Moving Beyond Survival
Our True Identity Surpasses Any Disease
“Get down off your cross.” Harsh words, especially coming from a longtime hospital chaplain when the woman she was addressing had just learned she was cancer-free.
Regardless, “Within two minutes, she started retelling the story of her diagnosis, surgery and chemo,” recounted Debra Jarvis, affectionately known as “The Irreverent Reverend”, during a TEDMED talk in Washington, D.C. “She was using words like suffering, agony, struggle... and ended with, ‘I felt crucified.’” It was then that Jarvis asked this woman to do what would likely require more of her than anything she’d done before.
Over the years, Jarvis has observed the tendency for us to identify ourselves by our wounds as “survivors” of something that does not and should not define us. “What if people decided to claim their trauma as an experience, instead of taking it on as an identity?” she queries. “Maybe it would be the start of defining ourselves by who we have become and who we are becoming.”
As Jarvis well knows, there are, in her words, “powerful forces” pushing us to do just the opposite. In 2005, she found herself in the same position as her friend, having recovered from cancer and trying to sort out what it all meant. “We don’t all have to start a foundation or write a book,” to claim meaning for ourselves, she says. “Maybe we make one small decision that can bring about a big change.”
For some, this has meant exchanging a disease-prone view of themselves for a more inspired outlook. Too often, though, mustering the humility to adopt such a perspective can seem just as difficult as climbing down from whatever tortuous experience we’re clinging to. Yet, it’s essential.
As those familiar with the Bible know, a central event of Jesus’ life, his crucifixion, was followed by his even more compelling resurrection, a term that thought leader Mary Baker Eddy describes as “spiritualization of thought; a new and higher idea of immortality, or spiritual existence; material belief yielding to spiritual understanding.”
The good news is that such transformation is not exclusive, but available to anyone. Whether it’s at the urging of a chaplain or another counselor or our own divine inspiration that’s encouraging us to move on, we owe it to ourselves to begin discovering who and what we really are.
Eric Nelson is a Christian Science healing practitioner from Petaluma, CA, who writes on the link between spiritual consciousness and health. Find more articles at norcalcs.org.