The power to push back
Push back. I was alone in my car when I heard the words.
Push back. Could they have been an answer to prayer? After all, I had been praying. But I didn’t really know what those words meant, so I asked God to help me understand why they were important.
I found myself thinking about when I lived in New York City and rode some very crowded subways. If you let the other riders push you when you’re standing in those moving subway trains, you might fall over. You have to stand your ground and gently push back. Enough so that you won’t be pushed around.
But what was I supposed to push back against now?
Then I remembered a healing I’d had a few years earlier. As usual, I had started my day by reading the weekly Bible Lesson found in the Christian Science Quarterly and praying for myself. Later, when I was walking to my office, I suddenly had intense pain in my stomach. It was overwhelming and scary. It was so severe I had to stop walking. As I stood there, wondering what was happening, this phrase came to mind: “aggressive mental suggestion.”
My first reaction was that this sure didn’t feel like something that was mental. It felt like something was physically very wrong. But I knew those words hadn’t come from nowhere. I’d read them before in Mary Baker Eddy’s writings (Manual of The Mother Church, p. 42 ). And now they had come in answer to my prayer for guidance and relief—from God, divine Mind. So, mentally, I pushed back against the pain and fear, taking this phrase one word at a time:
Aggressive. Yes, these feelings were very aggressive, and felt overwhelming. But in considering this word, I suddenly understood that aggressiveness was a bullying tactic. How else would it get my attention?
Mental. Even though this problem sure felt like it was physical, I knew from studying Christian Science that everything we deal with is actually thought. To say it in a very simple way, in every situation we’re either responding to a good thought from God, or we’re needing to push back against a bad thought that’s trying to challenge God’s goodness and power. So, recognizing that this pain was actually mental—a negative thought that could be challenged—gave me back some choices, some control. While I might not appear to be able to fix a problem with my body, I did know how to change my thought. And that word mental told me that was all I needed to do.
It was with the third word, suggestion, that it all clicked. I thought, “If this is really only a suggestion, then I don’t have to listen to it, even though it is aggressively telling me something is very wrong with my body.”
In every situation, we’re either responding to a good thought from God, or we’re needing to push back against a bad thought that’s trying to challenge God’s goodness.
I reached out to God with all my strength and faith and trust and said, “I know You didn’t cause this pain, so let’s see it go. Now. After all, suggestions aren’t final.” And the pain did go. Just like that, I was able to straighten up and walk. The pain never returned, and I learned an important lesson about pushing back against aggressive mental suggestions.
So what about the thought to push back that I had in the car? After reflecting on my earlier healing, I realized I’d been accepting all sorts of aggressive mental suggestions about myself and others that morning. Suggestions that seemed very real until I got the message from God to challenge them. So, I pushed back on them with all the authority of Truth, with full trust in good, and realized that they were in fact just that: suggestions. And I watched as, one by one, they dissolved in the light of the good I knew was actually true—and present—instead.
We do have the strength from God to both stand our ground and push back against anything that would to push us around.
One of the things I love about being a Christian Scientist is the strength Christian Science has given me to challenge every thought that isn’t right or good. To know that I don’t have to accept these suggestions as real or authoritative—that none of us do. Whether a suggestion comes disguised as self-hatred or discouragement or even sickness, as we push back on anything that doesn’t originate in God, it will “flee from you” (James 4:7 ). Just like the pain did for me. Just like those negative thoughts in the car that morning.
Like I learned riding the subway, we need to both stand our ground and push back against anything that would push us around—and we have the steadiness and strength from God to do so. And when we do, we’ll find that the outcome is that thing we all want: healing.