Do you sometimes feel like a slave to disease? Or to its treatment? Or know someone who does? How do chapped lips, Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a case of poison ivy shed light on needed emancipation?
Abraham Lincoln made only one visit to Michigan – to Kalamazoo in 1856. Why did he make that visit? To address slavery, of course.
A recent article¹ in the Kalamazoo Gazette, no doubt spurred on by the new Spielberg movie entitled, “Lincoln”, relates that Lincoln told the crowd in Kalamazoo, “This is the question: Shall the government of the United States prohibit slavery in the United States?”
Of course we know how this turned out: with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 during the Civil War and the eventual end of human slavery in this country.
But there is another kind of slavery. Many suffer a form of slavery to disease. And others, seeking relief, all too often end up exchanging slavery to disease for slavery to drug-based treatment.
“In the past, illnesses tended to be ‘acute,’ meaning that they occurred and were treated, and the patients either got better or died. But today, most illnesses are chronic and complex.” “… [The] condition will be with him for life and will need multiple treatments, many medications, and probably a number of hospitalizations…” according to Dr. Stephen C. Schimpff, M.D. in The Future of Health Care Delivery²
In light of the connection between thought and the body, might we find freedom by exploring how our thoughts either enslave us or through an understanding of spirituality free us? It’s a growing field of medical research but not really something new.
Shortly after the Civil War, Mary Baker Eddy, a pioneer in researching the relationship between thought, spirituality and health, wrote this: “Legally to abolish unpaid servitude in the United States was hard; but the abolition of mental slavery is a more difficult task.” And she shares this insightful observation, “I saw before me the sick, wearing out years of servitude to an unreal master in the belief that the body governed them, rather than Mind.”³
An experience I had taught me about the mental slavery of illness and what happens when you become a slave to the treatment as well.
As a child, I suffered often from chapped lips. It was especially troublesome in the Michigan winter. I used a lip balm (Chap Stick) and I got to the point where for years I used it year round. I fell into a habit of licking my lips, getting chapped, applying the lip balm, and then licking my lips again. This went on all day long, all year long. I carried a tube of lip balm in my back pocket year-round.
I was essentially a slave to chapped lips and to an ointment that wasn’t solving the problem.
After a number of years of this, one day, when I came down with poison ivy, I prayed to God for healing. I found comfort from Biblical statements in Genesis that caused me to feel God’s love and care for me. Through this prayer I also came to realize that this plant did not have dominion over my body, but that my thought – through connection with the divine – was empowered with dominion over my body and over the plant. This resulted in quick and permanent healing of the poison ivy.
But what I find really interesting is where this realization led next. I then saw that just as I was free from mental slavery to poison ivy, on the same basis I could also be free from the mental slavery of thinking I was dependent on lip balm. This was like an emancipation proclamation for me. I threw out my tubes of lip balm and have been free, still living in Michigan, ever since.
Perhaps this is the kind of freedom Jesus was referring to when he said, “… ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”4
I wonder if the question Lincoln presented to the Kalamazoo crowd could be paraphrased to ask, “Shall we prohibit all forms of slavery, including mental slavery?” Shall we? Can we? The answer is “yes”.