, and that I would find answers to my questions and my needs.
That evening, because at first I found Science and Health a little difficult to understand, I started reading the Sentinels. I stayed up all night reading, and crying for joy over what I was discovering. I had found convincing explanations for what had happened to me, why I was healed, the nature of the God who had healed me. And I knew I would spend my life using Christian Science to help others.
The Bible's statement that "God is love" (I John 4:16) was no longer empty words. Now it spoke to me of the source of all action and life. It had been an amazing journey, but I felt truly at home for the first time in my life. I felt I belonged to God, and I realized that there was sanity to life that had previously escaped me. It wasn't as if I'd discovered something new. This truth and its divine Principle had always been there, but I'd been looking in the wrong places.
Later on, after Christian Science had richly blessed my family—prayer and spiritual growth had brought healing of character traits and physical healing when needed—a passage in the Bible came to express my life-experience better than I could: "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee" (Ps. 139:7–12).
No longer does it matter where I go, or how lost or dark things seemed to have been in my life. God saw my existence as all the same, as light. God has always seen me as whole.
Christian Science has given me a new way of looking at the past. It shows me how and why I was healed of a terminal illness. And it shows me I was never actually alone. I began to understand God and wake up to His presence.
Suzy Feeney lives in Massachusetts on Cape Cod. She serves on the board of a home aide service for Christian Scientists.
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