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The vast reach of Love

From the August 17, 2015 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


How big are the “everlasting arms of Love”? The idea of being upheld and embraced by God’s love isn’t new; it comes from the book of Deuteronomy, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (33:27). A well-known hymn elaborates on this timeless idea: 

Everlasting arms of Love 
Are beneath, around, above; 
God it is who bears us on, 
His the arm we lean upon.
(John R. Macduff, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 53, adapt. © CSBD) 

There have been times when I have tangibly felt God’s loving arms around me. I have experienced that warmth and uplift when I’m totally alone walking along a mountain path, or in the woods, or by the ocean. For me, it sometimes seems easier to feel that divine embrace when things around me are quiet. But I’ve also felt God’s enveloping love while in a grocery store checkout line, in a bustling crowd, or in rush-hour traffic. 

Sometimes God’s care is especially apparent to me when I ask a Christian Science practitioner or someone else to pray for me. This is how I know that prayer is effective—when someone “over there” prays for me “over here,” I feel the effects of the truth being seen in those prayers. As someone once told me, when Christly inspiration warms you and causes you to better understand and feel that message of God’s deep love, others are blessed by that warmth, too.  

When Christly inspiration warms you, others are blessed by that warmth, too.  

God does work through us, as we yearn and strive to reflect Him more and more. Mary Baker Eddy, the author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, explains it this way: “The manifestation of God through mortals is as light passing through the window-pane. The light and the glass never mingle, but as matter, the glass is less opaque than the walls. The mortal mind through which Truth appears most vividly is that one which has lost much materiality—much error—in order to become a better transparency for Truth” (Science and Health, p. 295). In my own practice of Christian Science, I strive to do this for the benefit of others—to be such a transparency for Truth that they can feel the love of God when I pray for them. 

When the sun passes through a magnifying glass, the light becomes so focused that it can burn a hole through things or start a fire. Dedicated and consecrated prayer brings healing ideas into focus. When we earnestly pray for people, they feel the powerful light of the Christ challenging and dispelling any darkness, and they feel God’s omnipresence and specific, transformative care. As Science and Health explains, “Christian Science brings to the body the sunlight of Truth, which invigorates and purifies” (p. 162).

A few events have happened recently where I distinctly felt the effectiveness of prayer for my safety and the safety of others. 

About a year and a half ago, we experienced a terrorist attack in our local mall in Kenya. My grocery store was there, my banking, the stationery shop, the toy store, the coffee shop. I knew the attendants, and we chatted about life on a regular basis. I was there a couple of times each week, and three times the day before the incident began. The siege made international news and went on for about five days.

During this time, I asked a practitioner on another continent to pray for us and our situation. My community was in shock and was reeling from the events going on around us. During those five days and for a few weeks afterward, I received emails from around the world from people telling me they were praying about this event. Some of these people I knew and some of them must have found my name in The Christian Science Journal Directory.

As a result of these selfless prayers, I felt so loved during this time, and I knew that the “everlasting arms of Love” were palpably present. This realization brought me to tears many times. The effect of a worldwide church of thinkers and healers was very evident. 

This experience made me increasingly aware of news from around the world. Whenever distressing news stories came to my attention, I found myself wanting to do the same for the dear ones affected as others had done for us. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by troubles, I know now that every distressing headline we see is a call to consecrated, devoted prayer, which shines spiritual love on the situation. This brings healing into dark places of thought and experience to uplift and save those who are going through terrible circumstances. 

LOVE

What a word! I am in awe before it. Over what worlds on worlds it hath range and is sovereign! the underived, the incomparable, the infinite All of good, the alone God, is Love.

—Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, pp. 249–250

Prayers, based on the reality of God’s universal love, not only make people feel uplifted, cared for, and cherished—they provide protection as well. After the terrorist incident, I made it a practice to pray every day to understand the universality and all-encompassing effect of divine Love, which is God. I would pray, acknowledging that the everlasting embrace of Love is infinite and therefore big enough to include not just me and my loved ones, but everyone universally—in my community, my city, the country I live in, the continent, and the whole world. I made it a point to pray about God’s protection for all as I went about my day. 

At that time there was still a lot of conversation about terrorism in my community. People were frightened. I kept praying with the question, How big are the “everlasting arms of Love”?—in other words, how vast is the love of God? I reasoned that God is infinite and ever present, so the reach of divine care is also infinite and ever present.

One afternoon, about seven months after the mall attack, I witnessed God’s protection in action when my son and I were caught in the middle of a shooting. 

We’d experienced some car trouble in a busy residential area and were waiting for the mechanic to arrive when a car came careening past us, far above the speed limit. The car clipped our front bumper, ricocheted off a wall, and crashed into a tree. It was closely followed by another car that stopped right next to us. It was full of people who opened fire with machine guns, intending to hit the men in the first car. 

My son and I hit the floor of our car, and our back windshield was shattered by a gunshot. Suddenly, the men in the second car stopped shooting, calmly started directing traffic, and checked on the men in the crashed car—who, it turned out, had been killed in the incident. 

It was later reported that the men in the first car had been responsible for many recent robberies in our area, and that the men in the second car were plainclothes police, who’d had them under surveillance for some time. 

At first, it might be difficult to see evidence of God’s care in this event. But there were many innocent bystanders nearby and on the road at that time, including workmen unloading office equipment from a truck parked on the side of the road, pedestrians, and vehicles crowding both lanes. None of these individuals was hurt. Earlier, I had needed to move my car to allow a resident from the apartment complex next door to pass, which meant that seconds before the first car had come speeding along, I had opened up just enough space for it to pass through, instead of hitting us head-on.

God is infinite and ever present, so the reach of divine care is also infinite and ever present.

When the shooting began, I’d kept affirming God’s presence by knowing, “Everlasting arms of Love are beneath, around, above,” affirming this repeatedly to myself and to my son. And in thinking through this event, I’ve realized that I have to include in my prayers even those who identify themselves as thieves, extremists, and jihadists. I know that these are not their real identities as the infinite manifestation of the infinite Mind. I continue to ask God to help me love them and to acknowledge that they are included in the consciousness of Love. I know the Christ-power can penetrate and enlighten any darkened thought.

Following this incident, I am grateful to report that my son did not experience negative aftereffects. But it took me some months to let go of feeling uneasy when going out; however, as I continued to prayerfully acknowledge the presence of God’s divine care and harmony, the uneasy feelings began to lift. I could see that the presence of God, good, is more powerful than any supposed “evil,” or dark elements, which have not a shred of realness to them. 

From these experiences, I can emphatically answer the question: How big are the “everlasting arms of Love”? with the answer: They’re infinite! Divine Love certainly embraces the whole of its spiritual universe, and we can know this is true in every corner of our globe. Neither time nor space can inhibit the effectiveness of prayer.

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