It was my lunch hour. I had walked a number of blocks when I became aware that the bits of conversation I had heard were all the same exclamation -- ''Oh, my God!'' Once it was used to express surprise at seeing someone unexpectedly, once to complain about a high wind. All I could think was, How can we be so careless in referring to God, who is our best friend, our healer and strong defense? Such casual exclamations would discredit our creator and separate us from a genuine sense of His presence.
Do we know that we can always call on God in need - in illness, lack, or conflict - and have our problem solved through divinity's great love? If we did know and trust God's care, would we use His name in anger or surprise or dismay? In vain?
God impels us all, by virtue of His infiniteness, to know Him and to experience the fullness of His love and tender care. Calling on God, willingly turning to Him, we begin to see that our true selfhood isn't a restricted, vulnerable mortal but the immortal, satisfied image of our creator. We experience the joys of health and harmony. But attempting to deny or resist His government -- perhaps accepting the suggestion that God's way is a restrictive rather than a freeing one -- we leave ourselves open to disharmony.
I was one who thought the Bible's teachings restrictive and came reluctantly to know the great goodness of God. As a teen-ager I began to think of my parents , and of the Christian precepts I had learned in Sunday School, as obstacles to my freedom. I looked forward to the years when I would be able to make my own important decisions -- stay out as late as I wished, drink what I pleased, choose my own friends and activities. In college I tried this so-called freedom for a time.
It wasn't long before I saw that I wasn't a bit free but was, in fact, in bondage. Sometimes I was controlled by alcohol, sometimes by the misguided decisions of my friends. I lost educational opportunities through laziness and bad work habits. During this time I also saw that friends who participated in, and advocated, so-called sexual freedom seemed to be slaves of sensuality.
Disappointed with my experiment in ''freedom,'' I began to put my life in order, but I didn't yet think much about God.
During my last year in college I became quite ill. I was afraid and confused and felt alone. One day as I sat in my dormitory room, everything began to grow dim, and I thought for one terrifying moment I might actually die right then.
At this moment of extremity I reached out to the God I had learned of in Sunday School. I grasped at the only thing that came to mind at the moment -- I said the Lord's Prayer aloud. In that brief prayer I experienced something of God as we come to know Him through the Bible's teachings -- as Shepherd, Physician, Father, friend.
When I reached the end of the prayer I was awake and alert. My return to health and to the wonderful freedom of Christianity had begun.
In the years that have followed I've called on God often and have learned something of true freedom. I've been able to progress from despair to joy, fear to confidence, sickness to health, and penury to ample supply. I have learned to reverence God, to rejoice with the Scriptural writer, ''Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.''n1
n1 I Chronicles 29:11.
Today, as in times past, everyone can prove that, in the words of Mary Baker Eddy,n2 ''The healing power is Truth and Love, and these do not fail in the greatest emergencies.'' n3 God is Truth and Love, as the Bible indicates, and He never fails to help when we turn sincerely to Him.
The only thing we're giving up when we give up materiality and turn to God, Spirit, is matter's restrictive, punishing ways. When we call on God, we feel the immediacy of Love, the healing power of Truth. Perhaps in the coming weeks and months we can often think deeply about our God and rely on Him in prayer. If we do, we will be blessed. We will be healed.
n2 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
n 3 Miscellaneous Writings, p. 5.
DAILY BIBLE VERSE The Same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. Romans 10:12