Attending a dawn memorial service for Anzac Day (commemorating the sacrifice and service of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand) last month, my thought naturally turned to my father, a World War II United States Army Air Corps veteran. Before the war, he was just another Kansas farm boy who wanted to fly. But then came the attack on Pearl Harbor, and he and his friends were called to serve their country in war.
Like many veterans of that era, my father rarely spoke of his experiences. Most of my knowledge of that part of his life was gained during a reunion of his fighter group 50-some years after the war. He was remembered by those with whom he flew as a gentle man and a selfless pilot. That stood out to me because gentle and selfless is how I always thought of him too.
When his tour of duty was over, gratefully, Dad returned home. But while he was physically whole, he suffered from a deep depression. A neighbor, knowing the severity of my dad’s case, gave my mother a copy of Mary Baker Eddy’s book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the textbook of Christian Science. She read on page one, “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, – a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love.”
Mom later explained that she knew from the moment she read that very first page that she had found something that could help my dad. She recognized in him the courageous, unselfed love that characterized so many of our servicemen.
Unselfed love is a powerful quality because it has a divine source: God, divine Love itself. This Love, Christian Science teaches, is infinite and universal. It’s something we all naturally reflect as the children, the spiritual image and likeness, of God. It’s the source of the love by which we can care for and help others, no matter how difficult or dangerous the circumstances, with loyalty, respect, honor, and integrity. God’s love gives us strength in adversity, protection in danger, and a capacity to exceed personal limits and overcome fear when helping others. Divine Love’s blessing leaves no one out.
Christ Jesus exemplified this unselfed love in all that he did. He showed how to discern between the material personality that seems to be ours and the spiritual selfhood that reflects divine Love, God. And he showed how we can better serve God and help and heal others by increasingly putting off the former for the latter. He said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). To me, then, this speaks not of animal courage or a lack of regard for oneself but to a divinely impelled spirit of love that we express in the way we think and act in our lives.
Science and Health explains: “Your influence for good depends upon the weight you throw into the right scale. The good you do and embody gives you the only power obtainable.…
“Whatever holds human thought in line with unselfed love, receives directly the divine power” (p. 192).
My mom recognized that such a love could only strengthen my dad, not leave him battle-scarred and despondent. She prayed for a better understanding of unselfed love as more than a personal human trait, but as an expression of the permanent spiritual relation that we all have to God, the source and maintainer of true health.
As my mom selflessly devoted herself to his case through her spiritual study and prayer, Dad was definitively and permanently healed of the post-wartime-service depression.
As we approach Memorial Day in the United States, may we unite in prayer that recognizes the power of divine Love, which each and every one of us has a God-given ability to feel and express. To me, striving to live more of unselfed love each day is a profound way to honor those who have served, sacrificed, and even given their lives for the cause of peace, security, and well-being throughout the world.