Hundreds of former mental patients were interviewed. "They were people who had been institutionalized, often for 10 or more years, and who had recovered into full lives: doctors, lawyers, teachers, custodians, social workers. What had made the difference?" (Newsweek, My Turn, "Meds Alone Couldn't Bring Robert Back," by Jay Neugeboren, Feb. 6).
According to Mr. Neugeboren, who did the interviews for a book he is writing, some of the former patients pointed to new medications, some to old; some said they found God; some attributed their transformation to a particular program; but no matter what else they named, they all said that a key element was a relationship with another person. Often this person was a professional - a social worker, a nurse, a doctor. Sometimes it was a pastor or family member. In every instance, though, it was the presence in their lives of an individual who said, in effect, "I believe in your ability to recover, and I am going to stay with you until you do."
The difference one person can make when we're facing difficult times resonates deeply with me. When I was facing depression so severe that I thought of committing suicide, I was rescued by feeling deep love and caring from the Christian Science practitioner who was praying for me.
Practitioners are people who commit their lives to praying for others to heal mental as well as physical problems. Many times the practitioner encouraged me and told me how much she believed in me - in who I was and am as a child of God, full of light, not darkness.
I'll never forget calling her early one morning, sobbing on the phone. I could barely speak. She tenderly, patiently read me the words of a verse of "O little town of Bethlehem" by Phillips Brooks:
How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meekness will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.
"Christian Science Hymnal," No. 222
That is a powerful message, and the hymn remains a favorite of mine today. But what I remember most is the love I felt. It was so tangible, and its message immediately calmed me, quieted me enough to hear God's message of hope. I found a little bit of light that morning, and eventually that glimmer led step by step to complete healing.
The need for love in order to accomplish healing is pointed out by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science. She wrote: "The physician who lacks sympathy for his fellow-being is deficient in human affection.... Not having this spiritual affection, the physician lacks faith in the divine Mind and has not that recognition of infinite Love which alone confers the healing power" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 366).
But where does this healing love come from? And what happens if you don't have a person in your life who is willing to support you? Christian Science shows the importance of expressing more of this "spiritual affection" but also remembering that it is "infinite Love alone that confers the healing power." No one can be without divine Love's provision because each one of us is at one with Love.
God, being infinite Love, has many different ways in which He communicates His love. And perhaps what's important to keep in mind isn't so much the specific ways God loves us as the fact that right this moment, wherever you are, whatever you're dealing with, Love is giving you what you need.
St. Paul put it this way: "Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. Love never fails" (I Cor. 13:7, 8, J.B. Phillips). May each of us commit more fully to this healing love.