ONE summer I was invited to join two families at a beach cottage. I found myself spending more and more of my vacation in the company of a young lady who shared my enthusiasm for the Bible. She laughingly proclaimed she was one of those who believed that a worn-out Bible invariably belongs to someone who isn't. I soon noticed that the Bible she studied on the beach every morning was in pretty bad shape, whereas she certainly wasn't!
Her favorite Bible passages were marked in red ink. Her Bible was well used and deeply loved. It was a source of comfort and inspiration, and a special friend. By the end of the holiday I had come to appreciate that this was someone who lived the truths she loved, and embraced all humanity in her thought. I showed her a copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, and explained its role--alongside the Bible--as the pastor of the Church of Christ, Scientist. She was open-minded and adventurous. And I knew precisely what I'd be sending her for Christmas! Before mailing the book, I made an index for her, listing topics that related to discussions we'd had on the beach.
She received my gift with genuine appreciation, and I gathered later from telephone calls that she was reading it with lively curiosity and some satisfaction. In fact, when next our families shared a beach cottage, her Science and Health, looking a little worse--or was it better?--for wear lay beside her Bible on a bedside table.
As we talked, she spoke enthusiastically of her favorite passages, of the chapters ''Prayer'' and ''Marriage,'' and about the helpfulness of the synonyms for God that are included among the questions and answers in the chapter entitled ''Recapitulation''--Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love.
It was so refreshing for me, a lifelong Christian Scientist, to notice which passages she had marked in her new book. They included statements that embrace all who are honestly seeking the truth.
My friend pointed enthusiastically to this passage in Science and Health: ''What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds'' (p. 4). ''In all my years of study as a Christian,'' she remarked, ''I've never read anything that better explains what it means to 'grow in grace.' '' ''And here's another,'' she said, '' 'Spiritual sense, contradicting the material senses, involves intuition, hope, faith, understanding, fruition, reality' [p. 298]. I love the progression. I've always been taught to have hope and faith, but this goes several steps further, until spiritual experience becomes the reality.'' What was so reassuring about this newcomer's exploration of Science and Health was that she was not simply isolating sentences that looked good or felt good, to use them as mantras of a kind. Each passage was an adventure in Bible study and revelation. Together, they presented reassuring evidence of the way in which this key to the Scriptures was unlocking texts already familiar to her.
She told me she had experienced a quick healing of severe influenza while studying the twenty-third Psalm, which begins: ''The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want'' (verse 1). As she prayed, she realized that because divine Love (a phrase synonymous in Christian Science with God) was her shepherd, she could not want for anything--including health and wholeness. She saw that wholeness had been promised by Christ Jesus in his healings recorded in the New Testament. Within minutes my friend was completely well.
Her study of Science and Health was not changing her already established belief in the laws of God, but it was expanding it to include spiritual healing and regeneration as an integral part of her Christian experience.
Now, several years later, you will probably not be surprised to learn that her copy of Science and Health lies beside my copy of Science and Health--alongside two well-worn Bibles--in the home we share as husband and wife!