The summer between my sophomore and junior year of college, I needed to heal feelings of hurt and resentment toward an ex-boyfriend. In fact, we were going to be working together on the staff of a summer camp for kids attending Christian Science Sunday School, and this made me even more determined to overcome these negative feelings. Little did I know that, as I prayed about this issue, as well as being healed of the resentment and hurt, I would gain freedom from a sense of self-consciousness and a lack of confidence that I had struggled with for a long time.
It was natural for me to turn to God for help, because I had relied on Christian Science all my life to address discordant situations—everything from emotional distress and illness to employment and schoolwork challenges. I prayed to understand that this young man and I were spiritual children of God who could only relate harmoniously to each other. Still, whenever I saw this person or thought of him, the irrational anger and hurt I felt were aggressive and very distracting.
One of our first staff activities before the campers arrived that summer was a three-day hike in the mountains. We divided into small groups that would hike separately for most of the trip, and I was grateful to be in a different group from this individual. The hike started off great, and I felt so encouraged by conversations with my peers about how we had each appreciated Christian Science in our daily lives over the past year.
As my hiking group navigated a dry stream bed littered with large rocks, night had fallen. The narrow beams of our headlamps only partially illuminated the path, and with our heavy packs on it was difficult not to stumble. As I walked, I lost my balance and fell. My ankle collapsed underneath me, the pain was extreme, and I couldn’t put any weight on the ankle or foot once I had been helped up. Seeing my fear and everyone’s weariness because of the difficult hike, our group leader guided us away from the rocky path so that we could sit down and read the Christian Science Bible Lesson out loud together using our headlamps.
I love reading this weekly Lesson-Sermon containing citations from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy found in the Christian Science Quarterly. I don’t remember what the subject of that week’s Lesson was, but each citation read aloud by members of the group helped wash away the overwhelming fear, pain, and helplessness I was feeling.
I had been taught in Sunday School, and had demonstrated for myself over the years, that God is Love, the omnipresent source of all good. But in my daily life I struggled to feel confident, especially when in a group of peers. Others rarely noticed this self-consciousness—in fact, I was often described by people as confident and outgoing! But I was used to thinking that I had to earn love and respect by being witty or intelligent or especially talented at something. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was slowly letting go of this false belief. The months of earnest, scientific prayers to love my neighbor as myself and forgive my ex-boyfriend had been helping me grow in my ability to love myself so that I could love my neighbor!
By the end of the reading, I felt completely safe and calm. A holy sense of fellowship in Christ permeated the group as we made camp for the night, and I marveled at the compassion and support expressed by each of my fellow counselors. Each smile, hug, and act of assistance with getting settled in my sleeping bag clearly communicated God’s great love for me and everyone else. All feelings of self-condemnation and fear had dissipated, and I went to sleep very peacefully.
When I awoke in the morning, I still couldn’t even touch my foot to the ground without intense pain. However, I felt no fear. We were miles from roads or cell phone reception, but my trust and confidence in God to take care of me was stronger than I could ever remember it being before.
As the rest of the group began to wake up, our group leader and a co-counselor carried me to a quiet spot away from the others so I could be alone. All three of us were praying about how to proceed with the hike given my inability to walk. I began by rejoicing in my lack of self-consciousness, realizing that I would have been completely humiliated by this need for help just 24 hours earlier. That moment of acknowledging that a healing of ego had taken place was like a lightning bolt to my consciousness. I laughed out loud at the false claim that I had ever been a fearful, self-conscious mortal. I had gained a better understanding of my spiritual nature and relation to the all-good God.
From that point on, the healing of my ankle was swift. In twenty minutes I was able to put weight on my foot and ankle, and by that afternoon I was running down the side of the mountain in a spirited game of “Follow the leader.” I never had another moment of discomfort, despite rigorous hiking in shoes with no ankle support for two days following the injury. My ankle never swelled, and there was only the faintest of bruising, which quickly disappeared. The hurt and resentment that had seemed so intractable in my thinking also vanished during the remainder of the hike. My ex-boyfriend and I spent the first evening back at camp talking and laughing in front of the fire, our sweet friendship completely restored.
As wonderful as these blessings were, I rejoiced most in the newfound confidence and freedom I gained when interacting with my peers. I felt a deeper, more spiritual love for God, for myself, and for my fellow man, and this lifted the weight of feeling a need to gain love materially. I made new friends and tried new things with a fearlessness I had never known before. Several people remarked on how much I changed that summer, and I felt it was no coincidence that the spiritual theme of camp for those months was this verse from Romans: “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (12:2).
I was certainly transformed by this healing, which serves as a touchstone in my practice of Christian Science.
Emily Reynolds Smith
Ballwin, Missouri, US
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