“Follow the ducks!”
That was the command that came ringing loudly and clearly in my thought on a cold September day on the Yukon River in Canada. My two companions and I in rubber-hulled inflatable kayaks were being swept by a rapid current of icy clear water toward a river-spanning barrier of broken trees and other jagged debris.
The danger seemed real enough: Damage to our boats would leave us stranded over a hundred miles from the nearest civilization, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police post farther downstream. There were no GPS units or satellite phones in those days.
I had instinctively reached out in prayer to God, to the same intelligent presence I had experienced throughout our trip. It had successfully guided us 900 miles along the remote, unpaved Alaskan highway, shepherded us during an unexpected all-night 80-mile hitchhiking segment, and intuitively led us to knowledgeable local people who assisted in planning our river excursion. Surely I could trust God to resolve this critical situation.
My trust was based on a lifelong study of Christian Science, which is derived from metaphysical principles found in the Bible. In the first chapter of Genesis, God created all in His image and likeness, spiritual and perfect. This God, or infinite Spirit, exists universally and expresses and maintains His entire creation, including man (meaning male and female), in perfect harmony. However, the five physical senses misrepresent this spiritual reality. They assert through a mental inversion that man is material and exists in a material universe separate from his Maker, vulnerable to every whim and random turn of mortal life. In my case, the senses would have had me believe that a wonderful adventure could end up in disaster. Consequently, despite the physical extremity, my real challenge was a mental one—a test to prove scientifically that man is entitled to, and can experience, true spiritual freedom and harmony wherever he is.
In her textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, defines wilderness in part as “the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence” (p. 597). From that perspective, rather than being on a potentially dangerous outing, we were in reality safe in a spiritual and mental refuge, the same kind of divine consciousness symbolized by the wilderness of Judea where Christ Jesus resorted in prayer to find inner refreshment and communion with God. As it turned out, my wilderness experience provided a valuable lesson along these lines.
Angels are divine ideas that always assure us of the inseparability of God and His idea, man.
For several days on our three-week journey we had relished spectacular vistas offered by an expanse of river, forests, and mountains. Bald eagles, wolves, moose, beavers, and other wildlife accompanied our route by day; the aurora borealis, amid a panoply of stars, shimmered overhead at night. One constant source of amusement was a flock of wild ducks. Content to be our self-appointed companions, the boisterous ducks floated in front of or behind us, always at a respectable distance. Wherever we camped at night, we would be awakened at first light by their rambunctious quacking and splashing. As we pushed off into the river to resume our journey, the ducks once again paddled along, sort of nature’s web-footed comedians. I often wondered why they were still with us.
In the Glossary of Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy describes angels as “God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; . . .” (p. 581). There is a strong biblical basis for this definition: In addition to Jesus, most of the prophets and apostles—as well as David, Zacharias, Joseph, Mary, and the disciples—interacted with angels. In fact, biblical research indicates nearly 300 references to angels throughout the Old and New Testaments.
In their spiritual essence, angels are divine ideas that always assure us of the inseparability of God, infinite Mind, and His idea, man. No matter where we may find ourselves in life’s journey—even if we have chosen a course that appeared to be right at the time, but in retrospect seems a mistake—the fact remains that our progress is sanctioned and governed by God. In every case, His angels—His thoughts passing to us—lead us forward.
In my case, as we careened toward the debris barrier, the thought to follow the ducks was definitely an inspired angel message for my companions and me. As soon as I heard the command, it was instantly clear to me that the ducks would lead us through the dangerous maze ahead. I shouted, “Follow the ducks!” to my companions as I quickly turned my kayak upstream and furiously paddled against the current and across the river. Sure enough, even though the depth of the river channel was reduced to less than two feet, the “duck passage” was sufficient to take us smoothly and uneventfully past the danger zone. Looking back on our experience, I reflected with gratitude on one more proof of God’s guidance and protection. And it came as no real surprise that once we had made the transition to safer water, the ducks disappeared, and we never saw them again.
Despite the many twists and turns of the human experience, we can be assured by God’s continuous love and grace that we will always arrive at that good place where He intends us to be, the perfect place in consciousness that best advances our growth Spirit-ward. Ours is not a linear, physically mortal journey through time but an eternal unfoldment of ever-present
reality, or divine Life. In the absolute reality of the kingdom of heaven, we are forever at the exact place of God’s unchanging love and wisdom, our spiritual selfhood existing far beyond the vicissitudes of an illusory mortal and material consciousness of life. The one Mind, God, or the universal divine Principle, expresses Himself in us individually and collectively as an irrepressible, endless kaleidoscope of fascinating, unique views of His own beauty and glory.
At times in our spiritual journey, we may find it necessary to pray earnestly for guidance as, for example, with the words from one of Mrs. Eddy’s poems, “ ‘Feed My Sheep’ ”: “Shepherd, show me how to go” (Poems, p. 14). Realizing that everything we experience is thought objectified, we listen for the shepherding Christ to show us the way forward. Following our highest sense of right and navigating with two primary spiritual guideposts, humility and unselfed love, we confidently advance as far as the path takes us for the moment. Even though we cannot see the distant goal, we can be assured by God’s angels that there is an exhilarating, safe passage that is taking us to the place where we need to be, and, in fact, where we always are, within God, within His heavenly kingdom.
Richard Lee lives in Houston, Texas.
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