On the alert
Actively listening for God’s messages protected my family and me, and maybe even helped to curtail an attack.
Speaking with his disciples shortly before his crucifixion, Christ Jesus commanded them three times to “watch” (see Mark 13:33–37). He was insisting on the great need for spiritual alertness—the need not to be put to sleep by subtle influences. Jesus’ insistence on watching is echoed throughout the New Testament, indicating that mental watchfulness is one of the basic requirements of Jesus’ true followers.
What exactly is watchfulness? It’s the opposite of apathy, weariness, sleepiness, indifference, intoxication. To be mentally alert is to stay attuned to God, to listen to the voice of the Christ continually, regardless of where we are and what we are doing. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy describes the Christ as “a divine influence ever present in human
consciousness” (p. xi), and later she refers to
“the ‘still, small voice’ of Truth uttering itself” (p. 323). Every individual can hear the voice of Christ, Truth, speaking directly to him or her.
Mrs. Eddy obviously regarded this watchfulness, or alertness to the Christ, as essential. She established a Church By-Law, “Alertness to Duty” (Manual of The Mother Church, p. 42), that instructs each member to practice prayerful self-defense every day.
The Bible gives several examples of individuals who demonstrated watchfulness as a result of their intimate connection to God. One of them is Noah. The Bible says that “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9), which suggests constant communion with the creator. Because of this, it was natural for Noah to hear God’s warning and instructions concerning a devastating flood that would come soon.
The more we become aware of our uninterrupted unity with the divine Mind, the more clearly we hear God’s direction and guidance.
At first glance, the God of Genesis 6, in which this story appears, would seem to be a destructive tyrant who is so disappointed with humanity’s sinful behavior that He plans to annihilate them through a catastrophic flood. However, the book of First John in the Bible assures us that God is Love (see 4:8); therefore, He is incapable of anger, disappointment, or destruction. This point is brought out time and time again in Science and Health. For example: “The manifestations of evil, which counterfeit divine justice, are called in the Scriptures, ‘The anger of the Lord.’ In reality, they show the self-destruction of error or matter and point to matter’s opposite, the strength and permanency of Spirit” (p. 293).
Only an alert and watchful mentality could have perceived the impending danger as Noah did. Noah perceived the self-destruction of evil. And Mrs. Eddy describes this scientific foreseeing in Science and Health: “Acquaintance with the Science of being enables us to commune more largely with the divine Mind, to foresee and foretell events which concern the universal welfare, to be divinely inspired,—yea, to reach the range of fetterless Mind” (p. 84).
The more aware we are of our uninterrupted unity with the divine Mind, God, the more clearly we hear God’s direction and guidance, and it is through spiritual watchfulness and alertness that we exercise this inspired perception, which safeguards us. When we are conscious of spiritual reality, we are equipped to perceive and put down the threats and claims of anything that seems to be opposed to good. Thus we reliably foresee events that aren’t in accord with God’s nature. This divine foreknowledge protects us unfailingly and, to a certain extent, those around us.
God’s angel messages are always conveying to us specifically what we need to know.
Noah not only perceived the danger in time but also discerned the divine rescue plan. Through God’s angel messages, Noah received concrete and meticulous instructions for building a boat, which harbored him, his family, and numerous animal species during the catastrophe.
God’s angel messages are always conveying to us specifically what we need to know. A few years ago, I made it a habit to be more watchful, even before and during such simple activities as going shopping. For months, I had also been praying to address worldwide terrorism.
One day, I realized that I needed to stop mentally dividing our world into “safer” versus “more dangerous” places. Instead, I had to rise entirely above the concept of physical protection into the spiritual understanding of constant, reliable safety, regardless of time and space.
As I prayed in this way, I woke up to the startling recognition that there’s not a single place in the world that is infallibly, perfectly secure, unless we stay alert to God’s angel messages. Safety comes from God, not from material circumstances. Feeling safe when danger looms might be fatal. This false, treacherous sense of safety is described in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany by Mrs. Eddy: “Animal magnetism fosters suspicious distrust where honor is due, fear where courage should be strongest, reliance where there should be avoidance, a belief in safety where there is most danger; . . .” (p. 211). True watching imparts peace, while at the same time specifically alerting us to impending danger.
One evening while I was praying with these ideas, I felt the assurance of God’s constant care no matter where I was in the world. It came to me that even if a terrorist attack happened right in front of my home, my family and I would be completely safe. These thoughts seemed strange, because the area where I was living at that time was secure and peaceful.
What I didn’t know was that a self-radicalized Islamist had been making plans for an attack right where we lived, as the news reported later. But God’s angel messages were counteracting this brutal plan. Although the cruel deed wasn’t entirely prevented, the attack at a grocery store was brought to an unusual and sudden stop by courageous Muslim migrants, who were later honored as “heroes of Barmbek.” Selflessly, they risked their own lives for the lives of others. Their intervention was a powerful manifestation of self-sacrificing love.
Right before the attack, I had planned to go grocery shopping at this supermarket, which was located about two hundred meters from our home. However, I paused for a moment and listened for divine guidance. Right then I heard the voice of the Christ speak to me mentally: “Go back to your apartment and pray the ‘Daily Prayer’ again.” I obeyed and prayed the “Daily Prayer” from the Church Manual: “ ‘Thy kingdom come;’ let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!” (p. 41).
Only a few minutes later, I heard sirens and a helicopter. Concerned friends started to call and ask if we were all right—they had seen pictures of the attack in the news.
Clearly, actively listening for God’s angel messages had protected my family and me, and maybe even helped to curtail the attack. The closing words of the “Daily Prayer” attest to the powerful influence of divine Love on all humanity.
Right now, we can be conscious of God’s omnipotence and omnipresent care. Such a change of consciousness from mental lethargy to active, Noah-like alertness may require a thorough transformation, or change of heart, if we’ve been used to being guided, wholly or partly, by our own agenda. The more we let go of self-will, the better we will hear God’s clear direction.
When, through watchfulness, we cultivate a conscious unity with God, the divine Mind, we become more and more capable of addressing whatever has no part in the divine, all-good consciousness. This is uniting with and reflecting the Mind of Christ, where God’s supremacy reigns.