Mary Baker Eddy had every right to believe she was a victim of life’s circumstances. But she didn’t.
A frail child, Eddy’s formal education came to an end at the age of twelve, which was a fairly accepted practice for girls in the 19th century. But she wanted to learn, and persisted with her education at home, helped by her brother.
However, from childhood, one of the most valuable things she learned was from her mother – to lean always on God’s love.
As a young woman she married and was almost immediately widowed while expecting her first child. Unable to support herself, she had to move back in with her parents on their farm in New Hampshire.
Because of her continued poor health she was unable to consistently provide for both herself and her son. Consequently, Eddy’s father arranged for him to be fostered out to a local family. She married again to a man who promised to reunite her with her son, but who reneged on the agreement and spent many years being unfaithful, finally leaving her penniless and alone. The foster family took her son across the country, and she did not see him again for 20 years.
Alone, now divorced, in ill health, penniless and homeless, Eddy was in a desperate situation. She sought a variety of avenues for employment to meet her basic needs. And she looked for healing in every avenue of the medical sciences of the age, though to no avail. But she never gave up hope for any length of time.
Had Eddy been alive today, she might well have accepted the contemporary view that she was a victim. But she was made of tougher stuff, and her life can serve as an inspiration to any of us who feel helpless in the face of daily or long-term tragedies and challenges.
Last week, the Globe and Mail published a short article about Mary Baker Eddy in the Lives Lived section of the print edition. The piece mentioned the fact that this February marks 150 years since Eddy, by then in her middle years, had a significant healing experience that launched her on a lifetime of researching, understanding and putting into practice the teachings of Jesus, including healing through prayer.
She’d caught a glimpse of how Jesus’ understanding of God as Love, has a practical impact on health.
In her own description of that key healing experience she said it was the falling apple that launched her on the path of “the discovery how to be well myself, and how to make others so” (Mary Baker Eddy, Retrospection and Introspection, p. 24).
What she learned, gave her an understanding of the practical impact and freeing power of Christian prayer, when it’s based on the principle of God as Love.
She named this discovery Christian Science, because she saw the healing results of prayer, not as random and lucky miracles from a far away deity, but as the outcomes of divine laws in operation.
Eddy healed those who came to her for help, and went on to write about her discovery in her seminal work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She also taught others to heal through Christian prayer. In the introduction to her book, she wrote:
The time for thinkers has come. Truth, independent of doctrines and time-honoured systems, knocks at the portal of humanity.
Eddy certainly challenged the doctrines and time-honoured systems of her day, many of which we still hold today – such as viewing God as the creator of both good and evil, or health as entirely at the mercy of our bodies. She saw Love as the mothering, healing element of the Divine, as the source of our life – operating as law in everything going on around us.
Undaunted and unbowed by opposition to her teachings, Eddy would not be silenced. She not only went on to found a worldwide religion, but at the age of 86 launched an international daily newspaper – The Christian Science Monitor, which has won numerous Pulitzers and continues to this day. Her achievements would be considered remarkable today, but they are astounding when viewed in the social, scientific and religious context of her era. Her influence was acknowledged about 100 years later:
- In 1993 Science and Health was chosen by the US Women’s National Book Association as one of 75 books by women authors “whose words have changed the world.” It is sold worldwide and has been translated into 16 languages and English Braille.
- In 1998 Mary Baker Eddy was chosen by PBS “Religion and Ethics News Weekly” as “one of the 25 most significant religious figures for Americans in the 20th century.”
As I’ve come to understand her teachings and her story, what I’ve greatly appreciated is her resolute trust in the Divine. Rather than spend her time feeling beaten down, or pushing for human solutions to a philandering partner, to poverty, the oppression of women or to laws that allowed children to be taken away from their mothers, she showed us how we can, through prayer, lift ourselves up and out of any state of victimhood.
When I’m tempted to feel a victim of my own circumstances, I remember that I can trust a God who is Love, and whose laws of good are always there holding me up.
When I do this, I always go from victim to victor.
This article was published in the Vancouver Sun HERE on Feb 15 2016