There I was, fresh off the plane in the middle of January, stocking up on tissues at a local store before a weekend conference. “Why now?” I thought as I struggled for the first time in years with all the effects of a heavy cold.
The irony was that the conference’s theme was “Love’s warm embrace.” It was both a literal and contemplative theme, in that the participants would inevitably be sharing hugs as we greeted new and old friends, while also considering more deeply what it means to communicate genuine care for our neighbor.
That night as I settled into my drafty room, feeling bogged down with symptoms and wishing I were home in my own comfortable bed, I mentally reached out to God for an answer. At first my prayers were pretty surface level: I don’t have time for this. Just please make the symptoms go away.
But on the heels of that came something fresh: Instead of worrying about what people might think if they see me using up my supply of tissues, what if I saw that they could only feel my genuine love for them?
This inspiration wasn’t about ignoring concerns relating to healthy interactions. Rather, it took my desire to be thoughtful about what I might “give” my neighbor to a higher level.
My thoughts took on a new tone as I began to pray from the standpoint of loving my neighbor. Prayer is like that. It opens thought up to what God is knowing and seeing about His creation. As the children, or spiritual expression, of God, who is Love, all we can actually transmit to one another is good. This divine Love could never impel us to be selfish, ignorant, or unkind.
And while up until that point I had been thinking the weekend’s theme was rather trite, its meaning now deepened for me. “Love’s warm embrace” represented so much more than a hug from one friend to another, as sweet as that is. It came down to feeling the warmth and care of God, divine Love itself. I began to think more about how this Love holds us all in Her tender and wide embrace, shielding us from discomfort and fear.
This reasoning is rooted in Scripture. The Bible tells us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18, New King James Version). Mary Baker Eddy, who founded The Christian Science Monitor and was an avid student of the Bible, experienced a significant healing that set her on a path to discover the spiritual nature of health, based on Jesus’ teaching and practice. She recorded her findings in her definitive work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” Echoing that passage from First John, she wrote, “Fear, which is an element of all disease, must be cast out to readjust the balance for God” (p. 392), and “Love for God and man is the true incentive in both healing and teaching” (p. 454).
As I acknowledged God’s deep affection for me and all, I felt that love and care quite tangibly. My fear naturally dissipated, replaced by a feeling of genuine spiritual love for my neighbors. I went to sleep feeling at peace, and when I woke up, the symptoms had substantially subsided. Before long they were entirely gone. I felt ready for a full day of activities, where the other participants and I joyfully greeted and interacted with one another.
I kept the meaningful inspiration that brought about this healing tucked into my thoughts when I arrived home to record cold temperatures and had to walk quite a distance, through the snow, from the airport bus to my car. I never experienced any lingering symptoms or aftereffects from the cold.
That idea of “Love’s warm embrace” comes from a verse in Hymn 517 in the “Christian Science Hymnal: Hymns 430-603.” Each of us can take to heart its healing message today:
Joyfully we’re singing of our dear God’s grace,
Living every day within Love’s warm embrace.
Eagerly we long to witness everywhere;
All throughout the world, God’s saving love to share.