Ripening years, ripening health
Christian Science squarely challenges the concept that advancing years open the door to limitations on health. In fact, divine Science literally turns such a concept upside down and shows us that when we have a spiritual perspective of ourselves, it is natural to grow into better health through the years.
In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy declares, "Men and women of riper years and larger lessons ought to ripen into health and immortality, instead of lapsing into darkness or gloom." Science and Health, p. 248. Of course, "riper years" can mean different things to different people. A ten-year-old may think an eighteen-year-old has reached absolute ripeness! But whatever one's standpoint, it's obvious that the mere passage of years is not, in and of itself, enough to foster the maturing of fuller health. If, however, "larger lessons" are built into the passing years, we have the basis for an increasing demonstration of health and well-being.
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Have you considered the significance of these larger lessons learned over the years? If you have not given them close and thoughtful attention, you may be overlooking an asset that can strongly foster your health.
People have a tendency to look back on some circumstance and place an emphasis on the smaller lesson that was gained. For instance, do you remember some challenging branch church experience as a time you finally learned not to be so outspoken in your views? Or is the larger lesson more prominent in your thought—your recognition of how to be more effective in communing with God, trusting Him to carry out His purpose?
If you think a lesson learned years ago was that some things just can't be pushed onto a church membership unprepared to accept them, the time has come for a more thoughtful assessment. Maybe there's a deeper lesson to be learned. Consider what you learned about exercising such Christly qualities as patience, respect, and gentle encouragement.
If over the years we have been at different times challenged with physical difficulties, the human mind may have been impressed with a release from pain. But wasn't a more important lesson the regeneration which brought a deep and pure glimpse that true being is spiritual, painless, permanent?
Think of times when you felt the monthly bills weren't going to be paid—and then somehow they always were. In one way or another, you discovered God did care for you. But an even deeper lesson gained was an inner security and strengthened conviction that God is substance—the eternal source of true supply.
In other words, if one looks thoughtfully at how his years have evolved, and what spiritual factors he has brought to his activities, he may recognize the need to appreciate more deeply the progress that has been made and the larger lessons that have been established. This perspective places us in a more natural position for ripening health.
We certainly shouldn't underestimate lessons that have deepened our spirituality. And by all means, we should guard against the belief that challenges we faced have hardened us or encouraged an element of cynicism. Whether we realize it or not, Christian experience (even the difficult times) has a way of maturing and seasoning us. "Progress is born of experience," explains Mrs. Eddy. "It is the ripening of mortal man, through which the mortal is dropped for the immortal." Ibid., p. 296. One of the great values in life is "experience." It's something that all of us to some extent have. But it's also something that we may need to appreciate more fully. And the more perceptive we are about the significance of our larger lessons and growing experiences, the firmer is our basis for relinquishing mortality and developing right here an immortal sense of health.
We need not neglect harvesting that which has ripened in our lives. The battles we've fought, the challenges we've dealt with, the difficulties we've confronted—all these have a way of preparing us for a fuller demonstration of health and well-being. We read in Revelation: "I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe." Rev. 14: 14, 15.
A history of matter doesn't determine our health; the rich unfoldment of thought (our largest lessons) determines our health. If health were merely a condition of matter, ripening years wouldn't contribute to our well-being. But since health is an active quality of thought—like joy or goodness or affection—then the experiences that bring us closer to God make a natural contribution to that aspect of thought called health. Such experiences are active ingredients of our growing sense of well-being.
As we more clearly see the way our lives have been years of true ripening, we'll find that health cannot be degraded by those years; instead, it will undergo a happy ripening.
NATHAN A. TALBOT