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When I didn't react...

From the May 28, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Whenever I’ve read the Bible account about Jesus walking unharmed through the crowd that had led him to the brow of a hill, intending to throw him over (see Luke 4:28, 29), I’ve always wondered how he kept safe from the crowd’s rage. Recently, I had the opportunity to glimpse, in a very small degree, how Jesus was saved from the mob and how he could forgive those who wished him ill. 

During my drive into the city each morning, I often spend time in prayer, as I have found it prepares me for the workday ahead. I usually endeavor to know that God, good, is in complete control over all of my activities, and because I am God’s idea, I have dominion to see this throughout the day.

On my way in one morning, I inadvertently found myself in the middle of an “Occupy Wall Street” demonstration. Of course, I knew that people from many walks of life have attended these demonstrations in the United States, and some have been more peaceful and productive than others. 

In this case, I was at a stoplight in my city’s financial district, and when the light turned green, I entered an intersection only to be surrounded by dozens of angry protesters. When I tried to drive forward, they blocked my path, determined not to let me move through. The protesters began hurling insults directly at me. As I sat there, dumbfounded, I wondered how I would extricate myself from the situation. The longer I sat there, the more abusive their language became. They yelled at me, blaming me for corporate greed; they told me they hated me and would like to see me dead; they said because I was driving a specific car, I was obviously the enemy and I was one of the reasons the US was experiencing economic imbalance. 

As I have done in the past during troubling situations, I turned to the Father for guidance. Though I remained unafraid, since I was in my locked car, I was anxious because I wanted to get away from the crowd. In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines angels as “God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality” (p. 581). As I prayed to see what God wanted me to see, the angel thought came to me that I must not react. I must just be calm and patient. 

Immediately following this came the idea that I could sit there all day if I had to. And because I knew these thoughts were angels directly from God, I began to gain a deeper view of the situation. On the outside I was faced with a jeering crowd, anxious to show their displeasure with someone in their way, but I remained calm and open to God’s thoughts. Instead of feeling frustrated, I began to be filled with loving thoughts regarding the demonstrators. Mrs. Eddy writes: “When the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and His idea. Allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought. 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” (Science and Health, p. 495). 

While the protesters were arguing and screaming at me, I could clearly see that this picture had nothing to do with God’s creation. As I looked at each person, I could see that right there, where the material senses were telling me otherwise, the only real sense, spiritual sense, was testifying that everyone there was a perfect, harmonious, loving child of God. 

I began to feel safer and knew that this understanding would ensure my deliverance. When anxious thoughts attempted to creep into my thinking, suggesting that I should take a photo of the scene with my phone, call for help, or look for the police, I dismissed these thoughts immediately. Acting on these suggestions would be reacting. In those moments, it just didn’t seem like the right thing to do. When we react to something unlike God, such as hatred for example, even though we don’t realize it, we are inadvertently acknowledging evil as real. As far as I was concerned, God’s message to me, still, was not to react, but to be patient. 

After about 15 minutes of this, the protesters began to turn away from me and argue with one another. Some wanted to let me pass. They said I hadn’t done anything wrong and I should be allowed to drive on. Others wanted me to suffer longer. I can’t be sure exactly what happened logistically to let me pass, but I do remember finally being able to drive safely through the intersection. 

I remained calm and open to God's thoughts. Instead of feeling frustrated, I began to be filled with loving thoughts.

Once inside the parking garage at work, where it was quiet, a suggestion came to me that I had just been through a dangerous situation and was too upset to go into work; and that I should turn around and go home. But instantly, the comforting thought came; nothing has happened here, there is no “smell of fire” on you. (In the Bible story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, these three Hebrew men defied King Nebuchadnezzar by continuing to worship the one God. They were thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment, but emerged unharmed, without even the “smell of fire” on them. See Daniel, chapter 3.)  

So in my situation, I was obedient to this inspiration: “Go into work and remain quiet about this. Be sure to forgive the protesters.” I revisited what I knew about the first account of creation as stated in the Bible, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). I realized that I could forgive those protesters because God never created or allowed hatred or evil into His creation of man. Evil was neither person, place, nor thing, but merely an aggressive mental suggestion, yelling for acceptance. And this is exactly what I did do. I was very grateful for the experience and its outcome, and for the guidance and protection of God. 

The following week, the lessons I’d learned proved useful. My business partner came into my office with another co-worker who was visibly upset. Bottom line: A mistake had been made on a proposal to a client, and it looked as if there were going to be some huge financial ramifications.  

As I sat listening to my business partner explain the details of this situation, I knew I had a choice to make: I could either become very upset and vocal, and immediately try to think of solutions, or I could refrain from reacting, and listen to what God had to say about it. I must admit it was very hard not to react. I literally had to sit on my hands to prevent my body language from showing how I was feeling! When confronted with similar challenges in the past, I’ve raised my voice, become very animated, and immediately worked to find a solution. But because I had recently learned what can happen when one doesn’t react, I decided to stay calm and listen to God’s guidance. Our conversation ended and my colleagues left my office, looking rather surprised that I’d had very little to say. 

During the next few days, I prayed deeply about the situation. I knew that everyone in our business worked hard to do everything right and that our business was a reflection of God’s true business—that of divine Mind’s activity, meeting everyone’s needs, with no one suffering from anyone else’s decision, but all benefitting from the largess of God’s great love. Therefore no one connected with this business could suffer. I prayed earnestly not to place blame on anyone. I also endeavored to know that this, together with my experience with the crowd that morning, was just another opportunity to know that God was in complete control of everyone. 

A few days later, my business partner said he had come up with a way to solve the problem. He was prepared to call the client involved to explain his solution. I was grateful for this development as an answer to prayer, but because of the complexities of the solution presented, I asked that he work on an e-mail instead. Reviewing his e-mail, I recommended adjusting the tone in certain places and made some changes that my business partner agreed to. After the e-mail was sent, I prayed to know that God was in control and that no one could suffer from an unintentional mistake. Within an hour we received a response from the client. They accepted the solution we’d proposed. 

As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). I’d learned that to react negatively is not to act in accord with God, and when tempted to do so, we are further entangling ourselves in a mess. When we resist the suggestion to react, we deny that evil and its underlying suggestions have any reality or power over us. Instead, we can align ourselves with what God knows about the situation and respond appropriately and compassionately. We can yield our thinking to God’s thoughts, which are always good and beneficial to every situation. In doing this, we can be true followers of Jesus, walking calmly through any challenge, knowing that we are all safe and constantly supported by God, divine Love.

David Boggs is the CFO at a company in San Francisco, California.

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