Recent events in the Middle East reminded me of an e-mail message I received several weeks ago from a good friend asking for prayers, not so much for himself but for the specific conditions right then in the Middle East. My friend was in the military, on deployment in eastern Turkey, in support of multilateral efforts to contain Iraqi activities within the northern no-fly zone.
In light of his urgent request, I dropped what I was doing and prayed. I asked God what I needed to know and what I needed to communicate to my "young brother." Immediately, I received an answer. I just intuitively knew that God, being infinite Love, was also infinite Mind. God is never absent-minded, and my friend, like all of God's ideas, couldn't be forgotten. God was conscious of him, loving him, caring for him, and guiding him to do the right thing at the right time.
Sometimes it seems hard to understand an infinite Mind that can have all of us in focus at the same time, all the time. But recently I've realized that I don't have that trouble imagining infinite Love doing the same thing. Just as sunlight blankets a beautiful landscape, nourishing each blade of grass and each leaf of a tree, the Love of God warms us. Just so, God is infinite Mind, which always holds each of us within its focus. This is what I wrote to my friend.
Right then the news reports detailed not only an ongoing attack against an Iraqi offensive in the northern no-fly zone (in which my friend would have been involved), but also the explosion of a bomb in Baghdad's busy market place. Iraqi authorities were blaming Iran for this grisly commemoration of their war 21 years ago. Clearly, this appears to be a time of great volatility.
I felt I wanted something else to hold on to, so I opened "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy's major work. (She was also the founder of this newspaper.) I found this sentence: "Truth has no home in error, and error has no foothold in Truth" (pg. 282). The implications of this sentence occurred to me: Truth, one of the Biblical synonyms for God, always has a foothold. Love, expressed as peace, always has a foothold. It is tempting to think that the Middle East has no solution, but Love has a foothold in human consciousness. That foothold of peace can destroy the picture of implacable enemies. My friend was fine, but obviously there is an ongoing need for prayer.
Prayer, and the truth it affirms, is more than mere words. Some years ago, when my wife and I were living in the Middle East, we decided to visit Jerusalem. Because we speak a little Arabic but no Hebrew, we were staying in a hotel in East Jerusalem. We had a great day wandering through the Old City, talking with shopkeepers and seeing many places referred to in the Bible. Late in the evening we were returning to our hotel, which was located on a dark street.
Suddenly, we were surrounded by a group of hostile young men, who felt we were responsible for all the present political instability and suffering. They saw us as their personal enemies and threatened our safety. At that point, I'm grateful to say, we turned to God for protection. We felt God's love at that instant, and recognized that the only thing that could be going on in God's universe was the joyous interchange of God's ideas. This was no abstract Pollyanna-like ignoring of the facts, but an awakening to the true facts of God's creation, where "God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). Nobody could cause harm or suffer harm in this ultimate reality. We were conscious of this foothold of peace, this moment of divine Love, and the group just dispersed without another word, and we continued on our way.
Our thinking ultimately determines our experience. If we welcome and cherish even a toehold of peace in our consciousness, it will have an effect in our lives, and it will spill over to our community, our world.
... the work of righteousness
shall be peace; and the effect
of righteousness quietness
and assurance for ever.