A FEW YEARS AGO, while I was on a dive trip to the "Big Island" of Hawaii, we heard talk of a shark that was unable to eat because a large fishing hook was lodged in the back of its mouth. About 20 days earlier, a fisherman had caught the unwanted shark and simply cut the line, leaving it defenseless and sentencing the five-foot-long predator to a probable death by starvation.
A few of us who were diving in the area thought we might be able to free the shark in some way. I'm an experienced diver, and my buddies were divemasters who knew those waters very well. They'd already been down to the cave the shark was resting in, seeing it firsthand, so we knew we needed to use wisdom and skill moving forward.
I'm a Christian Scientist, and my spiritual instincts tell me that God is the source of wisdom and has the right answer in any situation. As Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health: "Understanding the control which Love held over all, Daniel felt safe in the lions' den, and Paul proved the viper to be harmless. All of God's creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible. A realization of this grand verity was a source of strength to the ancient worthies. It supports Christian healing, and enables its possessor to emulate the example of Jesus, 'And God saw that it was good'" (pp. 514–515).
Even though I fully expected we could help the shark, when we dived down that day, I was surprised that we had no trouble finding the shark at the mouth of a cave, which the fish was using as a "safe house" from other attackers. It looked to be a "teenager," not yet fully grown, and had been in that predicament for a couple of weeks by then. It clearly hadn't been able to eat in weeks. And it couldn't close its mouth properly because of the hook.
My prayer on that dive, 55 feet down, wasn't words as much as it was a sense of assurance that "it was good" applies to all of God's creation. So, as we approached the shark, any negative thoughts, such as that sharks aren't very smart, or are unpredictable and dangerous, quickly faded. We made eye contact, and I slowly drew up close. The shark was docile. I sensed fear being replaced with a mutual understanding and love. I felt it knew we were there to help.
Another statement in Science and Health has helped me many times: "Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of Life harmonious—as Life eternally is—can destroy any painful sense of, or belief in, that which Life is not. Let Christian Science, instead of corporeal sense, support your understanding of being, and this understanding will supplant error with Truth, replace mortality with immortality, and silence discord with harmony" (p. 495).
My spiritual instincts tell me God is the source of wisdom and has the right answer in any situation.
The shark gave us 100 percent cooperation as we gently pulled it from the cave. It opened its mouth as wide as possible, much as someone would do for a dentist. No one naturally wants to bite the hands that are there to help, and neither did this shark! While the divemasters worked to dislodge the hook, I held onto and steadied the shark. Getting the hook out proved to be quite a challenge, though. The pliers we brought down weren't large enough, so one diver had to return to the boat to get larger cutters. Meantime, our patient and calm friend was with us a good 20 minutes, and kept its teeth away from our hands. The moment we successfully cut and pulled the hook from its mouth, the instantly rejuvenated shark flew by me and swam away, as if nothing had happened.
What I remember most from that moment is the calm sense of satisfaction we all felt as the boat returned us to shore. We knew we had done something good that day, freeing this animal from a desperate situation. Writing about another predator that many fear, Mrs. Eddy explained what I felt I saw happen on that dive: "The serpent of God's creating is neither subtle nor poisonous, but is a wise idea, charming in its adroitness, for Love's ideas are subject to the Mind which forms them,—the power which changeth the serpent into a staff" (Science and Health, p. 515).
When God's law of love overcomes fear, the predator can become the graceful creature it's made to be.
This article first appeared on spirituality.com. Bill Deane lives in New York City.