ONE time when I was a teenager I hurt my mouth. My parents weren't home. Now, I could have gone to the hospital for help. But what I wanted to do was turn to a book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy.
At a time like that, why did I want to read this book, which was written almost a hundred years before I was born? A book that even had words I didn't understand? Well, I knew the book because I was a Christian Scientist, and had been taught from it in church. (I also called the teacher I had in Sunday School at the time, and asked him to pray for me.)
My injuries disappeared, quickly, and I felt that turning to prayer had been the right thing to do. Not only did it bring healing, but it also calmed my fears. I guess I didn't really think there was any better place to go for all that. I'd been healed at other times with the spiritual truths in Science and Health.
What did I read in the book? It might have included this, something my teacher often read to his Sunday School class: ''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 been learning that the place where security and help were to be found was not in another person, but in the quality of my thinking. Understanding God would improve my thoughts. In class, we had been going over those sentences from the book, and the commands from them: cling, allow, and let.
To ''cling steadfastly to God and His idea''-to us anyway-meant to keep remembering who and what God is: good. Also, it meant holding on to the fact that we are good because we are His ideas. The Bible says, at the very beginning in the book of Genesis, that God made us good. Only good things have reality, because only good things resemble God.
What about ''allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought''? Another way of saying this, we thought, could be, ''Allow nothing bad to be in your thought.'' Allowing no evil in your thinking means dumping out thoughts that are fearful, painful, and disturbed. This isn't the same thing as ignoring evil. Christian Science doesn't teach that it's good just to run away from a problem that comes up. Instead, holding on to good and letting go of what seems bad is actually praying. It is getting closer to God, and this is never an ignorant thing to do. How could it be, when it brings God's power into your life?
That passage from the book continues, ''Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust . . . .'' Just as fog overshadows a lighthouse, fear and doubt sometimes block out clear-mindedness and calmness. But just so, the bright light of spiritual understanding-like the bright light of a lighthouse-penetrates the fog, leads people who are lost, and saves them from harm.
There are several hundred pages in Science and Health, and they all talk about God and man, and God's power to help man. The book has a lot to say about Christ Jesus, and it uses what he taught as the basis for what it says. Jesus healed and saved people. And Science and Health helps make clear just how to go about living up to the words of Jesus when he said, ''He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also'' (John 14:12). You and I can heal ourselves and each other, as Jesus did.
Science and Health was written by the Discoverer of Christian Science. It says everything about Christian Science that there is. I'm sure that's why I turned to it that day. As I said, I was soon well, in just a day or two. I also felt more certain that I could trust God when I was in trouble, even physically. I think, if I had a son or daughter, I'd be glad if he or she turned to this book when facing a problem, just as I did. That's because I believe it would give the best help possible: the understanding of God.