The illusion of the empty gas tank
Once while visiting friends in another city, I borrowed one of their cars to get around and filled it with gas after a few days. However, the next evening, I put the car into reverse, and the gas gauge went from full to empty, and the light came on indicating that there was nothing left in the tank. I was confused because I knew I had just filled it the night before, so there was no way that could be accurate.
After searching the car and trying to figure out a possible cause, I called my friend, who explained that this had happened before – it was an electronic problem that happened when the tank was filled up all the way. He assured me that I would be able to make the hourlong drive back to their place, which gratefully I did. After a day or two more of driving, the gauge was normal again and showed the correct amount of gas.
In the weeks following, thinking about this experience ended up being helpful when I was supporting a friend in my hometown who was suffering from a severe sore throat. I had been helping him in practical ways, but he had also asked me to pray for him, which to me meant gaining a different view of what was going on based on my understanding of God. It was tempting to believe that the picture of sickness was the true story about my friend. But like the gas gauge that showed an empty gas tank when it was really full, I knew that what I was seeing with my friend was not the truth of the situation.
I was reaching for an understanding of what was going on based on how the Bible defines man, meaning all of us. The opening chapter in Genesis states that man is created in the image and likeness of God, who is Spirit. And I’ve learned through my study of the Scriptures that divine Spirit is all-powerful, only good, and all. So given that each one of us, as God’s likeness, is created spiritually, not materially, we can only truly express what God is. It wouldn’t be logical that the expression of something good and all-powerful could be subject to sickness.
I knew I couldn’t afford to walk into my friend’s apartment and be impressed with or tricked by the scene of sickness. Rather, I had to see through it to the truth of his identity as the expression of health, wholeness, and goodness, which are all qualities that characterize God. To help me do this, I would keep thinking back on the lesson I learned with the faulty gas gauge and the simple metaphysical lesson I drew from it. This helped me hold to what I knew to be true despite what my eyes and ears told me.
Before visiting, I would sometimes find myself getting nervous that I could be susceptible to sickness and contagion myself, because I was already feeling pretty worn out from hosting family for the holidays. But I knew that Spirit could never be sick or weary – I couldn’t imagine God saying, “Wow, that was a lot of work – I’m so worn out that I might get sick.” Each time I would visit, I would pray for both my friend and myself, acknowledging our freedom from sickness as spiritual creations of God, Spirit.
I remember sitting in the car outside my friend’s apartment one evening, thinking through this passage from Mary Baker Eddy’s “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “When the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and His idea. Allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought. Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of life harmonious – as Life eternally is – can destroy any painful sense of, or belief in, that which Life is not” (p. 495).
I had read this passage many times before, but it struck me in a deeper way than it had before. I could see how it clearly applied to this situation with my friend. This sickness was not any more true about my friend, as divine Love’s perfect, divine creation, than it had been true that the gas tank was empty in the car. And I could trust completely that neither of our “tanks” could ever be empty of goodness when our life, health, and wholeness are supplied and maintained by God.
With that I became so unimpressed with the symptoms that I truly felt I could see right through them. I never came down with any of the symptoms, and my friend improved rapidly from that point on. He had a complete healing shortly after that.
We are all capable of rising above a surface-level view of things and discerning the spiritual truth that frees us from challenges of all kinds.