This Monday, roughly 20,000 men and women will run in the 108th Boston Marathon - one of the most watched one-day sporting events in the world, second only to the Super Bowl. For many New Englanders, the marathon marks the official start of spring. For many runners, it marks a high-profile opportunity to break old barriers and set new records, both for the race and for themselves.
But in the course of breaking old barriers, other things sometimes bruise and break, too. The accidents and injuries that occur during athletic competitions, practice sessions, and even workouts at the gym can make staying healthy seem ironically unhealthy.
Mary Baker Eddy, the 19th-century religious leader who founded this newspaper, spent half of her life searching for health. She investigated every known remedy and therapy, and while some brought temporary relief, none cured her. Eventually, her medical researches and experiments suggested that she should stop looking for health in the body and start looking for it in thought. Her bestselling book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," describes her observations and reasoning, including how she became convinced of the mental nature of pain. She observed that when we are anesthetized, fall asleep, or turn "away from the body with such absorbed interest as to forget it, the body experiences no pain" - even when the condition causing the pain remains (page 261).
Ultimately, Mary Baker Eddy's quest for health led her to God. She wrote that each of us "is more than a material form with a mind inside" (page 258). As the "offspring of Spirit," we are spiritual. She proved that understanding this restores health by curing cases of disease, injury, and deformity. She also taught others to cure such cases, and she wrote Science and Health so that all may confidently rely on God to do what the Bible promises He will do - heal all our diseases (see Ps. 103:3). Today, practitioners of Christian Science healing give treatments based on this book's teachings, and I have experienced the effectiveness of these treatments.
For many years, I went to a health club daily. The rowing machine provided one of my favorite exercises. One day I was rowing vigorously, blissfully in the "zone," when the cable that supported the oars snapped and knocked me off my seat onto the narrow steel bar of the machine's frame. I landed with full force on my tailbone and nearly blacked out because of the pain. I needed help to stand and could scarcely move my legs. Health club staff insisted that I go to the emergency room, but I knew that even if I were to be prescribed nothing more than painkillers and ice packs, it could still take weeks before I was functioning normally. Having seen Christian Science treatments produce complete cures in less time with no side effects, that's what I opted for.
A friend helped me into a taxi and then into my apartment, where I lay motionless on the couch to limit the pain. I phoned a practitioner of Christian Science healing and explained what had happened. His response revolutionized my thinking about health and exercise. He said, very kindly, "My dear, by all means do your joyous exercises, but never believe they have anything to do with your health."
Of course, that's exactly what I did believe - that exercise was essential to my health, despite this most recent accident. But his comments snapped me to mental attention. As he spoke with conviction about my fundamentally spiritual nature as God's creation, as God's idea, I glimpsed myself as something more than a body with movable parts that sometimes bruise or break; more than a body requiring exercise and a particular diet to remain in good working order; more than a body, period. I glimpsed something of what it means to be an idea in the Mind of God, whose health is not affected by a rowing machine.
I hung up the phone, got up from the couch, and walked into the kitchen to tell my friend what the practitioner had said. I didn't even think about being able to move normally again till I saw the surprise on my friend's face. Nothing had changed but my thought. But that was the only change that was needed because that was the only barrier to health there was.