WHEN I was growing up, whenever I felt discouraged, sad, or ill, my mother was a steadfast presence by my side. When I had any kind of problem, she was there to comfort and encourage me, and most of all to remind me that God would heal me if I prayed.
I regularly attended the Christian Science Sunday School, where I learned that God is Love and that I am His child. Many times my mom would pray for me, and I would be healed. To this day I recall numerous quick healings, such as that of an earache, severe stomach pains, and a nose infection. Mom wasn't around, however, when I went away to summer camp and found myself, at age fourteen, homesick and frightened. I had enrolled in a special program with two counselors and only a few other kids. We would be sleeping in tents deep in the woods. The first night, it thundered and poured. I huddled in my sleeping bag, wishing Mom were there, feeling so scared and lonely.
Then I decided to pray to God, the way she had always told me to. A favorite hymn I had sung in Sunday School came to mind. It starts out: ``O gentle presence, peace and joy and power . . . . " These words are part of a poem called ``The Mother's Evening Prayer," written by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
From what I'd learned, I knew that this ``gentle presence" was God, ever-present Love. I sang the whole hymn quietly to myself and was especially comforted by its assurance that God's ``arm encircles me, and mine, and all. All the fear and homesickness melted away. A warm feeling of peace settled upon me as I listened to the rain pounding on the roof of the canvas tent. I was so grateful to God! That peace remained with me for the rest of my stay.
Looking back, I can see how that experience was a milestone in my understanding of God, divine Love, who is man's only true Parent. My human mother wasn't with me there (and she couldn't possibly be with me every minute). But divine Love was there--and is always with me, tenderly ministering to my needs. I could see that God is ``Mother," expressing gentleness, faithfulness, and comfort, just as surely as He is ``Father."
Now that I have a child of my own, I feel able to fulfill my responsibility to my child without a sense of burden when I remember that God is the true Mother and tenderly cares for and maintains His own creation. The more I listen to God for guidance and follow His precepts, the more wisdom and love my actions reflect. I take tremendous comfort in the fact that my daughter, like all of us, is in reality the spiritual offspring of divine Love, inseparable from God's presence and care. When we've prayed th is way, my family has experienced healing, just as my mother and I did when I was little.
The compassion Christ Jesus expressed when healing people and his tender regard for little children certainly point to a character imbued with the fullness of divine Love. To him, God was infinitely generous and conscientious in His care for man. Jesus says in the Biblical book of Matthew: ``Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?"
Our dearest relationships on earth--whether we have our mother or father with us or not--can be made even stronger and more fulfilling by humbly worshiping God as infinite Love and as the only source of true comfort and care. His love will then shine through every gentle touch, motivate our deeds, and bring lasting peace into our lives.