Love in the face of aggression
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
One night around 9:30 a few months ago, I was walking on the sidewalk of a crowded and well-lit street that is lined with shops in Queens, one of the five boroughs that comprise New York City, when I was suddenly mobbed by a gang. Five or six young men slammed me to the ground, shoved me to the middle of the street, grabbed my belongings, and started punching and kicking me as if they wanted to kill me. The men were vehemently yelling as if I had betrayed them, even though I didn't live in the area and had never seen them before.
My response was emphatic. Laying beneath the flurry of fury, curled up in a ball and looking the men in the eyes, I yelled what I was praying: "You are God's children. Each of you is God's child. You are loving and beloved." I was calm as I spoke, because I was not afraid.
Back when I was in Sunday School, I had learned, among other things, three important facts: God is Love; God is everybody's Father and Mother; as God's children, or reflections, all men and women include only Godlike qualities. I also learned that God is Spirit, and that we, as His children, are spiritual, too. And spiritual ideas are indestructible. This concept has long provided me with much comfort and healing - both mental and physical - and it offered big doses of protection that night in Queens. As the men continued hitting me, I continued my verbal rebuke. "God loves you and has given you everything you need."
After a couple of minutes, which felt like a couple of hours, the police arrived. They broke up the attack, handcuffed the men, and offered to call an ambulance. By now, I was sitting on the ground, but I quickly stood up and told an officer, "Thanks so much, but I don't need an ambulance. I am OK." I had a couple of small bruises on one leg and one arm and a little scrape above one eye, but that was the extent of the wounds. That night, I talked to detectives at the police station for a few hours. A medical technician came to look at me, but after a quick inspection, she said, "Wow. You're fine. It's a miracle, because you could've been, well ..."
It was no miracle that I walked away unscathed. My protection from what the police saw as a potentially deadly attack was a natural result of prayer. Indeed, prayer doesn't merely provide mental calm or a momentary escape from trauma. Prayer heals. It is a quiet, vibrant, and humble listening to God, an acknowledgment that God is in control of every event of our lives.
I was immensely grateful for my protection, but I found it even more challenging to deal with the event's aftermath. Should I forgive them? Would I be attacked again, or worse? "Be careful," friends said. "The police saved you before, and hopefully they'll be there again if something happens." This left me feeling vulnerable and lonely. I began to pray. I acknowledged, as I'd done on the night of the attack, that God is good and God is all. I was strengthened by the fact that prayer had provided protection that night, so I had absolute faith that such protection would continue.
But I needed to completely tackle the fear. I needed to understand more deeply that in God's kingdom, there are only God's children - His perfect, pure, loving, gentle, and intelligent ideas. The Bible speaks about spiritual identity in Galatians: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (3:28).
Another helpful insight that I'd pondered over the years before this event is a statement by the founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy: " 'Love thine enemies' is identical with 'Thou hast no enemies' " ("Miscellaneous Writings," pg. 9). As I prayed, I began to be able to love the men who had attacked me and I realized that I needed to forgive them. That was my job, to see these men as God sees them - as His perfect, harmless, and good children. I left the job of handling their criminal cases in the hands of the police and the district attorney. This experience strengthened my trust in and understanding of God, and I know in my heart that these men have been blessed, too.