In the long run
A question a friend recently asked about spiritual healing took me back to an experience I had running a hundred-mile race through the mountains. Telling me that he found his spiritual practice helpful with work situations and relationships but medical attention simpler for his health-care needs, my friend asked why I, a Christian Scientist, sought healing through spiritual treatment. It’s a good question, and I addressed it by sharing my ultramarathon experience.
I had been running marathons (26.2 miles, or 42.195 km) for some time, and loved it because of the spiritual growth I experienced along the way—in both the preparation and the actual race. Running four times that far sounded almost impossible, but the idea intrigued me.
The challenges of life often push us to grow spiritually, and it’s also nice from time to time to choose activities that we feel will deepen our understanding of God and our spiritual identity—whether that be working on an art project, playing a piece of music, growing the perfect tomato, or going for a very long run. So, I signed up for the race and began training.
I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to understand my relationship to God.
My main goal was to grow spiritually through the process—specifically, to learn more about healing. I knew that in order to make the distance, I couldn’t help but have a healing experience, because for some time I had been dealing with a kind of runner’s illness. In many long training runs or events, I would get sick and be forced to drop out. I had been praying about this diligently and seeking spiritual answers, but had not yet found freedom from the condition.
In the runners’ meeting before the race, the director handed out bags to all the participants and mentioned that in the bag was a kind of medication for this condition. It had not occurred to me to diagnose the illness or seek medication for it, but there in my bag was potentially a simple remedy for something that could otherwise keep me from completing the event.
I sat there and thought again about what my goals really were. Of course, I was hoping to complete the race, but my real goal was to grow and deepen spiritually. I recognized that the medication might help me reach the finish line, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to understand my relationship to God more clearly. I wanted to experience how understanding myself as spiritual, the expression of divine Spirit, could bring freedom from physical limitations such as illness.
I trusted that the truth of my spiritual wholeness was knowable and provable.
The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, states that “. . . all is Spirit and spiritual” (p. 331). I had a sense that in this run I was going to learn more about what that meant. So, I set the medication aside and headed for the start line.
About halfway through the run, the sickness I’d previously dealt with came on very forcefully, and it appeared that it would be the end of the run for me. I stopped briefly at an aid station and called a Christian Science practitioner to pray with me. She agreed that she would affirm in prayer my God-created spiritual wholeness and would listen for what divine Love was communicating about my God-reflecting freedom.
Before joining the race again, I thought about a few passages from the Bible. Christ Jesus taught his followers, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). I trusted that the truth of my spiritual wholeness was knowable and provable, so I could find freedom from the imposition of sickness. Psalms 18:32 says, “It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.” With trust in that promise, I slowly and prayerfully resumed running, seeking the effectiveness of that ever-present divine help to make my way perfect.
A few miles later, and for the first time in many years of running and experiencing that runner’s illness, the grip of the pain and discomfort broke. I was completely healed of sickness and able to finish the hundred miles joyfully.
A hymn sang itself in my thought through those final miles, giving me a last push as I completed the race. The hymn begins,
’Tis God the Spirit leads
In paths before unknown;
The work to be performed is ours,
The strength is all His own.
(Benjamin Beddome, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 354).
I realize that I might also have made the finish if I had utilized the medication. However, because of that moment of spiritual reliance on God, what I knew for sure was that whenever health challenges came up in the future, I could be confident that spiritual healing was possible. Beyond that, the experience showed me more about how healing happens, and those lessons have been applicable to various difficulties that have come up in my life since, especially situations where problems looked to be entrenched or unresolvable.
The choice to seek spiritual healing is not based on trying to prove that other methods are wrong; it is truly based on a love of the growth and deepening that happens when we seek to understand more fully the nature of God and our divinely created identity. I’ve found that in the long run, the journey is definitely worth the effort.