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The Bible on my desk

From the May 25, 2015 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Students of Christian Science love the Bible, especially since the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, are based on its inspired Word. It would not be unusual to enter a Christian Scientist’s home and find multiple copies of the King James Version of the Bible, along with other scholarly translations, Bible dictionaries, and commentaries. Christian Science Reading Rooms are generally well-stocked with these resources too. I, myself, keep a Bible on my bedside table, and I even have friends who keep copies in their cars.

Mrs. Eddy’s biographers note that in addition to her extensive and deep study of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, she often opened the Bible spontaneously to find a passage that would guide her as to how to meet an immediate need. When sharing her grand discovery with mankind, she said: “The Bible has been my only authority. I have had no other guide in ‘the straight and narrow way’ of Truth” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 126). 

Also of importance to Mrs. Eddy was the fact that “the Bible contains the recipe for all healing” (p. 406). She expected Christian Scientists to read the Bible and Science and Health daily, in order to find and follow the recipe to meet all their needs. And it’s the illumination, the spiritual meaning and light that Science and Health brings out in the Scriptures, that keeps us going back to the Bible more and more.

I would keep a Bible on the desk in my office so that I could turn to it for help. 

Shortly after taking my first job as a school administrator, I decided that I would keep a Bible on the desk in my office so that I, too, could turn to it for help with the daily challenges I faced. An opportunity came my way sooner than I expected. Late one Wednesday night after a church testimony meeting, I drove past the school where I worked and saw a lone car in the parking lot. My son, who was with me, recognized it as his teacher’s car, and he said it didn’t surprise him at all that she would be working in her classroom at that hour. He really liked her and appreciated the hard work she put into her lessons.

The next day I invited this teacher to my office for a chat about how the school year was going for her. She broke down in tears and said that she was exhausted from devoting so much time to meeting the needs of her students and their parents, as well as fulfilling other professional obligations. I knew it was not right for her to feel depleted from carrying out her duties with such conscientious effort.

Knowing that she was a devout Christian, I felt it was appropriate and natural to reach for the Bible on my desk. I found the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. I read all 13 verses aloud, and then we discussed what it means figuratively and what it takes to share our light with others without giving away our oil, or abandoning a devotion to our own individual spiritual growth. 

Although I didn’t share anything from Science and Health at the time, my own view of the parable was based on the light that Mrs. Eddy’s writings bring to not only the parable (see Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, pp. 341–343) but to the concept of oil. Page 592 in Science and Health defines oil as “consecration; charity; gentleness; prayer; heavenly inspiration.” 

The ideas from the Bible I was sharing with the teacher in my office resonated with her, and she said she wanted to make time for more spiritual pursuits, which would renew her and enable her to give to others without a sense of impoverishment. Subsequent weeks found her walking with a lighter step and expressing a sunnier outlook, without a decline in her care of her students or contribution to the larger school community. At the end of the year, as a token of gratitude, she painted and framed a brightly lit candle under the words “Share your light, but do not give away your oil.” Today this meaningful gift to me sits on my desk at home along with my Bible.

Throughout my tenure at this school, concerns arose from time to time because I was a Christian Scientist. Many wondered if I would be able to make the right decisions for the students, in terms of their health and safety, and misunderstandings were the basis of their apprehension. One parent who was particularly fearful reported her alarm to the state's department of child and family services. Shortly after, I was interviewed about school practices by a social worker from that agency. 

Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Romans 15:4

I remained at peace, knowing that I was committed to being law-abiding, and that the school and everyone in it were under God’s loving care. Working in an institution where there were people of many faiths and beliefs, I very much wanted to follow Mrs. Eddy’s counsel in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: “A genuine Christian Scientist loves Protestant and Catholic, D.D. and M.D.,—loves all who love God, good; and he loves his enemies. It will be found that, instead of opposing, such an individual subserves the interests of both medical faculty and Christianity, and they thrive together, learning that Mind-power is good will towards men” (p. 4).

It was my constant prayer to serve the interests of all school families, so I felt assured that the case against me would be dismissed—and it was, quite quickly. I called the parent who had reported me and invited her to my office for a follow-up conversation about the situation to see if I could further relieve her of her worries.                                   

When we met, I told her that I forgave her completely, and she asked how I could bring myself to do that after she had called social services to come and check up on me. I told her that it was my practice to look for the blessings in adversity. I reached for the Bible, and she said: “Oh, I’m so glad to see a Bible on your desk! I always keep one in my purse.” 

She opened her Bible, and together we read from the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11, 12).

We agreed that this was a wonderfully comforting passage to keep in thought when faced with any kind of conflict. Our meeting ended with a cordial embrace, and I didn’t hear another negative word or concern from this woman again.

I left that school a number of years ago for another position, deeply grateful for the many times and many ways that turning to the Bible on my desk, and pondering the spiritual meaning of its contents, had roused my thinking, reduced stress, and restored my health. And no wonder these good results had come about, since, as Mrs. Eddy writes: “Jesus gave his disciples (students) power over all manner of diseases; and the Bible was written in order that all peoples, in all ages, should have the same opportunity to become students of the Christ, Truth, and thus become God-endued with power (knowledge of divine law) and with ‘signs following’ ” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 190).

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