No enemies in the kingdom

"I've tried Christian Science , and it's not for me," Tonao said. He was a close friend whom I had always regarded as an older brother, and when we were younger, he had attended a Christian Science Sunday School with me in Tokyo for a couple of years.

I was visiting Tonao in his home in central Tokyo. He was back in Tokyo on a brief visit from Singapore, where he had been working for a government airline. Japan had been at war with the United States for nearly four years, and wartime restrictions, including blackout rules, were severe.

Under a dim light in Tonao's bedroom, we talked pretty much through the night—about our families, the war and all its uncertainties, and what future beyond the war we had to look forward to. Toward the end, our conversation turned to reminiscences about our Sunday School years. The Christian Science Society in Tokyo had been dissolved several years before, because of a government decree, and the few Christian Scientists remaining in Tokyo met together quietly on Sundays in one of their homes.

Tonao did not see how Christian Science and its reliance on an omnipotent and all-knowing God applied to the war, or to the brutality and injustice he saw around him every day. Singapore was under a harsh Japanese occupation, which Tonao, who had been given a liberal, Western-oriented education, described to me in detail. He had fallen in love with a young Chinese woman, but both of them instinctively felt that the relationship was headed for disaster, whatever their feelings for each other. As he spoke, I felt as if I, the innocent teenager, was being confronted with the unforgiving facts of the real world.

I had my own doubts about Christian Science, even though as a child I had been healed of fever, sunstroke, and other ailments through relying on God. These healings had always been achieved through the prayers of my mother or of my aunt, who lived with us. As grateful as I was for the healings, I didn't feel there had been much input from me. Furthermore, the war had, so I thought, totally ended my one great dream, which was to attend college in the United States. Forces far greater than what puny individuals could contend with had left me isolated—an enemy alien as far as the United States was concerned. What could Christian Science do for me in circumstances such as these?

Still, I told Tonao, I wasn't ready to give up on prayer because I didn't feel I had given it a fair trial. I needed to see for myself whether it was as practical for me as my mother and my aunt obviously found it to be.

The next evening, I was back in my own home in a suburb of Tokyo when the city experienced the heaviest air raid it had ever gone through. The bombs destroyed the heavily populated eastern half. Tonao was unharmed and went back to Singapore, but his entire neighborhood, including his own house, had been flattened, with great loss of life.

A month later, incendiary bombs fell in my own neighborhood; and when a row of houses farther down our street went up in flames, my father gave me the task of standing on the roof of our house to douse or stamp out any embers that might fly our way. The rest of the family formed a bucket brigade to bring water from the garden well to me, and to wet down the side of the house facing the fire.

It was a busy night. The burning houses generated a roaring wind, and pretty soon not merely embers, but pieces of beams and rafters were landing on our roof. In these dire circumstances, there was no time to intellectualize about whether my understanding of Christian Science would work or not.

As I ran around, making sure that each piece of flaming wood that landed on our roof was properly doused, I sang a few lines from one of the hymns I knew from Sunday School:

The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid;
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?

(Christian Science Hymnal, No. 148)

In the midst of the firestorm, I could almost hear God's voice telling me, "Be not afraid. I will give you all the peace and joy and power you need."

When morning came, our house was intact, though there was debris from bomb casings and antiaircraft shells throughout the garden where our family bucket brigade had been rushing around all night long.

The war was far from over, but that night's experience crystallized a feeling that had been growing in me since before my conversation with Tonao. The Science of the Christ was not something external to me, like a suit of clothes that I tried on. It was either within me, flooding my consciousness with light, or it was nowhere at all. As Jesus said of the "kingdom of God," it was not a matter of "Lo, here!" or "Lo, there!" Rather, the kingdom was "within" me—and it had been within me all along (see Luke 17:21). So how could I be an isolated, enemy alien when my relationship with my Father-Mother, God, was as inseparable and unseverable as that of a sunbeam to the sun? Several years later, my dream of a US college education came true.

I have had many more lessons to learn about the kingdom of God, and about my own individual identity. But never again have I been tempted to doubt the relevance of the study of the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy to all my daily activities.

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Praying from a higher vantage point
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