In the heart of our cities, an unshakable stronghold
When people find out what neighborhood I live in, they often ask me about its safety, the gang activity, the crime. I usually have to pause before answering. Images of neighbors, gang members whose names I've learned, gunshots, sirens, flood my thought.
Can I count the times that I've been mentally on my knees in prayer? Probably not, but neither can I begin to count all the times that I've seen the hand of God tenderly at work—uniting, reassuring, neutralizing conflict. It has been and continues to be a challenging, exhilarating time, filled with the hope and expectation that are inextricably rooted in trusting God's promise for all His children: that we live and move and have our being in Him. Because of this promise, peace in neighborhoods, in families, in our hearts, is not something that's up for grabs.
True peace and all that it includes—kindness, understanding, equality, progress—is a law of God, and thus is actually inseparable from who we are. We can discover this law at work right now in consciousness. It comes in the form of intuitions and nudges that direct us and give us confidence. This inner voice is sometimes very quiet, sometimes loud, but always it comes with the assurance, calm, and conviction of divine logic. This is evidence of the Christ, God's revealing of Himself to us, showing our authenticity as the very expression of Him.
There is no place where the Christ is not presently at work —rousing, rebuking, enlightening, healing—and because of this, there is no place where we can be cut off from the power and presence of God. We can always turn to, and assert, the authority that comes with a right estimate of who we are.
Can I count the times that I've been mentally on my knees in prayer? Probably not, but neither can I begin to count all the times that I've seen the hand of God tenderly at work— uniting, reassuring, neutralizing conflict.
One night some time ago, I was taking public transportation home by myself. I was feeling uneasy and chose the bus because I felt it would be safe, but I found that I was still filled with fear. I was the only woman on the bus, and I had a good four- to five-block walk home once I got off.
As we rode along, I prayed to God. I communed with Him as my Father-Mother. I thought about all that I'd been learning of the omnipresence and power of God's love. I began to think about how God was viewing me and everyone around me right then—as pure, spiritual ideas. Fear lost its hold on me in those moments. I was filled with a sense of awe as I pondered just how mighty, just how precious, each one of God's children is to Him. Made by His hands, in His image, each one of us exists to express God—to express Love, Life, Truth—more fully. Certainly this expression included no predisposition to fear, violence, or victimization.
Christ Jesus couldn't have given us a more perfect example of how we can combat fear and hatred with love, forgiveness, compassion. Just before the crucifixion, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, said to him, "Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?" Jesus answered, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above" (John 19:10, 11). He had already proved this fact in so many ways, and right there, even in the face of crucifixion, he was able to state the powerlessness of evil in any form to take away his life, his expression of God.
The Master prophesied that "there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; ... men's hearts failing them for fear ..." He added, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:25, 26, 28). Well, it's not difficult to perceive these signs around us. News broadcasts are filled with reports of ethnic conflicts, gang wars, murders. Amid the horror and despair of these reports, we can do just as Jesus admonished. We can "look up"; we can look past the troubling evidence of the human scene to God's ever-present, constant control.
My walk home from the bus that night was peaceful. I didn't hurry. I listened to the sound of snow crunching beneath my feet, watched for stars and airplanes. I felt the lightness that comes from knowing that I was in God's hands because I lived in Spirit, God. He was walking me home, and everyone, everywhere, right then and always. I had a firm conviction and confidence that no matter whom I came into contact with, there would be peace, there would be safety, there would be blessing. I knew more concretely than ever before that the understanding of God's allness was more than ample to neutralize any suggestion that evil could present itself to me as a person, place, or thing.
In fact, this peaceful awareness included a deepened sense of the inherent innocence of all men—and of the inevitability of this finally coming to light. Right where hideous injustices seem to be taking place, there is always something much bigger going on, something unkillable, undefilable, ready to be discovered. The integrity of our true being that keeps us safe is so far above and beyond anything that anyone could do to us.
Healing the needs of the world doesn't take place with just one prayer. It's a moment-by-moment effort, a willingness to confront the claim of evil mentally as it comes to us in the guise of our own thoughts. In a poem entitled "Satisfied," Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes:
Aye, darkling sense, arise, go hence!
Our God is good.
False fears are foes—truth tatters those,
Love looseth thee, and lifteth me,
Ayont hate's thrall:
There Life is light, and wisdom might,
And God is All.
(Poems, p. 79)
Our earnest, intimate reliance on God will indeed free us from fear and danger. These efforts will also pave the way for others to discover the tangible sense of peace and safety that comes from an understanding of God's goodness. In the heart of our cities, our families, our lives, Truth's stronghold is unshakable, and we can combat fear, hatred, resentment, and prejudice with the certainty of divine Love's allness.