Battleships, Helicopters, and God
THE uncertainties and loneliness associated with military service were vividly punctuated by the recent loss of forty-seven people in an accident aboard the USS Iowa. Thinking back over a lengthy military career, I readily identify with the disbelief, sorrow, and inexplicability associated with the accident. Experiences such as this stretch our concept of God, but might we not direct the stretching even beyond the necessary search for an explanation of specific tragedy involving loss of life to a search for the underlying basis of life itself? Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``Mortal existence is an enigma. Every day is a mystery.''1 These are statements that certainly seem to apply to the vagaries of military service, as well as to much of human existence. Yet, as the Master, Christ Jesus, said, ``If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.''2
Although the life Jesus is speaking of lies beyond what we can see with our eyes, it must begin to work change and reformation here and now. And if we can discipline ourselves to keep nurturing the desire for spiritual progress in so-called good times as well as bad, we begin to develop an understanding of life in God. We learn that there is life beyond what the bodily senses show us and that it is really real.
Is this just wishful thinking or abstract theorizing while tragedies swirl around us? No! Just as there are laws that make space travel possible, there are laws that lead us to an understanding of life. They are God's spiritual laws in the Bible. And they are best served when we seek them out and follow them to the best of our ability, instead of endlessly puzzling over human events.
A deeper understanding of one of these spiritual laws, ``For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,''3 gave me a deeper sense of life. I was in a helicopter flying in a foggy combat zone over enemy territory when we lost our radio and compass. We were all fearful, but as I held to the fact that God's laws undergird life, I saw that God's ever-present love, enables men and women to lift themselves above fearful, limited, human conditions to a realization of life that is not in matter, of man's eternal being as God's child.
Just as the pilot was deciding to land, a neutral tugboat pulling a barge emerged out of the fog. We landed on the barge and were towed to safety. This might seem like good luck. And that's what I'd think too, if it had been the only time. But I can look back on many times when God's law brought healing. I know that it was God's law that brought us through unharmed.
What appear sometimes to be miracles are really the effect of God's law in action. Paul urged us to, ``put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.''4 It is actually this ``new man,'' who lives under God's government, that is the genuine reality. As we persist in enlarging our understanding of the Bible, we experience more of real, or eternal, life. And as we understand this more fully, we are better able to bring healing and reform to life.
Seeing right there in the helicopter that life was not made up of fear, but of God's power and love gave me a taste of the ``new man,'' the life that really is, and this glimpse of spiritual reality protected us all. Applying God's laws as a matter of course can be challenging. But as we succeed, bit by bit, we feel our understanding of real spiritual life -- God's gift to us all -- is increasing.
1Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 70. 2John 8:51. 3II Timothy 1:7. 4Ephesians 4:24.