I felt troubled and anxious as I walked past a window display that featured literally dozens of books on diet, exercise, and assorted figure problems. At this particular time I was heavier than I had ever been, and it alarmed me.
Over a period of years, I'd heard about people who dealt with overweight through prayer based on the teachings of Christian Science. But as my weight went up, in response to a craving for sweets, and down, in response to various kinds of diet and exercise schemes, from high school on, I never paid too much attention to healings of overweight. In the first place, to tell the truth, I doubted they had really happened. And in the second place, I somehow had decided that kind of radical reliance on Truth was for other people, not for me.
But then something happened to make me change my opinion. I went to purchase a new dress, only to find that my salesperson had set out a group of dresses that bore a startlingly large size ticket. That was, literally, too much to laugh off. Something had to be done. And what to do was my choice.
As I drove home I began to examine my motives. I recalled a conversation I'd had with a friend who had become a jogging enthusiast and had lost weight in that endeavor. I thought, "Well, I suppose I'll have to join the pack and start trotting around the track, preferably under the protective and disguising darkness of night!"
But would that really be the answer that heals? At the time, I was a Reader in a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, and I was eager to express more fully the truths I was reading to the congregation during services. I didn't want anything to interfere with my being what Mrs. Eddy terms "a better transparency for Truth" See Science and Health 295:19-22.—with expressing my God-given, spiritual nature. I longed to get away from a heavy sense of myself, to lift thought and let light shine!
Then all of a sudden the thought came to me: Why not exercise my God-given authority? I recognized it as based on a statement Mrs. Eddy makes in Science and Health: "Mind is the master of the corporeal senses, and can conquer sickness, sin, and death. Exercise this God-given authority. Take possession of your body, and govern its feeling and action. Rise in the strength of Spirit to resist all that is unlike good. God has made man capable of this, and nothing can vitiate the ability and power divinely bestowed on man." Ibid., p. 393. Next came this quotation from Science and Health: "Correct material belief by spiritual understanding, and Spirit will form you anew." Ibid., p. 425.
I knew that was what I really wanted: to be formed anew. Weight, seesawing up and down, was only part of a much deeper problem of appearance and identity. I wanted to feel good about the way I looked. Even more, I wanted to feel good about who I was. I wanted to glorify God as my true creator; and expressing the self-discipline, harmony, and balance that divine Principle provides was one way of doing it. The weight-loss testimonies I had heard in the past came to me again, and this time I was ready to listen. My decision was to rely on the power of Spirit to transform my consciousness and my experience.
Christian Science teaches that the true identity and essential being of everyone are, in reality, spiritual. Man exists as the idea of God, made in His image and likeness as Genesis 1:26 declares. While we appear to possess material bodies of assorted shapes and sizes, those bodies aren't really who we are. They are simply the outward manifestation of who we think we are. And when something is amiss with the body, the answer never really lies in changing it; the answer always lies in changing the mental concept the body just expresses.
Right there in the car I decided to pray—to give my concept of myself good, thorough Christian Science treatment. But how to proceed? I knew that it was not up to me personally to figure out how to pray. I needed, rather, to live consistently with my choice to depend on God, and to ask divine Mind to show me what to cover in my treatment. That part was particularly wonderful, and continues to be a feature in my daily prayer for myself: the confidence that treatment comes directly from God, infinite Mind, and is complete unfoldment.
What comes to each person when he prays may vary according to the individual needs. But what came to me at that particular time included these ideas: First, that I needed to throw my weight into the proper scale (see Science and Health 192:21-23) and be weighed—be valued—as spiritual, not material. Second, that as a spiritual idea, a reflection of my Father-Mother, God, I already possessed all the beauty, grace, and symmetry I could ever want, and all of them in perfect proportion.
I also realized that my Father-Mother, God, created me and was here and now well pleased with me as His pure likeness. As the Bible tells us, God declared of Christ Jesus, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matt. 3:17. Not a single element of my true being had to change to make me pleasing to my divine Parent. And it would follow from that fact that all the children of that same Parent must necessarily be well pleased with me. So how could I help being well pleased—satisfied—with myself, as long as I properly identified myself as spiritual and acted as God's image?
The change in my thinking was wonderful, and virtually immediate. People who have wrestled with overweight may remember how worthless and depressed one sometimes feels. Well, all of that mental heaviness just fell away. I continued the prayerful treatment by identifying myself in some detail with each of these seven synonyms for God—Mind, Spirit, Soul, Love, Truth, Life, Principle. I made a clear-cut decision to claim each one of them in my present experience. By the time I finished with that, my thought was so light I felt as if I could just float the rest of the way back home!
Now, I'm not going to tell you that when I got out of the car I was suddenly a size two, because that's not how it happened at all. What did happen was that I began to look carefully and with intelligent perception at my use of food. I was really startled to discover how often I used it as a reward: "I'll get myself some ice cream after I've read half of these term papers." Or as an escape: "I've got to get off this campus, and a trip for pizza is a good way to do it." Or as an excuse to get together with friends. How often many of us do that! But where is it written that people have to eat in order to enjoy one another's company? Or as a drug—and this is very subtle: "I've had a rotten day, and a big piece of lemon meringue pie will make me feel a whole lot better." I was amazed to see how much burden I had placed on what ought to be a very simple and natural activity.
Of course, false appetite may not be at the root of every claim of obesity. But overcoming it was my need. I came particularly to love and appreciate these words of Mrs. Eddy's: "Happiness consists in being and in doing good; only what God gives, and what we give ourselves and others through His tenure, confers happiness: conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart, and nothing else can." Message to The Mother Church for 1902, p. 17. I had longed for that "conscious worth," and so often the mirror had disappointed me! But through my prayers I was able more and more to see the real me, not a form of matter reflected in a mirror but a spiritual idea, always possessing the perfect beauty, symmetry, and grace of my creator. And I liked what I saw so much that I became more willing than before to reach out to others in friendship. As a result I became a much happier individual.
During this mental transformation, my eating habits changed, too. I stopped skipping breakfast and compensating for it by overeating at lunch. A difficulty in eating and digesting eggs, which I'd had since babyhood, disappeared, and I began to enjoy them in a normal way. I didn't count calories, nor did I weigh myself, because I felt that would be weighing matter and throwing my weight into the wrong scale. I did exercise discipline where sweets were involved. That discipline proved effective because it wasn't a function of human willpower, denying myself something. It was rather a persistent and disciplined claiming of something: the abundance of God's love for me, fulfilling my every need and desire. I began to appreciate what Christ Jesus told the tempter in the wilderness, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Matt. 4:4. Food has no power to harm or limit, sustain or satisfy, a spiritual idea—our real identity.
There are two important points to be made about the change in my diet. First, the change was natural, conditioned by what appealed to me, and not what a calorie chart said was OK. Second, the change tended consistently in the direction of moderation. There was almost nothing I stopped eating altogether. I simply found myself content with smaller portions. I did not feel the gnawing sensation so familiar to dieters. I ate what I wanted, and was satisfied—not by the food but by the "conscious worth" I was seeing ever more clearly in myself.
Well, within two weeks there had been a major change in my appearance—I had a flat stomach for the first time in my life! I was amazed and delighted. I also came to understand that my mother and grandmother, with their figure types, hadn't really formed me at all. Spirit had formed me, and it had formed me anew. All that was required was for me to choose Spirit, and allow it to do its work. Now, after about a year, I find dresses twelve sizes smaller than before fit me well.
I've also had some challenges to meet along the way. Few people who struggle with the problem of overweight realize that being thin is not without its own problems, which likewise argue for life, identity, and sensation in matter. But each challenge has yielded to the touch of Spirit.
Of course I am grateful for the change in my appearance. But the basic purpose of Christian Science is to reveal what God has already done and to show man's divinely bestowed perfection. This experience gave me the opportunity to see these points more clearly and brought about a profound change in my concept of myself. I understand a bit better than before the basic fact that I am a spiritual idea, whose substance is Spirit, not matter. My attitude toward others changed, too, as I became more loving and less self-assertive. Even my singing voice improved. Through the power of Spirit I've gained a much clearer sense of my own "conscious worth." You can, too!
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