What a joy a new baby can be in a family! And part of the fun as we gather round to greet the new arrival is looking for family resemblances—it’s almost automatic. These thoughts seem innocent enough. However, we are all aware that heredity also includes the possibility of being the recipient of negative characteristics from our ancestors. These can be unpleasant and hard-to-live-with traits, including impairments or diseases.
Christian Science offers a fresh view on this age-old subject of heredity by looking to God, Spirit, as the basis of creation. We begin with the Bible, which tells us in the first chapter of Genesis: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. . . . And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:27, 31).
Christ Jesus taught us that we are the children of God. He said, “Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). And Jesus showed us that this spiritual view of God and His creation is practical. It was the basis of his teaching and healing works. As we spiritualize our concept of God and man, health and harmony are restored. And we realize the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Our family had an experience that proved hereditary disease is a false belief that can be overturned by a spiritual understanding of God and man. Soon after one of our sons was born, we noticed he was wheezing from time to time as he breathed. My husband said the baby sounded just like his uncle, who suffered from medically diagnosed asthma as a child and an adult. On my side of the family, I had seen my brother experience these symptoms, and they were later diagnosed as asthma. I knew that my grandmother had had a severe condition of asthma until, as a young woman, she was healed by Christian Science and lived for many years completely free of the disease. My great-grandfather, too, had been diagnosed with asthma. The possibility that our baby had inherited this disease seemed very real.
As a student of Christian Science, I had seen and experienced many proofs of the power of prayer to heal myself and other family members, so it was very natural for me to begin to pray specifically for our son about this problem. The Bible says God is Love. I prayed to understand more clearly that God was the true Father and Mother of our child, and only Love was surrounding him. I reasoned that since his origin and source was God, and he was made in God’s likeness, this child could reflect only good.
Christian Science teaches that the ever-loving God is governing His creation at all times, and His law is supreme. Material laws of genetics and heredity cannot dispute the law of God. In fact, they are not really law at all, but only human beliefs. Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health: “Heredity is not a law. The remote cause or belief of disease is not dangerous because of its priority and the connection of past mortal thoughts with present. The predisposing cause and the exciting cause are mental” (p. 178). Further down on the same page she continues, “In proportion to our understanding of Christian Science, we are freed from the belief of heredity . . . .” These passages made it clear to me that I did not need to believe disease and evil are part of God, sanctioned by Him, or any part of His perfect creation.
We made regular visits to my husband’s family with the baby. We did not talk about our son at these times, but the subject of the sickness kept coming up. Detailed descriptions of how the baby’s uncle had suffered from asthma as a child were often discussed. I needed to be vigilant to defend my thought from being persuaded to believe that the disease was real and a power that could influence my life. I made concerted efforts to cut short these conversations. More important, however, I became more insistent in my prayer that God is the only Mind, and as His reflection, I could only know what He knew about our son. I began to establish ever more firmly in thought that we are the spiritual children of God, and our inheritance is eternal goodness and life, not fear and sickness. I became less fearful of the disease, and talk about it in the family stopped.
Since God is the only Father, relatives can never pass anything down, good or bad.
In our son’s early years, he was a happy and active boy, but from time to time the labored breathing would reappear. One day when he was about four years old, he came in from play struggling to breathe. I put my arm around him and humbly prayed. I was striving to know that he was God’s child and that this mortal picture of suffering was no part of him because it was no part of God’s tender care for Him. These words from Acts were very comforting: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; . . . For we are also his offspring” (17:28).
While the child took a nap, I called a Christian Science practitioner for support. After his rest, our son was fine and went outside to play. In fact, he was well over the next few days, but I asked the practitioner to continue praying each day for a week to help me overcome my fear of another attack.
One paragraph in Science and Health was a constant companion at this time: “In Science man is the offspring of Spirit. The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry. His origin is not, like that of mortals, in brute instinct, nor does he pass through material conditions prior to reaching intelligence. Spirit is his primitive and ultimate source of being; God is his Father, and Life is the law of his being” (p. 63).
I saw ever more clearly that there is no other source of life than God, and God knows and causes only good. As I claimed the perfection of this child, the lovely thought came that everyone is spiritual, perfect, and good. We are all the image of God. No one is left out. I immediately began to think of all those relatives who had struggled with asthma, and I started to see them as God’s dear children. I thought individually about each one, how God loved them and was always with them, even when it looked as though they were ill. Their true identity was spiritual. And because God was their Life, the disease was an illusion. It had never touched their real selfhood.
I especially thought about my grandmother, who I knew had not been able to finish high school because of the disease. I began to reverse that story in my thought and replace it with the spiritual history that I knew was of God. As God’s idea, she was always spiritual, at one with her divine Father-Mother no matter what the material senses said. Disease had never been real in her life. The Christ had always been present, showing her the perfect reality of who she really was, even in those earlier years.
Since God is the only Father, these dear relatives could never pass anything down, good or bad, to someone else, nor could they be a recipient of evil from anyone else. They were not mortal creators or messengers transmitting disease. They could never believe this lie about themselves, because they are the likeness of Truth, perfect and free. I also saw that this spiritual sense is the presence of the saving Christ, Truth, in human consciousness telling us all of our sonship with God. It frees us from error of every kind.
With this realization, all fear left me. In fact, I forgot all about the problem completely. Not long after this, we moved to a northern state with a rainforest climate. My son played outside in all kinds of weather with the other children in the family, but he never had another attack nor any asthma symptoms. It was as if the fear, the symptoms, and the family history had never been. Truly the Bible promise was fulfilled, “The former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17).
Some years later, in junior high school, this boy ran with the cross-country team, and in his final year he placed first in every race. Though he was usually in the lead, his running style included an extra burst of speed and energy on the last leg approaching the finish line. One day, watching him run a race, I remembered this healing. I had not thought of it for many years. With tears of gratitude, I thanked God for His unspeakable gift—for His son, Christ Jesus, who showed us how to know God, and for Mrs. Eddy, who made it plain in our textbook, Science and Health, that Christian healing is scientific and can be proved by anyone who applies it.
The physical healing opened up a life full of all kinds of sports and outdoor activities for our son. However, the real and enduring legacy from this experience is the spiritual truth that showed us our heritage of freedom as children of God. It is our divine right to claim this heritage, for ourselves, for any new arrivals on the baby front, and for all mankind.
Olive Ratcliffe raised her family in Juneau, Alaska, and now lives in Gig Harbor, Washington.
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