Recently, I was reading a study that followed 87 Harvard University students into middle age. It tracked their health and their perceptions of being loved by their parents. Those students who stated at age 20 that they felt loved were significantly healthier at age 55 than those who didn't feel loved. Of those who didn't, a great majority were later diagnosed and treated for major physical ailments.
A study like this is a sober reminder of how important it is, in the midst of the frenetic pace of family life, that children feel they are loved. But what about adults who feel they didn't get much love as children, and feel that the emptiness and void have shaped their lives in hurtful ways?
In the midst of the ever-changing landscape of human affection, we can still rely on the changeless presence of divine Love. Much more than a human sentiment, divine Love can't be depleted by adverse material circumstances. Right where the voids of human affection appear to be, the Love that is God Himself remains a tangible, responsive presence always making itself known to us and feeding hungry hearts.
Although this Love can be expressed in families, it is not dependent on families for its presence and activity. The adverse effects of family history fade when we recognize love's constant presence.
Mary Baker Eddy, author of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" and founder of this newspaper, knew what it meant to be alone, destitute, and in desperate need of healing. She discovered the healing power of God's love to be everywhere, even in what appeared to be emptiness and gloom. "The wintry blasts of earth may uproot the flowers of affection, and scatter them to the winds; but this severance of fleshly ties serves to unite thought more closely to God, for Love supports the struggling heart until it ceases to sigh over the world and begins to unfold its wings for heaven" (Science and Health, pg. 57). This discovery - that God is not only the source of love, but is Love itself - comforted and healed her. And it also lifted her to a whole new view of reality.
The consciousness that divine Love is the actual Father of us all is a power. It causes us to see and feel that we are the children of God, spiritual and perfect. And like a river flowing from a powerful source, these convictions permeate our lives and effortlessly destroy whatever is alien to the purposes of Love.
The divine Love that fills the emptiness and spiritualizes the affections also heals and restores the body. Right when diagnoses of disease are proclaimed, God's everywhereness nullifies the labels and predictions, and brings the body under the control of ministering Love.
The other day, I was talking to a friend who was healed of a terminal illness by reading Science and Health. When I asked him what moved him to get the book in the first place, he thought a minute, and then shared something that had happened when he was a boy.
A neighbor's son had been standing on a wagon when my friend was pulling it. The boy fell backward and hit his head on the sidewalk. He was hurt and crying. His mother came running out, put her arms around her son, and gently but firmly started telling him about his well-being in God's loving care.
My friend had never heard anything like this before, and wanted to hear more. He was crying, too, feeling terrible for what he had done. Then the mother spoke to him and told him everything was all right. She showed no blame or resentment. My friend said he felt so free from guilt, and so loved. Both boys stopped crying, felt fine, and went back to their play.
My friend explained, "When I was diagnosed, I guess I wanted to feel that kind of love again. I wanted to be free." He knew these neighbors turned to the truths in Science and Health for healing, so he began to study the book in search of that healing love. And he was restored to health.
Christian Science proves that adverse effects of loveless lives can be healed. What appear to be concrete and permanent material conditions are changeable. And they do change, giving way to our birthright of being the sons and daughters of God, perfect and complete.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor