Have you ever felt held captive, so to speak, by circumstances beyond your control? Perhaps ill health or a litany of past mistakes has stolen your joy or limited your lifework. That’s certainly the way many of the prison inmates I’ve met have described how they feel. But in my work as a Christian Science volunteer in a correctional facility, I’ve seen firsthand how many of these individuals, searching and hungering for redemption and healing, have found true freedom and relief from mental and physical burdens through the power of Christ as revealed in Christian Science.
Throughout the Bible we can read about God’s ability and promise to deliver His children from captivity. The book of Isaiah includes this encouragement and promise to the Hebrew people regarding their deliverance from captivity in Babylon: “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;... For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee” (54:2, 10). These words must have strengthened the people’s faith in God’s love and God’s promises of freedom.
Whether we are literally behind bars or feeling figuratively imprisoned by some challenging circumstance, the light of Christ—God’s healing and saving message to humanity—has full authority and power to overturn any limiting or sinful ways of thinking and “enlarge the place of [our] tent”—our consciousness. As the Son of God, Jesus reflected fully the divine presence of Christ, or Truth, and he indicated the divine way of obtaining true freedom from that which seems to hold us captive. He said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Jesus taught and proved the truth of being, bringing to light the all-powerful, all-loving nature of God as Spirit and the eternal fact that man is God’s spiritual idea. These truths free us from believing untruths about ourselves.
Even today, the activity of the Christ, Truth, is a piercing beam of spiritual light, or knowledge, that fills all space and illumines human consciousness, touching every receptive heart. Therefore, ephemeral shadows of error, material beliefs, manifested outwardly as sin and sickness, have no enduring hold or claim upon our thinking. This Christ activity can be likened to Mary Baker Eddy’s description of the action of sunlight in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The sunlight glints from the church-dome, glances into the prison-cell, glides into the sick-chamber, brightens the flower, beautifies the landscape, blesses the earth.” She continues, “Man, made in His likeness, possesses and reflects God’s dominion over all the earth. Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God” (p. 516).
I confess that I had to “enlarge the place of [my] tent”—open my thought wider to this truth—when I started my volunteer work in a prison. I needed to understand more clearly the spiritual truth and innocent nature of God’s man. I had to look away from outward appearances and expand my gaze, or mental standpoint, to the divine reality of Spirit’s allness. My prayers took on fresh urgency and greater compassion. The Science of Christ came to the rescue and began to lift my thought to the truth of being.
As I began to discern more clearly how God sees and loves His spiritual children as His pure, spiritual reflection—which has nothing to do with age or cultural or racial background—I found myself accepting more fully the truth of man’s eternal unity with God. On that basis, I refused to accept that fear, ignorance, or mistakes have any inherent power to imprison someone’s thinking and deprive them of their joy and life purpose. Not even twenty-foot-high walls and razor wire can keep anyone from awakening mentally to their true, spiritual heritage and God-given life purpose. I’ve seen healings of depression, hopelessness, and physical problems through the understanding that man is not a material sinner, fatally flawed, but a reflection of God—a spiritual idea that can never be separated from his divine origin or Principle, Love.
We are as free as our thoughts are free, and this mental liberty brings healing
To be sure, sometimes we might feel severely challenged by discouraging circumstances, and we might doubt that spiritual growth and renewal are possible. But whatever would hold anyone captive, whatever belief or fear would suggest that some problem can dominate a person, actually has no inherent power.
The only “prison” there is, one could say, is what Christian Science calls mortal mind, which Mrs. Eddy defines as “error creating other errors,” and “a belief that life, substance, and intelligence are in and of matter” (Science and Health, pp. 591–592). And as we stop accepting a belief as true, we can assert our dominion, through Christ, over the error claiming that evil and matter have power to enslave the thinking of God’s children. “Christian Science explains all cause and effect as mental, not physical,” Mrs. Eddy writes. “It lifts the veil of mystery from Soul and body. It shows the scientific relation of man to God, disentangles the interlaced ambiguities of being, and sets free the imprisoned thought” (Science and Health, p. 114).
In Christ, Truth, there are neither prisons nor imprisoned thought, because the only Mind that exists is God, the one eternal and immortal intelligence governing man. All is governed by the radiant presence of God, the powerful and tender divine Spirit filling all space and blessing each of us in countless ways right this moment. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” the Bible states (II Corinthians 3:17).
We can discover anew—right where some problem appears to be—the gentle, shepherding presence of an all-loving God who has never left our side. We are as free as our thoughts are free, and this mental liberty brings healing. Our privilege today, Mrs. Eddy tells us, referencing words from St. Paul, is to “accept the ‘glorious liberty of the children of God,’ and be free!” She adds, “This is your divine right” (Science and Health, p. 227).
Those Hebrew captives of old did indeed return to their homeland. With lessons learned and a renewed sense of love for and obedience to God, they began to rebuild their city and their lives with joyful hearts, because they knew God was with them. How much more should we, in this age, know that God is with us, since Christ and Christian Science have voiced the eternal truth of God’s ever-presence?
Freedom is our natural state of being as God’s offspring, our divine right—otherwise we could never demonstrate it. Through the freeing influence of the Christ, the things in our life that seem to hold us back, deprive us of joy, or make us feel imprisoned will naturally fall away, just as shadows in a room flee when the curtains are pulled back. “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17).
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