She'd been travelling for over 48 hours straight - dealing with bad weather, missed connections, long international flights. I assumed that any great-grandmother doing all that must be exhausted. So I kept offering to carry her travel bag. Or take her arm as we walked together. And she kept saying, "No thanks." Finally, she looked me right in the eye. "Don't baby me!" she said gently, but very firmly. After that, believe me, I didn't.
For the next few days, this woman and I traveled in a country where it's traditional for seniors to live quietly in the homes of their children and grandchildren. Yet the people we met seemed delighted - and amazed - to encounter a great-grandma who lives alone, works full time, volunteers for her church and community, and travels. "She has ideas of her own ... a life of her own," our young guide said to me. "I like that!"
It's not just that this woman (who's someone very dear to me) has an independent streak. And it's not that she wouldn't graciously accept help if she needed it. It's more that she respects something within herself that she feels is a gift of God: her spiritual individuality. Her authority to think and act freely as the child of God. And she expects other people to respect this, too. Because this means honoring God, who made her, and all of us, what we are.
What we are as God's children is totally spiritual. What we are spiritually doesn't depend on age or health or gender or finances or work status. It does not depend on whether we live in China or Chile or Chicago. Whether we have children or not, belong to a church or not, live alone or not - we're still God's sons and daughters. No more, no less. That's the way the Father and Mother of the universe sees us. And loves us.
Because we're each so intimately related to God, we're able to speak and act with authority. Jesus Christ understood this about himself. He knew the words he spoke came from God. That's why he could defy tradition and teach people about God, even though he hadn't been trained as a rabbi. And "the people were astonished at his doctrine," the Bible says, "for he taught them as one having authority ... " (Matt. 7:28, 29).
Of course, Jesus was much more than an authoritative orator. He lived authoritatively. He showed everyone that God's kingdom was "at hand," by healing people of nearly every affliction known at that time - including insanity, epilepsy, leprosy, and death itself.
Jesus commissioned his followers to live authoritatively, too. The Bible says, "He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease" (see Matt. 10:1, 5-20). For a century or so, Jesus' followers utilized this spiritual power, healing thousands of people. Gradually, though, ritualism and tradition squeezed out much of the healing ministry - the heartbeat of Christianity.
In the latter part of the 19th century, however, Mary Baker Eddy realized that the healing authority that Jesus and his disciples possessed wasn't just for them. It's for all of us. Forever. Because God's transcendent power empowers all His children. It authorizes their very life!
This makes an extraordinary difference, Mrs. Eddy explained. "For man to know Life as it is, namely God, the eternal good," she wrote, "gives him not merely a sense of existence, but an accompanying consciousness of spiritual power that subordinates matter and destroys sin, disease, and death" ("Miscellaneous Writings," Pg. 189).
No wonder my friend defends her spiritual authority so ardently. She knows it's directly connected with her mission as a Christian, and as a Christian healer.
The world desperately needs spiritual healers. It needs people like my great-grandmother friend. People who think, speak, and act as God alone directs them. People who live authoritatively - and love helping others live that way, too.
You can visit the home page of The First Church of Christ, Scientist: www.tfccs.com