On health and healing

A Christian Science perspective.

Author David Bornstein's recent online commentary in The New York Times, "Medicine's Search for Meaning," reported on "The Healer's Art," a course for doctors and medical students designed to help them reconnect with the desire to help people – the motive that first led them to the field of medicine. Compassion and empathy are at the foundation of most doctors' practices, and the heavy response to the article indicates that doctors would like to see those qualities receive a lot more institutional support.

Studies have shown that such qualities affect healing. That's true for both physician and patient. Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, who designed "The Healer's Art," wrote: "Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul" ("Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal").

As the article made clear, serving that's based wholly on physical assessments and statistical probabilities falls short of true healing and leaves both patients and physicians unsatisfied.

Christian Science begins with an open-minded, full-hearted appreciation of the powerful, invisible elements in every case. It starts with spiritual qualities and recognizes their authority in experience. Most of all, it admits the divine, incorporeal source of such qualities and our sense of them. It is no coincidence that patients with faith in God tend to have better attitudes and heal more quickly.

Compassion and empathy are expressions of divine Love – always present and able to reach us regardless of circumstances. The heart of Love is its purity. As the Bible puts it, "[T]he wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality" (James 3:17).

The impartial, universal nature of divine Love brings not only comfort but relief from pain and illness when we realize that we live in Love's presence. This realization can be powerful. It once healed a foot-long gash in my leg.

I'd fallen through the frame of a trapdoor that had a large nail sticking out. In my desire for something more solid to hang on to than fear and shock in that terrible moment, I turned to God and recalled these words from the Christian Science textbook by Mary Baker Eddy: "All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation ..." ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 468). This spiritual fact of Love and divine intelligence was a stark contrast to what I'd been feeling, and it enabled me to get up, clean the wound without fear, and get myself to church, where I was serving as a reader. When I next noticed my leg that night, getting ready for bed, the wound had closed and the skin was smooth.

Healing does involve knowledge and skill. It is now becoming apparent that healing is inseparable from spiritual sense and love. How helpful it is to understand that there is an unlimited source – divine Spirit, Love – that we can turn to. And how good it is to live more consciously aware that it is here and now.

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