The lives of Christian Scientists have proved over and over again that turning to God for His care and guidance is practical and reliable. It’s wonderful to experience this care—to have, right at hand, the preventive and curative power of God, who is “our Father and our Mother, our Minister and the great Physician: …” (Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 151).
Recently, though, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the fact that it’s not enough just to be on the receiving end of God’s care. We need to be willing to serve the great Physician by caring for others—even caring for the sick.
Don’t worry! That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to take up nursing as a profession. On the other hand, every person at some point in his or her experience is called upon by circumstances to “nurse” someone—to provide loving and practical care for a sick family member, friend, church member, neighbor, or even a stranger, even if it is only minimal care, or temporary aid until professional care is at hand. At the very least, everyone is occasionally in a position to respond in a compassionate and comforting way to someone who is in a state of anguish; this, too, is a form of nursing.
It can definitely be helpful, then, to consider and learn from the very special approach to nursing that is taken in the practice of Christian Science.
At all times, the Christian Science nurse is listening for the direction of the great Physician and the guidance of the Comforter that Christ Jesus promised God would send. This Comforter is Divine Science, the laws of God, which Mary Baker Eddy discovered and set forth in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
Christian Science teaches that God, being infinite Spirit, is everywhere at all times to meet every human need. As we read in Isaiah, “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (66:13). While Isaiah’s message was directed to the Israelites, the Christian Scientist would read this and know that God is always present to guide and comfort everyone, wherever they are.
Thus, the primary responsibility of a Christian Scientist who is giving nursing aid is to stay close to God in prayer—to listen to Him, the divine Mind, and to adhere to the teachings of the Comforter He has sent. This involves striving to see the patient as God sees him or her: not as a vulnerable physical being, but as the forever whole and perfect reflection of God—a view that promotes healing.
It’s true that the fundamental teaching of Christian Science is a radical departure from conventional thinking about God, man, and healing. Basically, this teaching is, since God is infinite Spirit, His creation is wholly spiritual, reflecting His perfection, goodness, holiness, and benevolence.
In answer to the question “What is man?” Science and Health explains: “Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter is not that likeness. The likeness of Spirit cannot be so unlike Spirit. Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science” (p. 475).
This spiritual understanding of God, divine Truth, and of God’s perfect creation, man, we must lovingly and obediently hold to mentally, and express outwardly toward the one we are caring for, through compassion, tenderness, and reassurance—even while we bandage a wound or provide some other practical aid or comfort. This serves to keep the mental atmosphere surrounding the patient clear of fear and discouragement, making way for the medicine of divine Love to effect regeneration and healing in the thought and body of the patient.
The Christian Science nurse is listening for the direction of the great Physician and the guidance of the Comforter.
A Christian Science nurse, however, is usually not the Christian Science practitioner on the case—the individual whose professional services are engaged by the patient to provide Christian Science treatment through prayer for healing. The role of the individual providing nursing care is not to treat the patient, but that individual should, indeed, keep his or her own thought in accord with the true view of God as unlimited Love, and of Love’s care for man, Love’s image.
In cases where the patient is not relying on Christian Science for healing, a Christian Scientist still can mentally affirm the truth in his or her own thought while respecting and not interfering with the patient’s chosen method of treatment. In every case, the Christian Scientist should do whatever he or she can to make the patient feel comfortable, loved, and unafraid.
While you and I may or may not be looking to make Christian Science nursing our career—for which considerable education and proven experience are needed—we can be greatly helped in our “lay” experiences by the brief yet comprehensive requirements Mrs. Eddy has provided for Christian Science nursing.
In the By-Law titled “Christian Science Nurse” in the Manual of The Mother Church, Mrs. Eddy says that the nurse needs to have “a demonstrable knowledge of Christian Science practice …”
(p. 49). This is gained through individual study of the Bible and Science and Health as well as through Primary class instruction in Christian Science from a Christian Science teacher.
Also, the By-Law says the nurse needs to understand how to care for a patient in a wise way. In simple situations with a loved one, a “layperson” may need to make some inquiries about such things as how to bandage or how to lift a patient, and to be honest in assessing his or her abilities to perform these practical tasks in a way that is safe.
Then there is a paragraph in Science and Health, on page 395, where Mrs. Eddy frankly points out mental attitudes that do not belong in a sickroom, as well as the spiritual qualities that are essential.
The paragraph begins with this poignant statement: “Prayers, in which God is not asked to heal but is besought to take the patient to Himself, do not benefit the sick.” When you stop to think about it, if the caregiver feels any impatience with the one he or she is caring for, then that impatience could too easily evolve into irritability, and that is clearly unacceptable and unhelpful to the patient. Thus, the statement that follows: “An ill-tempered, complaining, or deceitful person should not be a nurse.”
So, an honest and thorough renovation of one’s mental attitude is definitely in order—and the next statement in the paragraph moves thought in the right direction: “The nurse should be cheerful, orderly, punctual, patient, full of faith,—receptive to Truth and Love.” These qualities, expressed in the one providing nursing care, lift the mental atmosphere surrounding the patient, which in turn serves to encourage, uplift, and inspire the patient, and helps to make way for healing to occur.
We all can learn much by taking these instructions to heart. A sick person, or any person under duress, is often not at his or her best; but the Christian Scientist is helpful to the degree he or she reflects the love of the great Physician for the patient. I am in awe at the way Christian Science nurses maintain within themselves God’s view of man, and how they are able to express that view and that love toward those they care for while they perform their sometimes very challenging duties. Their patients feel embraced in God’s love, and this keeps their patients’ expectations open to His healing power.
Yes, serving the great Physician—holding to and expressing His view and love of man while responding to the needs of another—clears the mental atmosphere for the healing Christ, Truth. What a blessing that is! One in which we all have a role to play.
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