An abused child? God can help.

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

As our baby sitter came up the front walk, two-year-old Josh burst into heartbroken sobbing. We looked at each other in amazement – this small boy was by nature happy and gregarious no matter whom he was with. But nothing we said calmed him down. With apologies to the sitter, we canceled our evening out.

The next few moments were wrenching. Once he stopped crying, Josh told us that the sitter from a local preschool had hit him. We were stunned. We'd used this baby sitter several times, and he'd never told us, nor had we seen any mark on him. But when we contacted another parent about the situation, her young son reported the same treatment. Further investigation yielded a history of abuse in the baby sitter's upbringing.

Our feelings of guilt and outrage were overwhelming. We had inadvertently placed our son in harm's way.

While we took the necessary steps to have the sitter's employer alerted, we were left with many frightening concerns. How could our trust in this young woman have been so wrong? And how could we possibly remedy the damage we feared had taken place?

Then things got worse. Josh seemed to change overnight from well-adjusted and joyous to scared, emotional, and clingy. From that evening on, he wouldn't let me out of his sight.

Our family was used to turning to God for comforting and practical answers to any need. So we asked a Christian Science practitioner to pray with us for Josh.

She was instant and confident in reminding us of some basic spiritual facts about all God's children: that they are made and maintained in God's image; that God cherishes and protects each one. That God's love and support never fluctuate or disappear; and that our heartfelt pondering of these facts could heal the situation, even though it seemed too late.

As a full-time mom, I tried to think about these truths constantly. It was especially challenging when I needed to take Josh to day care while I attended a college class. Josh wasn't responding to our prayers for him, even in this safe and familiar environment. On the day of my final exam, things came to a head. I dropped him off long enough to take the test, but he was so distraught that it seemed as though I'd never be able to leave him again.

Feelings of sadness and guilt came flooding back as we drove home. In desperation, I called the practitioner to describe the trouble Josh was still having. She listened briefly, and then interrupted firmly with these words: "You are not his mother!"

I knew what she meant. God was his Mother, and always had been. In agonizing over and fearing for Josh's well-being, I had been thinking of him as a mortal – and one who had been abused, betrayed, scarred. In that instant, I rejected this definition, and stood my ground that he is immortal, whole, and untouched. I saw that his Godlike nature contained no incident, recollection, or mark of abuse.

It was a breakthrough moment, and healing was instantaneous. My feelings of agony and helplessness dropped away. Josh's sunny character resurfaced immediately, without even a word spoken to him. He stopped clinging, crying, and needing me with him all the time. It was as though he'd never been mistreated – no recuperative period, no need for counseling, and no bad memories.

What a lesson this has been to me. The best care and protection I can give my child, as his human parent, is to see that God, divine Love, is mothering him and that I can reflect this mothering. A poem by Mary Baker Eddy entitled "Mother's Evening Prayer" helps me remember this. The first verse says:

O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;

O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour,

Thou Love that guards the nestling's faltering flight!

Keep Thou my child on upward wing tonight.

God, divine Love and Life, is the "gentle presence" that parents every child. My role remains an active one – and includes knowing my child as God's spiritual likeness and vigorously rejecting the limits I previously accepted.

Everyone – parent, child, and sitter – can be comforted and healed by this knowledge.

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