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Hang up on ‘Uncle George’

From the July 25, 2011 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Many years ago, when I was in college, I got a phone call one evening that went something like this:


“Bob? This is Uncle George.”

“Hi, Uncle George!” 

“How are you?”

“Great!” I answered. “How are you?”

“I’m fine. How’s school?”

“It’s good.”

“And how was your trip to England?”

“Terrific, I had a wonderful time.”

“Glad to hear it. I was just sitting here thinking about my favorite nephew and thought I’d call.”

“Of course. Great to hear from you!”

Now this probably seems pretty unremarkable, and it was, except for one thing. I didn’t have an Uncle George.

During the whole conversation I was frantically searching my memory—who was Uncle George? Why had my parents never mentioned him? Were they ashamed of him for some reason? Worse, maybe they had mentioned him. Maybe I’d even met him at some point! Could I have actually forgotten an entire uncle? Did I have an aunt as well? Cousins?

Then he said something about my trip to England having taken place the previous summer, when in fact it had been two summers before. We finally figured out it was a wrong number. Another student at the college had the same name I did, and the switchboard had mistakenly put Uncle George through to me instead. We quickly disengaged, not without some embarrassment (especially on my part—at least he had a nephew named Bob, but I didn’t have an Uncle George!).

It’s almost shocking how susceptible the human mind can be to false suggestions, even when it knows they’re false. If a suggestion seems plausible on the surface, we start looking for ways to justify it. For instance, “Uncle George” seemed very nice. He was fond of me. He knew my name, where I went to school, and even that I’d taken a recent trip to England. So I found myself thinking, maybe it’s true. Maybe I do have an Uncle George. 

As a Christian Scientist, I’ve learned that ultimate reality consists of a God who is perfectly good, and His creation (including man) which is also perfectly good; therefore, all evidence to the contrary, however convincing, has to be a lie.

It’s almost shocking how susceptible the human mind can be to false suggestions, even when it knows they’re false.

The source of the lie goes by many names. The Bible calls it the devil, or in Paul’s words, “the carnal mind” (Rom. 8:7). Christian Scientists sometimes refer to it variously as error, mortal mind, or animal magnetism, all terms explained in Mary Baker Eddy’s writings. By whatever name, its essence involves the assertion that there’s an intelligence or power apart from and opposed to God, good. But this assertion, which is the source of all lies, is itself a lie. As Jesus said, referring to the devil, “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44).

Of course Uncle George wasn’t trying to deceive me on that phone call—it was a misunderstanding. But the carnal mind is a deceiver. It appears in the guise of our own thoughts, and so it seems plausible; it seems interested in our welfare and on our side. And the longer we converse and engage with it, the further it creeps into our thoughts, until we accept its attitudes as our own. 

Then we may find ourselves thinking things like, “I don’t feel well. I wonder what’s causing it. Wait, I know—I shook hands with that guy this morning right after he sneezed! Gee, I sure hope it’s nothing serious.” Or, “The people at work (or church, or school) are too hidebound (or too flaky). I can’t deal with them anymore.” Or, “The income I was counting on has suddenly dried up. How will I get by?” 

And next thing we know, we’re thinking of reasons why the lie—sickness, sour relationships, lack of supply, or whatever it is—might be true, just as I tried to think of reasons why I might really have an Uncle George, even though I’d never heard of him before in my life.

There are many false suggestions, or lies, about man, some of them very frightening or discouraging. But God, good, is infinite, the only real Mind or intelligence, so for every lie there’s a truth which counteracts and destroys it. In prayer, our task is to recognize the lie for what it is, reject it, then turn to God, humbly and wholeheartedly, and listen for the needed truth. When we truly accept and acknowledge this truth, the lie must and will disappear from our experience. The solution to the apparent problem becomes clear to us, and harmony is restored.

Mary Baker Eddy puts it like this in Science and Health: “Stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously” (p. 392). Though this passage is concerned with “bodily results,” it’s clear from the rest of Mrs. Eddy’s writings that the same principle holds for any kind of challenge we may be facing.

A porter doesn’t wait until obnoxious visitors get into the building, and then throw them out; that’s the job of a bouncer. Science and Health doesn’t say, “Stand ‘bouncer’ at the door of thought.” We’re to be porters—recognizing the suggestions that should be kept out, and denying them entrance right from the start. By being good porters, we can prevent suggestions from establishing themselves in our consciousness and thus turning into beliefs. Not that beliefs can’t be destroyed by prayer—they certainly can—but I’ve found that being a spiritual “bouncer” sometimes requires more time and effort. You might say that being a porter is more efficient.

Not long ago I was sitting at my computer (I do a lot of work on a computer) when I suddenly experienced a very sharp pain in my shoulder. I couldn’t even lift my arm above a certain level. I thought, “This is ridiculous. How could this have happened? I wasn’t even moving my shoulder! Let’s see, I wonder if earlier today I did anything to . . . .” Fortunately, before too much of this, I was able to stop myself. I realized I was starting to carry on “a conversation with Uncle George,” so to speak, when in fact I needed to “get off the line” as quickly as possible. There’s no cause to something that can’t exist, and there was no point in looking for one. 

Instead, I turned to God and began declaring, with gratitude and growing conviction, that no pain or discomfort could impose itself on my consciousness or on my body, and that holding to this truth would bring healing. And it did, within a few hours. Not only that, but even though I hadn’t been praying about it specifically, a soreness in my foot was healed at the same time.

It’s certainly true that whatever situation we find ourselves in, it’s never too late to defeat a lie with Truth. But I’ve learned it’s best to do it right away, when the lie first phones in. It’s highly unlikely that the gentleman who mistakenly called me in college will ever call again. But if he does, I’ll know what to say, and I’ll say it immediately: “Sorry, you’ve got the wrong number. I don’t have an Uncle George!”

Bob Cochran lives in West Hills, California.

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