November. Three of us are searching for artifacts in a farmer's field that borders a small swamp. After the autumn harvest, the ground can sometimes offer up an unplanned second crop: bits of quartzite, chert, rhyolite. These are the arrowheads and projectile points of native peoples who hunted here thousands of years earlier.
On this quiet morning, however, we discover something we hadn't been searching for. We come across a steel trap in the weeds. It grips an opossum.
My wife is first to approach the animal, who is lying on the ground, eyes shut, perfectly still. When we come closer, we see that the opossum is breathing, softly. Not knowing our intentions, perhaps the animal hopes we won't see it there. That we'll pass by and do no more harm. With its eyes closed, the opossum is hiding the only way it can. We wonder if we'll be able to release it.
Freeing an animal from a heavy trap isn't always easy. But its back leg isn't badly injured. We cover the opossum with a jacket, and work the trap open. When we lift the jacket, the animal slowly gets to its feet and ambles off toward the brush.
The opossum is free again. But the three of us standing there, watching it go, also feel released. There's something about freedom, about helping to accomplish it: when it comes to anyone else's life or to any other creature, we all feel we share in it. It's a good feeling.
The mission of Christian healing, too, is about freedom. It's about freedom from the steel trap of fear and suffering. It's about freedom from depressed hope. It's about the freedom of discovering God's peace, grace, and "tender mercies." And it's about the freedom of love, of spiritual living, of knowing ourselves as sons and daughters of God.
In Bible times, Christ Jesus liberated people from all sorts of diseases, tragedies, sins. He asked of his followers that they join him in this ministry of freedom. And we can.
The author of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy, wrote of the opportunity for each of us to be a healer, to bring freedom. To Mrs. Eddy, a woman living in 19th-century New England, issues of freedom and healing were vital. Women had gained few of the basic rights they hold today, and health conditions were poor. The enslavement of African-Americans had ended only with the close of the Civil War. Many people were working and struggling for social, religious, and health reform. Bringing the Science of Christianity into this environment of thought, Eddy would write: "When will Jesus' professed followers learn to emulate him in all his ways and to imitate his mighty works?... It is possible, - yea, it is the duty and privilege of every child, man, and woman, - to follow in some degree the example of the Master by the demonstration of Truth and Life, of health and holiness" (Science and Health, pg. 37).
This "demonstration of Truth and Life, of health and holiness," is, at its very core, the demonstration of true freedom. And Eddy's book carefully explains the healing power of God that enables us to be most effective in this important work of freeing ourselves and others.
Healing and freedom are demonstrated through love, humility, and a deepening understanding of divine law - understanding that God is infinite Life, pure Spirit, the perfect Principle governing creation; that everything God creates always has been and always will be expressing His goodness, purity, holiness. This is what each of us, and all His creation, must be - the expression of God's goodness, purity, holiness. When our prayer embraces this truth, it heals. It liberates and transforms human lives.
To join in the work of Christ-healing, to whatever degree we can, is an immeasurable contribution to freedom. And when any one of God's children is healed, set free, we all share in it. It blesses everyone.
And it shall come to pass
in the day that the Lord shall
give thee rest from thy sorrow,
and from thy fear, and from
the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society