By RUSS GERBER — I still recall the moment decades ago that my faith made a U-turn. It wasn’t so much a carefully thought-through turnaround as it was a desperate one. And it marked the end of weeks of periodic migraine headaches.
Then came a pivotal moment. I was at work and again felt the first signs of pain. This was accompanied by the dread of looking forward to more suffering. At that point a couple of things happened. The first came out of sheer desperation. I silently pleaded for God to help me. I’d done a bit of praying about this trouble before, but to no avail. This time my pleading was a cry for help. Even so, I felt no change at first.
Then came an eye-opening realization: I had more faith in the headache continuing than I did in a divine power to stop it. It was crossroads moment. It wasn’t that I lacked faith; it was that I had placed more of it in the flesh than in the Spirit.
The question was: is that where I should leave it? The answer was no. I was familiar with a boatload of Bible stories where people had taken a stand for spiritual power and it prevailed. Although my personal circumstances hardly compared to the parting of the Red Sea or facing a den of hungry lions, it boiled down to a similar choice between spiritual or physical power.
The more I thought about it the more I became convinced that spiritual power must be superior. It seemed rather obvious, actually, as I took into account the vastness and permanence of moral and spiritual resources that must be beneficial and that had to be there where I was—all the love, the goodness, the care, the serenity, the authority. There was no limit to them. If this divine presence is real and operating, I figured, then the flesh doesn’t have the upper hand as I had believed it did. My faith could be anchored in the fact that I was free to discover an underlying spiritual nature of existence, and to comprehend what this divine Principle is imparting to everyone about reality and their actual being.
Within a half-minute I noticed the headache was vanishing. It was so surprising to me initially that I started shaking my head back-and-forth out of disbelief! Sure enough the migraine stopped, and never returned. That was thirty years ago. The experience still stands out as a key moment when, for me, the believed superiority of “the flesh” began to lose ground to a more spiritual understanding of life.
Over time I’ve learned that the broader implications of such an experience are significant.
Nothing challenges the status quo of material life like the healing effect of spiritual understanding. It is a deeply gratifying and practical experience, as I learned, yet what underlies this healing effect is quite different from conventional thinking about how the universe operates—about power, substance, cause and effect.
As a desire for spiritual understanding lifts one’s outlook beyond basic beliefs about material life, those beliefs and biases are challenged.
Whether it’s in a private experience, a casual conversation, or on a larger scale, we may be confronted with the human mind’s initial disbelief, envy, or antagonism as it clings to the status quo and questions, even opposes, the kind of thinking and values that challenge it to go beyond a materialistic viewpoint. As faith turns more and more toward Spirit it may be characterized as unrealistic, or as something that isn’t good.
There’s a term for this conflict and stirring of thought—mental fermentation. The term was introduced by theologian Mary Baker Eddy over a century ago. Her own life was a vivid example of how the quest to live a more spiritual life can disrupt and displace the widespread belief that everything essential to life and health is found in matter.
This mental stirring, as she explained in her book Science and Health, is the reaction of opposing elements of thought— materialism and spirituality. Seeing the conflict in this way helps us understand why such a turbulent state of mind surfaces and why it can actually be welcome news. It can mark a shift in consciousness taking place—the breaking up of material beliefs—which, in turn, clears the way for spiritual advancement.
We’re seeing indications of that today. Old patterns of thinking are changing. There’s a growing acknowledgment among researchers, physicians, business leaders, media writers, programmers, moms and dads, of the power and benefits of spirituality in everyday life. The interest being shown is encouraging as people are compelled to reexamine what they’ve been putting their faith in. I’m sure there are more than a few U-turns taking place.
Most people know there is far more to life than the limits and decline of material living. They sense that better health and a better life are consistent with what they intuitively feel is the spiritual source of life. Think about that. What a stirring idea it is. More than stirring, it’s awakening.
— Russ Gerber is a syndicated health blogger and a Christian Science teacher and practitioner. This post was originally published on PsychologyToday.com. Follow him on twitter @russgerber