IT'S been a couple of tough years for Los Angeles. We've had parts of our city go up in flames, come down in mud slides, and now come apart from the latest earthquake.
But the news is not all grim. There's plenty on the plus side. When television reporters and news helicopters fanned out over the area in the predawn hours to cover the first of the quake, especially the collapsed freeways, they were all offering variations on the same line: ``Was it ever a blessing that this happened at 4:30 a.m. on a holiday rather than at rush hour on a workday. The timing kept the casualties lower.''
Gratitude for all the bad things that did not happen, and for good things that did, is a lot more useful than simply wallowing in the tragic details. But after we do what we can to aid local relief efforts, and we give thanks for the many instances of protection-- what then?
Maybe it's time to pursue the issue further, to explore what forces are really at work governing man. And, as surprising as it may sound, we'll find the deepest insights coming not from seismologists' moment-by-moment measuring of every tremor but from a more timeless resource.
The Bible describes a scene of yet unexplored stability, the city of God. Speaking of this, the book of Psalms states: ``God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.'' And then the Psalmist goes on to tell of more about the city of God. ``God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved'' (46:1-3, 5).
Many have come to see this as a reference to consciousness, the consciousness of the kingdom of God. This city of God isn't, then, a physical site waiting to be found. It's a state of thought--the spiritual consciousness of God's presence and permanence. When we dwell in this consciousness, we gain more of its peace and steadiness. We know something of what it means to live planted on the rock, Christ. And we have something real and powerful, in the consciousness of God's presence, to bring to a chaotic scene. Life planted on the rock, Christ, is unshakable.
Divine Science reveals that we are not helpless before the forces that burn up and tear down and rip apart communities. A shift of thought through prayer provides a ``God's-eye'' view of the divinely creative forces that truly govern and control the universe. It reveals these forces as present and active right where the destructive ones had previously appeared. The forces that come from God are found to be good and harmonious.
The need is less to explain the destructive elements and more to recognize the spiritual forces of God, divine Spirit, which are ``in the midst'' of us and the universe. This more spiritual view, this consciousness of God's ever-present power and control, is not illusionary. An acknowledgment of it is at the heart of Christian prayer and is the most relevant thing available in times of catastrophe. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``We tread on forces. Withdraw them, and creation must collapse. Human knowledge calls them forces of matter; but divine Science declares that they belong wholly to divine Mind, are inherent in this Mind, and so restores them to their rightful home and classification'' (p. 124).
The point is not just that this understanding will provide comfort in the face of hardship, although it will. The point is that when we reckon the scene from a spiritual standpoint, not a ma-terial view, the scene actually changes. Prayer, imbued with a spiritual consciousness of the divine forces at work, has a transforming effect. Where there appeared to be powers of destruction, there are found to be forces of restoration and renewal. Where there appeared to be only instability, security and calm are found. Where there appeared to be only broken hopes and dreams, God's promise of good is fulfilled. The city of God is our true and sure dwelling place. One where we can safely abide and, through prayer, into which we can welcome our fellowman.
There is a river,
the streams whereof
shall make glad
the city of God,
the holy place of the tabernacles
of the most High.
God is in the midst of her;
she shall not be moved:
God shall help her, and that right early....
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob
is our refuge.
Psalms 46:4, 5, 7