Do genes make us who we are? What does make us who we are? The presidents of Stanford, MIT, Princeton, and Harvard have all been in the news recently, wrestling publicly with this question, a question that humanity has wrestled with throughout the ages, a question that we all face in our own lives.
As a preschooler I learned from Mother Goose that I was made of "sugar and spice and everything nice." Later, in biology class, I learned that I was made of various organs with female genes and hormones thrown in. Although I got an A in the class, one day, as the teacher diagrammed the digestive and reproductive organs squeezed into my belly, it suddenly seemed to me that he was describing the plumbing under my bathroom sink - not me - not my talents, aspirations, or the sugar and spice in my heart. Perhaps Mother Goose had glimpsed something that biology had missed.
In church school, I learned that both women and men - but especially women - have natures prone to wrongdoing, easily tempted away from God's goodness by plump apples and promises of wisdom. I learned that it was because women are such easy prey to temptation that we have been cursed by God to the suffering associated with bearing children.
To me, that Mother Goose rhyme was making more sense every day.
When I was a teenager and began menstruating, the pain and nausea associated with each period forced me, every month, to stay in bed for a day or two. Nothing else seemed to help. At first I thought it merely depressing to think I would have to spend long days in bed for decades of my life, but when I went to college, I discovered it was impossible; I couldn't spare that much time away from my studies and part-time job.
The doctor in the college health clinic advised me to change my diet during menstruation, which I did, but that was no help at all. Painkillers made me more comfortable, but they didn't make it any easier to get out of bed. Then I met a woman who cured disease and suffering of all sorts through treatments in Christian Science rather than medical treatments. She radically changed my thinking about what makes us who we are.
In our first conversation she told me that I am not a babymaking machine, built to pop out babies the way a carefully tooled factory pops out cookies or shoes. She said that I am not at the mercy of merciless organs, bones, hormones, and genes. Instead, she opened my eyes wide to the Bible's assurances that "the spirit of God hath made me" (Job 33:4); that "we live in the Spirit [God]" (Gal. 5:25); that we are like the God who made us (see Gen. 1:26, 27); and that because God is Spirit and good, we must be spiritual and wonderful. She turned my attention away from my body and showed me something of my spiritual nature as a child of the Holy Spirit - the nature that the Psalmist referred to when he sang, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps. 139:14).
Receiving treatments from the Christian Science practitioner, and studying the Scriptures and the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, I became less preoccupied with my body's plumbing and more aware of who I am as God's dear child. I learned that God is our Father and our Mother, too. The prophet Isaiah referred to Her as comforting us as a mother (Isa. 66:13). I learned that our Father-Mother God made every one of us, men and women alike, to express Her beauty, strength, gentleness, and infinite intelligence, including art, poetry, and science. I learned that God does not dole out His wonderful qualities one by one like a Scrooge, giving this one to him and that one to her, for He "giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (I Tim. 6:17). God shines out Her greatness through us all, day after day after day, without "variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17).
Glimpsing the fact that God's great goodness makes us who we are changed me. It crowded out limitations, fears, PMS, nausea, and cramps, leaving me happier, healthier all month long, more relaxed, and more consistent - full of the sugar and spice that God intends for us all.