Two summers ago , I had an experience that taught me the importance and power of expressing grace. I was working as a counselor at a summer camp for Christian Scientists in Colorado. One day during staff training week, before the campers arrived, a group of staff members, including me, headed out for the day to explore a place where we would be taking campers bouldering later in the summer. This is a type of low-altitude rock climbing that I had enjoyed doing at camp for years. That day, we weren't wearing any climbing gear, because the routes that we followed didn't have any tricky elements.

After bouldering around a granite rock pile called Turtle Rocks for a while, I decided I wanted to find my own route. Although we would never encourage campers to do the same thing, I'd had several years of bouldering experience and was really into the idea of exploring and finding new routes to follow. I was convinced that I could "spider-monkey," or climb my way around wherever I wanted.

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I came across a crevice that was about 25 feet long and just wide enough for me to place my hands and feet into the crevice so that I could slowly climb down along the steep crack. It would be simple, I assured myself. And it worked, at first. As I worked my feet into various spots in the crevice, I found I was able to slowly descend down the side.

A co-counselor stood above me, shaking his head and telling me that what I was doing was an irresponsible, bad idea, but I didn't want to listen. I looked up at him and then back down at my feet, feeling doubtful for one second, and that's when I lost my grip.

I fell the rest of the way, about 20 feet, landing on my feet and smacking my left arm against another boulder in front of me. Though I didn't seem to be seriously injured, I was shaken and embarrassed at having fallen. I hurriedly hiked back up to meet my co-counselor and the program head, who had seen the fall. I laughed off the incident and wiped off some of the fresh scrapes down my legs and arms.

As we hiked back to the vans, I began to realize the extent of my fall, and my arm began to hurt badly. When we got back, the Christian Science camp nurse carefully bandaged my arm and put it in a sling, giving me the option to have it examined and put in a cast if I wanted. I chose not to, partly out of embarrassment that I had been so careless when bouldering, and also because I wanted to rely on prayer for healing.

The next day was the staff three-day overnight trip. I didn't feel ready to go on the trip, so after half of the staff took off in the morning, I had plenty of time for prayer. I had three days ahead of me to focus on spiritual reality and finding healing and freedom. I spent most of my time quietly by myself, sitting in my cabin and sometimes by the lake, although I talked regularly with the camp directors and ate meals with the other staff.

My goal for the summer had been to really exude the quality of grace.

Even before the bouldering incident, my goal for the summer had been to really exude the quality of grace. I had talked about this goal with one of the camp directors earlier, and she had seen the word grace posted above my bed. She remembered that I'd wanted to focus on grace that summer, so in addition to caring for me and making sure I had enough to eat (including fresh watermelon!), she also shared with me a copy of a Sentinel on "Grace: Feeling God's Love in Your Life" (July 17, 2006).

I read and enjoyed some of the articles on that first day, and I began to think about grace as the understanding of Truth. I'd been feeling like I'd taken a "fall from grace" on the rock, and that I had to find some kind of fix for the physical injuries and the hit to my pride. But as I read, I saw that grace is God's gift to us all. That idea really spoke to me as I continued my prayer and study. I saw that God allows us all to be so full of grace, or understanding, that we can't find ourselves out of His care or lacking in spiritual expression. I felt peaceful and inspired as I spent the first two days reading about healing in the Christian Science periodicals, Science and Health, the Bible, and the Christian Science Hymnal.

On the morning of the third day, I woke up feeling restless, and decided to clean the cabin to get it ready for the campers' arrival later the next day. After I swept the cabin with a broom in one arm, I again picked up that Sentinel on grace. I immediately focused on a quote featured in the Upfront article. It goes: "A little more grace, a motive made pure, a few truths tenderly told, a heart softened, a character subdued, a life consecrated, would restore the right action of the mental mechanism, and make manifest the movement of body and soul in accord with God" (Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 354).

I interpreted this passage to mean that God could never let His child fall from grace, Truth understood. I knew at that moment that I could not fall from God's hands, especially when I was having such a great time exploring and doing what I loved. And I didn't have to be embarrassed about what had happened, either, since there was no gap in God's support.

I read this passage over and over again, and decided to take an in-depth look at some of the words. Even though the quote is from Miscellaneous Writings, I reached out with my left arm to pick up my copy of Science and Health. As I was grabbing the textbook, I looked down, pretty shocked. I realized that I was holding it with my "hurt" arm, which was still bandaged, and there was no pain!

I felt such gratitude for this progress, and happily removed the sling and bandages. I was able to use my arm normally after that. I went bouldering several more times that summer on trips with campers, taking all safety measures and with no physical aftereffects. And the idea of grace continued to inspire me that whole summer. I was so grateful that all of my "bonds" had been broken when reaching for Truth. css

August 23, 2010

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