In recent months we have been inundated with news of men being identified, castigated, and even fired from their jobs for inappropriate behavior toward women. Reading and hearing these stories has brought to mind an experience of many years ago and, somewhat to my surprise, a new opportunity to grow and be healed.
I was newly married, and my husband was in the military, stationed on an aircraft carrier. The ship was in dry dock for repair purposes, and we were living in a modest apartment nearby. Every four days my husband stayed on board for a 24-hour shift, and I typically used the time to clean, shop, and cook.
One such day, quite early, I unlocked the small closet under the building’s outdoor staircase in order to get out the renters’ shared vacuum cleaner. As I leaned in, I sensed that someone was standing behind me. In a second or two, a young man attacked me, pushing me to the floor and strangling me.
Knowing that at least one or two people were at home in the building, I began to scream. As I struggled and screamed, it became apparent that no one was coming to help me and that I wasn’t strong enough to fend him off. Suddenly, I knew that I needed a different approach. It would be God who would come to my rescue.
In my study of Christian Science, I had learned that God loves me, that He is an ever-present help, and that I can never be outside of His omnipotent care. With confidence in God, as assertively and clearly as possible I stated, “God is my life and you cannot hurt me!” The man continued his attack, and I repeated, “God is my life and you cannot hurt me!” I was conscious that I wasn’t simply repeating words—I truly felt God’s presence. I was also aware that, with the man’s hand grasping my throat, I was losing my voice. However, I was able to repeat once more, “God is my life and you cannot hurt me.” At that, the man simply stood up and walked
Following phone calls to the police and to my husband’s ship, there was soon a small group of men in our living room. As one of the policemen called headquarters, he looked over at me and informed his office that I was “in shock.” Actually, the quietness I was displaying at that moment was due to my gratitude for the sense of safety I had felt and the care I knew I had received from God, divine Love.
In the years since, I have had any number of experiences that have required me to be or travel alone, often in other countries. The sureness I felt of God’s protection that morning has contributed to my ability to do whatever has been needed with confidence in God’s continuing care.
Nevertheless, it was only recently that I realized that my healing was not yet complete. Long ago, I was able to replace any negative thoughts about the attacker with an understanding of his identity as a sinless son of God. Now, however, as I listened to interviews with women who have come forward to share their difficult experiences, I realized I had left someone out of that thinking.
A few women stated a need to forgive not only their attackers but the colleagues who could, and should, have supported them and didn’t. It was then I remembered that one of my husband’s shipmates had been home, that he had heard me scream, and that he chose to do nothing. Although I had never dwelled on that fact, I hadn’t thought about this man with anything other than disdain and at least minor resentment. It was more than time to let my negative attitude go and replace it with the healing truth.
There are three verses that open the third chapter of First John that are read aloud at the end of the Sunday service in Churches of Christ, Scientist. They have provided much inspiration to me on different occasions, and they did during this time, too.
For example, the first verse begins, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” Then the second verse declares, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” In praying with this verse, I put special emphasis on the word now, because it was so important to me to realize that everyone involved in my experience is already a son—child—of God. All three verses are rich with spiritual meaning, and through thinking more fully about them, I can honestly say I have been able to let go of my unloving attitude and forgive my husband’s former shipmate.
For this “updated” healing experience, as well as the original one, I am profoundly grateful.
Bellingham, Washington, US
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