I LOVE THIS COLUMN.
To me it sums up the spirit of this magazine.
My Webster's dictionary defines watch: "to stay awake intentionally: keep vigil; to keep guard." And Mary Baker Eddy's stated intent in founding the Christian Science Sentinel was "to hold guard over Truth, Life, and Love" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 353). In connection with that intent, I particularly like this part of Webster's definition of watch: "to keep in view so as to prevent harm." I like it because it points out the essence of an effective watch.
Observing the world, our neighbors, and even our own lives from a cool distance is not constructive. Yet how are we to engage without getting caught up in the flood of individual sorrow and struggle? I remember in high school watching a film series on the Holocaust. It so overwhelmed me that I sank into depression. One of my teachers pulled me aside and pretty much told me to get it together—that I could never be part of the solution if I allowed myself to drown in the horror. Even though it seemed a bit insensitive at the time, her comment shook me out of my stupor.
And I've come to appreciate that conversation in more ways than I can say—for to be compassionate does not mean to be a sponge. Jesus said we are "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14). To be light, to turn thought in the direction of divine light—wherein there is no room for darkness—means to be agents for hope, comfort, and encouragement. It doesn't mean reflecting back darkness and despair.
IT GAVE ME AN IDEA OF WHAT IT MIGHT HAVE MEANT TO BE THAT WISE MAN WALKING QUIETLY THROUGH THE WORLD, BEING A PRESENCE OF LIGHT.
There's a story in the book of Ecclesiastes that tells about a small city attacked by a great king. In that city, there was a poor man who through his wisdom saved the city. Yet, no one remembered the wise man (chap. 9). This story speaks to me of every individual's potential and purpose—that each one of us is capable of making a difference wherever we are, since divine wisdom is always at hand to guide our thoughts and actions in ways that bring solutions.
This wisdom can speak to all of us as it did to the prophet Elijah, when God showed him that divine power isn't in destructive earthquakes, fires, and blustering storms, but rather lies in the awareness of God's all–sustaining presence. The All–power that whispers: "I am here. I have not left you. You are all that I have made you to be." Yielding to this unwavering Omnipotence is what brings peace, order, and harmony.
One afternoon when I was living in Chicago, a car raged down my street, followed by several police cars. There were sirens and gunshots. I was sure they were heading in the direction of the park just around the corner. It was a warm, sunny day, so I knew there would be kids and families there. Feeling both urgency and panic, I reached out to God. My prayer included a deep–down acknowledgment of God's being right there. His answer to me was immediate, for I felt an assurance that everyone would be OK, even that no one would be killed, and that the people in the car would be apprehended for both their own and everyone's protection. And I felt a tangible sense of God's all–encompassing love. That night, there was a TV news report about the incident. The men fleeing the police had indeed been caught. One was wounded, but none of he children or their parents were harmed.
Now I'm not saying in any way that I can take credit for what happened that day, but I do have a deep conviction that the kind of prayer I experienced does make a difference—that responding to God's healing power transforms us. I know it helped me. And it gave me an idea of what it might have meant to be that wise man walking quietly through the world, being a presence of light. A presence that dispels darkness and helps others feel the illuming presence and power of infinite Love—illustrating Mary Baker Eddy's words, "Let your light reflect Light" (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 154). This Light is always available—infinitely full of tenderness and grace—calling us to experience it, calling us to share it. Showing us that we, too, can "hold guard over Truth, Life, and Love."
Joni Overton–Jung is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher living in Toronto, Canada.