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Beyond the earthquake

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

August 25, 1999



I was living in Los Angeles when the Northridge earthquake struck in January 1994. While its effects can't begin to compare with the damage and suffering from Turkey's recent quake, I did learn something that is helping me pray for the victims.

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For me, the most unsettling element of the Northridge quake wasn't so much the quake itself, but the random nature of the aftershocks. For a week after the first major seismic event - periodically, without warning - the ground would shake, and whatever building I was in would rattle.

Sometimes I would be on the other side of the Los Angeles basin, far away from my family. And even if the aftershock seemed severe where I was, the epicenter could have been anywhere. This meant that when I was feeling the ground move, disaster could have been striking somewhere else for all I knew.

This scenario made me so fearful that I had trouble thinking rationally. In fact, the whole city seemed gripped by uncertainty. Although many people showed fine qualities - intelligence, courage, charity - many others were dazed and tense. I had to find a way to stop feeling totally unsettled.

One Bible story had always meant a lot to me whenever I heard of destruction on a monumental scale - the story of Noah and the ark (see Gen., Chaps. 6-9). I turned to this account once again for comfort and resolution.

Before the rain comes - rain that will flood the earth - God instructs the righteous Noah to build an ark to preserve all the species inhabiting the earth. Noah is obedient, and the ark is ready when the floods come. For "forty days and forty nights," the ark floats on the waves, with everyone inside safe and secure. Eventually the waters recede, and Noah, his family, and the animals are able to disembark. God tells Noah: "I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you;... I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth" (Gen. 9:9-11).

The ark is explained in the textbook of Christian Science as symbolizing "God and man coexistent and eternal; Science showing that the spiritual realities of all things are created by Him and exist forever" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 581). God's promise that life will never be destroyed - and that you and I and everyone will continue as His beloved child - goes beyond what we see in the here and now.

God is Life, and this means that Life is eternal, unchanging, perfect, and spiritual. God's creation reflects Life. That creation is you and me and all creatures. But even this definition must go beyond what we see with our eyes. The true identity of all that the divine Spirit created must be like God - spiritual. Not material. And a spiritual being cannot be affected by the fluctuations of anything material. An earthquake cannot touch the real you or the real me. We coexist with God.

The Bible also records a gift that Christ Jesus left for his friends: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). This peace does not include simply fooling ourselves into thinking everything's fine, or living in denial of the horror we see. Rather, this peace is the rational, logical conclusion drawn from the fundamental truth that we coexist with God; that He is omnipotent and benevolent; and that therefore He makes nothing to fear.

Contemplating God's promise, and Jesus' "gift of peace," I found the reassurance I needed. The intense uncertainty I felt began to ease, and I could again look to the future with hope.

Now, with events as they are in Turkey, I pray that this same peace cover each and every one of the struggling hearts seeking shelter and security. I pray to know that God's covenant with His people is in effect, protecting and guiding all of His creation. I pray to know that despite the news reports I've been hearing, each individual coexists with God, and each face I see on the television represents another being in Spirit's beloved creation. Our prayers can help lift the anguish and help people feel the gift of peace.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society