THE winter I was a sophomore in college, I worked in a department store during the Christmas holidays. There wasn't much time for lunch and I usually ate in the employees' cafeteria. After the first week, an older woman asked if she could sit at my table. She said she needed to talk to someone and began telling me about some of the difficulties she was facing at that time. Her marriage was in turmoil, she was ill and very concerned about her children.
Normally this kind of conversation would have made me uncomfortable, as I wouldn't know what to do or how to respond. But during that year my life had undergone some significant changes as I had discovered that God is, as the Bible teaches in Psalms, ``a very present help in trouble.''
God no longer seemed to be simply a religious concept or theory, or something to talk about. God had become a life-transforming and life-enriching presence in my life. I had always gone to Sunday School, but I was surprised now to find that the Bible was speaking to me in a whole new way. It wasn't just literature or history. It was relevant. More than that, its words practically burst off the page with the ideas and direction I needed so much.
I was also reading another book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. This was opening up the Bible to me. It's hard to explain the difference between talking about God and actually experiencing His love in your daily life. But these two books brought about this change, and I read them hungrily each day. Like my lunchtime companion, I had been in need of answers. I found it hard to believe that I needed spiritual answers: an un derstanding of God, some sense of what it means to be His child, an awareness of the significance of the life and work of Christ Jesus and of the spiritual laws he revealed. But that was the case.
The Bible teaches that God is Love. Science and Health helped me to understand the nature of divine Love and its impact on my own life. In Jeremiah, the prophet reports: ``The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love.'' I had glimpsed the fact that God was all-knowing. Therefore God had to know me through and through, at all times, in every way. Yet all that He found and knew brought forth His everlasting love.
This gave me pause. As I quietly thought about this, it became clear that the ``me'' that God knows is different from how I was thinking of myself. (For there were many elements of myself that I knew God could not love.) So I found myself wanting to know the real ``me,'' the ``me'' God knows and loves. I pored over Science and Health and the Bible daily. And step by step--continuing still today--the unlovable elements claiming to be part of me or my character have been falling away.
In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy writes, ``The great truth in the Science of being, that the real man was, is, and ever shall be perfect, is incontrovertible; for if man is the image, reflection, of God, he is neither inverted nor subverted, but upright and Godlike.'' Our health, our character, our life, cannot be subverted. Jesus' healing of disease and sin gives ample proof of this. Science and Health brings to light that he was not simply a miracle worker, but the revelator of the eternal laws of God s ustaining and maintaining man's perfection and goodness.
So in my heart, I knew why this woman had sat at my table and poured out her story. She was searching for the very help that I had found. And there was only one thing to do. She already owned a Bible, so I gave her my copy of Science and Health.