When I was growing up, I observed that all the relatives on my father's side of the family were tall, and those on my mother's side were short. I longed to be on the tall side, but finally found peace by joking about getting the short end of my genetic inheritance. As I got older, I learned about the possibility that certain diseases could be inherited, and it became clear that I needed to break away from any acceptance – even a joking one – of inherited material characteristics.
This necessity started me thinking about not just what made me, me – that is, what gave me a unique identity – but also what made my friends and relatives special. Clearly, it wasn't height, but individual characteristics such as love of people and of beauty, perseverance, strength, generosity, among others.
None of these qualities comes from a material matrix. Their foundation isn't in genes but in Spirit, God. As Psalm 139 describes our relation to God: "I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well" (139:14). This inheritance is really the only one you and I have. And through prayer, we can escape the belief that we are subject to a genetically based disease or other failings.
I know this because my own family has struggled with a number of diseases that are believed to be genetic. At one point, I became severely ill with one of them, to the point where it seemed my life might be in danger. As I prayed for healing, I found great help in Mary Baker Eddy's statement, "Heredity is not a law" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 178). That idea helped me see myself as spiritual, totally separate from any material condition – inherited or otherwise.
Science and Health also states, "Heredity is a prolific subject for mortal belief to pin theories upon; but if we learn that nothing is real but the right, we shall have no dangerous inheritances, and fleshly ills will disappear" (p. 228).
To me, this statement means that reality rests in spiritual qualities from God and has no basis in matter. The healing work Jesus did in obedience to God's law totally transcended material conditions. And he brought out our relation to Spirit by the way he talked about his own relation to God. Once he told skeptical listeners, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). That's a pretty startling statement from a man whom many people knew as the son of a carpenter. Yet his conviction of his inseparability from God enabled him to far transcend his social and economic status, to literally change the world.
Jesus gave this promise of a life-changing relation to God to each of us in what's called the Lord's Prayer. It begins with the words "Our Father." This gets us back to the idea that each individual is "fearfully and wonderfully made" by an all-loving Spirit, who cherishes us and has a purpose for us. This Father is the Father who makes you special in your unique way, just as He makes me and everyone else special in our own ways.
To learn more of who you truly are, and gain freedom from fear of genetically transmitted disease, you can begin by listing the spiritual qualities you express – intelligence, joy, peace, patience, among others. Then you might make a list of qualities that aren't spiritual – anger, fear, greed, envy, and so on. Reject the latter as no part of your inheritance from God. Take time also to value the spiritual ones and think about how they cancel the nonspiritual ones.
Prayer along these lines will help you get to know the God Jesus told us to call "Father," and you'll grow more confident that your inheritance can only be good, health-giving, and a blessing to everyone around you, including your family.
For more articles on this subject, you can purchase a copy of the March 3 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel – "Do your genes define you?" – at any Christian Science Reading Room.