AS a student I enjoyed shopping in stores selling secondhand goods. It was easier to afford some of the things I needed, and I also enjoyed finding unexpected items. My all-time favorite find was a book whose contents teach how to practice Christian healing through the knowledge and understanding of God.
The book is called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and its author is Mary Baker Eddy. When I was in the secondhand shop with a friend who had recently been introduced to this book, he spotted a copy on the shelf. I accepted his offer to buy it for me and took the book home. I read its first chapter, ''Prayer,'' right away, and have never stopped reading the book since that day!
Being able to buy secondhand clothes is occasionally helpful when on a tight budget. And hearing about someone else's experience of God can be encouraging. Many people find this kind of solace in reading the Bible as great literature or as a historical record of the Hebrew people. It is thought-provoking to ponder the direct communion with God enjoyed by such luminaries as Moses, Daniel, and especially Christ Jesus.
Yet eventually the heart rightly yearns for more than a secondhand experience of God's love. What about ourselves, today? Are our needs for God's comforting closeness any less than those of the individuals whose lives are related in the Scriptures? Emphatically, no! Our deep, deep need in facing every individual challenge and community concern is for a fresh vision of God's goodness, a brand-new experience of His presence, power, and love. The Psalmist assures us in the Bible, ''The Lord is nigh un to all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth'' (Psalms 145:18).
Science and Health helped me find this kind of firsthand spiritual realization of God's reality by throwing the light of spiritual illumination on the Bible and bringing out its most powerful spiritual meaning. This perception of the Scriptures leads to the profoundest possible sense of God's nearness. In fact, it unfolds the spiritual sense of man's eternal oneness with God as His image and likeness, which the Bible points out. As we understand our oneness with God, good, we see that sickness, lack,
and sinful traits-such as hatred and sensuality-are unworthy of man's true, divinely noble being. Perceiving this empowers us to reject these false characteristics and experiences, and let them progressively disappear from our lives.
Because it helps us do this, Science and Health is a book that boundlessly improves the lives of those who read it with an open heart. It may prompt some mental struggles, as it did for me, by bringing us face to face with things about ourselves that need correcting-things we may initially prefer not to know! But as its author, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, assures all who read it: ''If the reader of this book observes a great stir throughout his whole system, and certain moral and physical symptoms seem aggravated, these indications are favorable. Continue to read, and the book will become the physician, allaying the tremor which Truth often brings to error when destroying it'' (p. 422).
Together with the Bible, Science and Health acts as pastor of the Christian Science Church. But you don't need to belong to the Church to apply to this pastor for help! Its counsel is open to all, free to all, and effective to all who will hear its message with an open heart, or to those who will struggle persistently with its message until its meaning becomes clear to them. Then it invariably delivers firsthand proof of the validity of its preaching through the healing, repentance, reformation, and salvation that follow for those who genuinely take its lessons to heart.
Whether obtained in a secondhand store, a Christian Science Reading Room, a library, or a bookshop, Science and Health turns us back to the Bible for firsthand news of God that results in healing.