"A heart wholly in protest" (see The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 134) was a theme that ran through this spirituality.com chat on prayer addressing disabilities in children. The chat featured a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science in Charleston, South Carolina. Sarah has been in the public practice of Christian Science for over 20 years. This chat has been edited for readability; to read or listen to the whole chat go to spirituality.com/chats/disabilities.
How can we help friends whose children are suffering from ADD (attention deficit disorder)?
One of the best ways is to ask yourself, How am I identifying the child in question? How am I identifying the parents, caregivers, or teachers who are working with this child? The only place we can really change anything is in our own thinking because we live in God, infinite divine Mind.
An experience I had showed that we live in a thought universe. I was working as a camp counselor with a child who had been diagnosed with ADD. I wanted with all of my heart to help him. As I prayed, the thought that kept coming to me was: Remove the label in your own thinking. So I decided that I was going to see this child without labels, even if it was just the label of "little redheaded troublemaker." I could remove any label that didn't address this child as a spiritual creation of God.
In the "Glossary" of Science and Health, where Mary Baker Eddy gives spiritual definitions of Biblical terms, she defines children as "the spiritual thoughts and representatives of Life, Truth, and Love" (p. 582). As I went through that summer loving that little boy, and looking for ways that he represented Life, Truth, and Love, his behavior in my presence was wonderful. And I know that it helped his parents see this possibility for him also.
I have a 20-year-old diagnosed with Asperger's, who isn't working or in college. We have told him he must work or go to school, but as yet he is doing neither.
I think I would begin with the idea that "the intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man." That quote from Science and Health (p. 284) establishes a spiritual fact: that God is never separated from His children, and no label of a disease has ever separated your son from his ability to hear what his Father-Mother God is directing him to do.
So often we feel like it's incumbent upon us to make our children do something. Even if they don't have a label, we're often tempted to go in that direction. And yet, when we go back to the idea that God alone is Creator, we realize that He has never put His children up for adoption, so to speak. He hasn't dropped them down to earth and put them in our care, saying, "Here, you take care of this problem child."
Instead of trying to get God to figure out an answer to the problem, it's best to listen for God-inspired ideas that will show a different view of this young man. And know that he can hear what God is saying to him because God does have a purpose for him. This child has value, not only in God's eyes, but in the world's eyes. Your prayers can insist that he is able to hear and respond only to God's voice, speaking to the human consciousness. Christian Scientists call that voice the Christ, "the true idea voicing good" (Science and Health, p. 332).
Just know that your son can hear that voice and respond to it. And when we put down our foot with that heart in protest, we protest that something called Asperger's can control these children, keep them from hearing that voice, keep them from knowing how fully wonderful, valued, useful, and necessary they are in God's kingdom.
For a child with a diagnosis of ADHD, who is taking medication and receiving therapy, what is the best way extended family can pray to support healing?
In those cases in my own family, where they've gone a different route from Christian Science, I still want to support their love for their child, and that child's right to be free of a label. So what matters most to me is what I'm thinking about that child and about that family.
Am I willing to let go of all judgment about what they're doing, let go of judgment of the human situation, and just love? Can I love as Christ Jesus did, love with that compassion? When people came to him for healing, all he could see right there was that individual's right to be a child of God, to be healthy, to be whole, to have sight, to be free of leprosy. Whatever the claim was, he separated it from that individual. His love for them made the difference. So let that compassion impel your prayers.
Last year our son's teacher suggested that he might have ADD. How can I pray about this?
I dealt with that with my youngest son. Nobody told me that they thought he had ADD, but I saw how active he was, and I was very alert in his early school years to defend his right not to be labeled. I knew that each individual who was going to see him and interact with him could know only what was absolutely true—what God knew about him. And it's right for young people to be active. It's also right for them to be obedient, to be able to sit still when they need to. So I wanted to see in my own son a balance of these qualities.
I love the definition of develop in the 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary, which back then meant "to uncover; to unfold; to lay open." And I wanted to know that my son was just laying open, unfolding an increasing sense of his spiritual identity, and that was all that anyone could see about him. A much newer dictionary defined develop as "to set forth or make clear by degrees or in detail," and "to work out the possibilities of."
I saw that as a challenge—to think about how I was working out the possibilities of my son's being, how to treasure these qualities and yet see them expressed in a perfect balance. It resulted in teachers who were wonderfully supportive of him as he went through school. And yes, he was always very active, but he never got into trouble and he did learn to be able to sit still and finish his work.
God has never given us a right desire and then said, "I'm going to let you get off track" or "I'm not going to give you the ability or the talents or whatever you need to fulfill that desire." It comes as a complete idea.
Could you give some ideas on how to continue having that heart in protest when it's so tempting to get used to or complacent about a disability?
I think that part of our active living of Christianity is that the heart in protest isn't something we create. It's something that God is pushing us to acknowledge and live up to. Just the fact that you don't want to be complacent, that you want that heart in protest to be more consistent, is a right desire. Guess who put that desire in your heart? Isn't it God, the divine Mind, infinite Love, who's leading you higher?
Treasure the fact that God is creating that desire in you, and if God is creating that desire in you, and you desire to nurture it, then you're working together. God has never given us a right desire and then said, "I'm going to let you get off track" or "I'm not going to give you the ability or the talents or whatever you need to fulfill that desire." It comes as a complete idea.
I often feel that the world thought regarding ADHD is so aggressive it makes healing difficult. How can I better address world belief?
The analogy that works for me is that one zero weighs no more than 25 zeros. It still is nothing. When I'm handling the thought of world belief, and everybody accepting something to be true, I find that it's important that I shelter the individual that I'm praying for or praying about, and know that they, too, are "hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3), that they can be influenced only by divine Mind, and that the human mind with all of its claims cannot influence them.
I actually love working with "A Rule for Motives and Acts" in the Manual of The Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy, where she asks members of her Church—and it's something anybody can do whether they're a member or not—"to watch and pray to be delivered from all evil" (p. 40). And in the last part of that rule, she lists six things: "prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing or being influenced erroneously." To me that word erroneously modifies all six of the things that she tells us to pray to be watchful about. So I pray to be watchful that I'm not accepting that I can be influenced by a mind apart from God, nor can the individuals that I'm praying for—whether they're my own family members or someone who's called me for help in the practice. To really shelter them, and know that they're safe.
My niece has been labeled autistic and is given heavier doses of medications each year. Her family does not practice Christian Science. How can I best support healing?
Love is the healer. It's not just trying to manufacture love out of your own heart for this child and her family; it's knowing that you are the reflection of divine Love, and the love that you're loving them with is enough. It's sufficient. We don't ever know how far pure love that just cherishes the spiritual identity of each individual actually reaches, but it does reach far beyond even just the family and your dear niece.
Every time they come to thought, just know that they are held in the gospel of Love, the good news of God's allness and the power of Love to guide each individual to make the best decisions in this case. And, again, we don't outline what those best decisions are for those individuals. They're going to make those alone with God through their own prayers. And even if they don't pray, God's still speaking to them and leading them. But your prayer, acknowledging that, does make a difference.
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