Walking through the fear
Originally printed in the Christian Science Sentinel
About 25 years ago, I was coming home from a long workday, late at night. As I walked from the bus stop to my apartment, a bunch of teenage boys jumped me from behind, kicking and beating me. With as much strength as I could muster I said, "You don't want to do this!" After swearing at me, they agreed they just wanted my purse. I gave it to them to stop the attack.
Lying on the sidewalk that night, unable to move, I could see how this situation was a gross mockery of all the times I had prayed for the progress of my neighborhood, which was in a state of transition. My only and constant prayer at that moment was to thank God for being with me.
After about half an hour, I was able to slowly roll over, and instead of the expected dark of that block without streetlights, I was engulfed in the beauty of a night sky. Because it was so rare to even see the sky in a city of orange mercury lights, I was surprised by the clarity of the constellations. I could feel God's blessing telling me that just as the order of the planets and stars had not been interrupted, this incident could not turn my life upside down. My relationship to God had not been disturbed. Not long afterward, a man came along to help carry me to my apartment, and a friend came to care for me.
The physical healing of my injuries came in a few days through prayer. But most significant was a bigger healing of fear. Prior to the attack, I had lived with a great sense of personal danger when walking on the street.
But since that time 25 years ago, I can't remember ever being afraid when alone on the street. In fact, a year after the incident, I took a job as a night security guard at a time when there was a lot of crime in the neighborhood where I worked. And rather than feeling threatened by possible dangers, I found this job peaceful and inspiring.
The only way I know how to describe how I overcame my fears is that after the incident was one of the first times I ever felt closer to God than to my physical environment. The main thing I keep stumbling across in my spiritual search is that the profundity of life is really experienced inwardly, thought by thought. As much as it feels as if life is a series of outward events, the true substance of life is found in the quality of our thinking. By this I don't mean that life is a mind game. Life is the experience of being loved by God who gives us beautiful thoughts to consider, moment by moment, all our days.
This intimacy with God is what displaces vulnerability. While we all have to deal with surges of terror for various reasons in different circumstances, there is always this safe mental place that tells us we have never been separated from the love of God. Jesus proclaimed the substance of our life when he said to his disciples, "Ye are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14). Thinking more deeply about that metaphor, it is reassuring to see that rays of light don't get wet when it rains.
The largest explosion can't disconnect a ray of light from the sun. No matter how strong the arm that wields the biggest sword, it cannot cut a ray of light in half. The only influence on the ray of light is its origin.
Sometimes it may feel as if we have traveled a long way from our divine source and that somehow that makes us vulnerable. But the love of God works to rescue us from feeling endangered. That saving power is called Christ, and it shows us our divine nature. And being aware of that divine nature keeps us in harmony with God. No matter how strong the forces of evil seem to be, they can never take away our awareness of God's tangible presence in our lives.
That's the security we're looking for the constancy of God's power in every situation even when we're on the street alone.
Yes, my student, my Father
is your Father; and He helps us most when help is most needed,
for He is the ever-present help.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)