I was searching to understand God in a way that made sense to me. At the time, I was a Christian of another denomination and understood God as both loving and wrathful. But I’d never felt totally satisfied with this concept of God, because it didn’t seem logical for God to express two opposing qualities. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my search led me to a new view of God, one which first became evident to me when I ran into trouble on a hike.
It was around four o’clock in the morning when I headed out to hike an almost 11,000-foot mountain in northern New Mexico. At that time, I was working at a Boy Scout high adventure base, and I would often go hiking in the back country. I was lax, though, in my planning for this trip and hadn’t fully prepared. I was hiking alone, and I hadn’t told anyone what my specific itinerary was. I mentioned to some other staff members simply that I was going to climb Black Mountain and would be back in time for work.
At first, everything seemed to be going well. During the hike, I saw a fabulous sunrise and gorgeous mountain terrain. I summited the mountain at noon, so I had six hours left before I had to be at work—just enough time to get back to base camp. I decided to attempt to save what I thought might be an hour or two by bushwhacking down the mountainside rather than continuing down the trail. Not a good idea.
I found a small stream to follow, thinking it would eventually get me to base camp. But after three hours, I had no idea where I was or if I was even near the canyon bottom, so I stopped. I had a map, but maps are not useful if you are not where you think you are on the map. Nothing on the map seemed similar to the terrain surrounding me.
I was scared. Not only was I worried that I wouldn’t make it back in time for my job, but I was also afraid that I would have to be rescued by a search party. In my fear, I started imagining a day, or even several uncomfortable days, of waiting to be found—not to mention the consequences I might face at work for making a number of very un-Scout-like decisions about this hike.
I’d never felt satisfied with a concept of God as both loving and wrathful.
Then a new thought struck me: I could sit here feeling afraid and worrying the day away, or I could be calm. I felt directed to be calm. It was just a sudden feeling that I could be at peace—that I didn’t have to worry about this predicament into which I seemed to have gotten myself. At that moment, I felt as though I was touched by the love of God and felt His all-encompassing care for me. Even though nothing had changed outwardly, I stopped worrying about being lost.
I now know that amazing things happen when you feel totally at peace in God’s love. For one thing, you’re open to God’s guidance. The thoughts that came to me at that point were gentle messages, and because of the calmness and clarity of these messages, they seemed to be from God. It became very clear to me that I should continue walking down next to the stream and check out an even larger stream that I could just barely see below. I got down to the junction, and there, directly across the larger stream, was a trail, a tree with an arrow pointing downstream, and a sign that said “Base Camp.” I knew I had found my way!
This was the first time I can remember that I actually felt cared for by a power outside of myself—a power that was clearly not human. Though I didn’t really understand what had happened, I knew that it was something extraordinary, and I strongly sensed it had to do with a caring, loving God.
At that time, I wasn’t aware that there was such a thing as Christian Science. But when I was introduced to Christian Science five years later, I learned that God wasn’t sometimes loving and sometimes wrathful, but only Love and only good, and that as God’s child, I could never be separated from divine Love. This explained to me more of what had happened that day. And being guided to find my way on that hike became a foundational experience for me in understanding God as always good and always with me to guide and care for me. Little had I initially imagined that getting lost would lead to really finding God! And understanding God as all-loving has made an enormous difference in my life.
Looking back on it now, I realize that when I’d lost my way, what was going on wasn’t merely that I didn’t know where I was; I was fearful—tremendously worried—too, and I didn’t initially realize that God’s love and care were at hand. So those underlying feelings were what really needed to be broken through in order to lift me out of discouragement into calm, spiritual clarity. God’s love, which I suddenly felt, had cut through the situation, and the “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12) to which I responded led me out of my confusion about where I was and to—literally—a guidepost. Once I found the right path, I was able to hoof it back to camp with about 15 minutes to spare before work—full of gratitude and having learned a few important lessons.
One of those lessons was that I could tangibly feel God’s power, care, and love. In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul conveys his conviction that God is always with us and that we can never be separated from Him. He writes: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37–39).
This was the first time I can remember that I actually felt cared for by a power outside of myself—a power that was clearly not human.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, elaborates in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures on Paul’s certainty about our inseparability from God, and describes the nature of our relation to God, Love. “It is ignorance and false belief, based on a material sense of things, which hide spiritual beauty and goodness,” she writes. “Understanding this, Paul said: ‘Neither death, nor life, … nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God.’ This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death. The perfect man—governed by God, his perfect Principle—is sinless and eternal” (p. 304).
I know now that while there’s a lot we may encounter that would appear to be the opposite of this, the harmony of creation and the love of God are what are true and real. And as we acknowledge God’s presence and our actual oneness with Him, we find that we aren’t lost or separated from that harmony and love.
The peace that comes from knowing—really knowing—that God is all-loving, that He loves me, and that I can never find myself outside of this Love is awesome! I discovered from that hike and many other experiences since that when I think I am lost, literally or figuratively—that is, when I’m believing I have some insurmountable problem—I have simply accepted the mistaken concept that I can become separated from God’s love. But when I pause and allow divine Love to calm and comfort me, I find that Love does “still all my worry and woe” (Christian Science Hymnal: Hymns 430–603, No. 457). And when we open our hearts, we can feel God’s ever-present love guarding us and guiding our way, directing us to the path that leads us home.
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