When my daughter was still very young, joint problems developed in one of my hands. As the condition worsened and my knuckles became disfigured, I feared that perhaps it was too late to stop the degenerating process that seemed to have taken root.
As this problem emerged, I became very conscious of a spiritual hunger in me that I had been putting to one side for some years in the face of day-to-day life with school, a career, and then family. But I knew the Bible to be a source of healing, so I turned to the words of the prophet Isaiah and found a comforting message of God’s power to meet our need even when a situation seems beyond hope. Isaiah wrote: “He will not break off a damaged cattail. He will not even put out a smoking wick” (42:3, God’s Word Translation).
I thought of a flower blowing in the breeze until its stem is so weakened that the blossom head droops. And I considered a candlewick burnt until only a single plume of smoke remains to indicate the flame that once had been. These metaphors illustrate what would seem to be past saving. And the tendency may be to hasten the seemingly inevitable – to snap off the head of the flower or to quench the last ember.
But renewal is a reasonable expectation when we understand the healing and saving nature of the divine Spirit, God. For instance, Christian Science discoverer Mary Baker Eddy found herself in a dead-end situation in her mid-40s, yet her life turned around so completely that she was still working four decades later, when she founded this newspaper. So it was not mere theorizing when she wrote: “Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 246). (“Man” is used generically here to refer to everyone.)
I turned to God with an honest desire to understand how He made me – not as a deteriorating mortal but as the beautiful and spiritual reflection of divine Spirit. This sparked in me an expectancy of healing.
Science and Health further explains: “The radiant sun of virtue and truth coexists with being. Manhood is its eternal noon, undimmed by a declining sun” (p. 246). The sun is immovably fixed. So its use here as a metaphor for God and His relation to man helped me see that just as the sun only appears to rise and set, degeneration is a mistaken perception of reality. As God’s idea or creation, we neither grow into a perfect and eternal state nor decline from the highest and best expression of God’s beauty and goodness. This is an important part of what it means to be the image and likeness of God, as the Bible says we are.
I saw that at the root of the physical problem was a mistaken view of what I am. But as I prayed with these ideas, I felt that perspective changing, so I was less afraid. I now understood better that our true identity is actually God-given – unchanging, permanent, and spiritual, not confined to aspects, phases, or products of human development. Regardless of how it seemed when I looked at my hands, my true being was actually exempt from the possibility of decay.
At one point I looked down at the disfigurement and said aloud to myself, “That has nothing to do with me.” Nothing had changed physically, but my understanding of my nature had shifted from a material to a spiritual base. When I looked at my hand, it was as if I were looking at a dark shadow made by “a declining sun.” Unafraid, I knew the shadow was without substance or power to harm and would pass off me.
When I woke the next day, my knuckles were perfectly normal, smooth, supple, and painless, restored to normal color and function – in a word, perfect. And in the many decades since, no such symptoms have ever recurred.
The yearning to understand God, the immortal Spirit, as the source and maintainer of us all reveals what it means to be truly and fully spiritual as God’s creation – including experiencing the beauty, grandeur, and fullness of life that we at all times have every right to enjoy.