A chip off the old block?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I Recently Watched a video produced for caregivers of patients with Alzheimer's disease. The film spoke lovingly about how to care for these individuals' needs.

I realized, though, that trained caregivers in a controlled environment probably have an easier time than family members who are watching a loved one decline mentally. Often, family members can feel fearful, not just for the person who's suffering, but for themselves, asking, Will I decline mentally also?

It's good to get such questions on the table rather than try to suppress them, because there are powerful spiritual answers that can help and heal.

Heredity and the fear of disease that goes with it argue that each of us is a "chip off the old block." So if there were worms in the old block, there will be worms in the chips, too. Christian Science, which was discovered and founded by Mary Baker Eddy, takes a completely different approach - one that's based on what Jesus taught his followers to do. In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she wrote bluntly, "Heredity is not a law" (page 178).

Her book explains why heredity and everything that goes with it isn't a law. The book develops the biblical concept that each of us is the spiritual idea of God, infinite Mind. Yes, infinite Mind. This means that divine intelligence is everywhere, and that you and I are designed by God to express that intelligence. In other words, our biological history is not the deciding factor in our mental and physical health.

As I thought about this point, I thought of the many people Jesus healed, including those who were mentally ill. What was he seeing that was powerful enough to heal them?

For example, in "the country of the Gadarenes," near Galilee, he met a man who was believed to be possessed with devils - a common diagnosis in days when mental illness was not understood as it is today. The man was naked, and he lived in the tombs.

He verbally accosted Jesus, but instead of hurrying off, Jesus stopped and talked with him. The first thing Jesus asked him was, "What is thy name?" To me, he was saying, "Who are you? Who do you believe you are?" The man gave his name as "Legion" because he was infested with so many devils. But Jesus wasn't fazed by this. Instead, he drove the devils out of the man. Later, other people saw the man "clothed, and in his right mind" (Luke 8:26-35).

Jesus must have recognized that the disease - no matter what it called itself, even if the man's parents had suffered from something similar - had no place in the man. The God who is Love would never send trouble to anyone, so the disease didn't have any real cause. The man's basic nature had to be Godlike - intelligent, peaceful, good. Jesus' understanding of this point was so clear that he was able to heal the man instantly. This knowledge of each individual's spirituality is just as relevant today.

My mother suffered from wild rages in which she would say terrible things. Since she was a saleswoman, these rages weren't good for her business. I helped her, when I could, and I always told myself, "I will never be like that."

One day after she had passed on, I caught myself storming through the kitchen on the way to "tell them a thing or two." Then, in my mind's eye, I saw my mother doing the same thing so many years ago. I stopped dead in my tracks. I was not going to go there, because I knew that God, Love, would plead my case for me much more successfully than fear and rage. I took the time to let God guide my words and actions, and things did work out peacefully.

The promise of this healing is that each of us can control our mental health - even if we believe there is a hereditary connection with disease. We all have the right to be "in our right mind" at all times and all places. Instead of being afraid, we can choose to work continually on discovering more and more of our relationship to the divine Mind, whose intelligence we can never lose.

No longer will anyone go around saying, "Sour grapes eaten
by parents leave a sour taste
in the mouths of their children."

(Jer. 31:29 Contemporary English Version)

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