If in broad daylight - in a school, office, home, or on a quiet country road - some random act of violence can suddenly confront any of us, how can we ever feel truly safe?
Anyone can use what the Bible calls "the whole armour of God" as a sure defense. It's not a cumbersome coat of mail or a high-tech security system. It's the understanding of one's own innocence as a child of God, of God's constant control, of His protection and guidance. It's entirely spiritual.
A whole den of potentially vicious lions did not open their mouths when Daniel was tossed in with them. St. Paul quickly shook off a poisonous snake that had fastened on his hand - with no ill effects. Jesus slipped out of the grasp of a violent mob. They all wore this invisible armor that completely protected them.
The Christian Science textbook, speaking of God's power, says: "Understanding the control which Love held over all, Daniel felt safe in the lions' den, and Paul proved the viper to be harmless. All of God's creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 514).
This understanding of God - and the feeling of safety - is just as available now. Out for a walk one day, I chose a new road. For me, walks are precious prayer time. Time to be grateful for God's goodness, for the beauty and harmony of His creation. Time to pray for peace and love in my neighborhood.
Strolling along, I suddenly became aware of something behind me. When I looked around, I saw a big dog that had obviously broken its chain and was following me.
He continued on with me quite a way. He seemed friendly enough - until we came near his property. Suddenly, he became violent - jumping on me, biting at my arms, and tangling his legs in mine in an effort to take me down.
I asked God for guidance. Should I go into the driveway and attempt to hook him up? Should I flag down a passing car for help? To both questions the answer was no - just keep moving forward. It was clear that I should try to remain fearless.
Moving slowly toward home while still under attack, I continued to pray. I had been learning from regularly reading the Bible that love overcomes fear. So I deliberately loved this dog. I talked calmly and firmly to him. I told him that he was a loved creature of God. As such he was harmless.
Then I remembered a sentence that I had been recently praying to understand better: "The belief of sin, which has grown terrible in strength and influence, is an unconscious error in the beginning, - an embryonic thought without motive; but afterwards it governs the so-called man" (Science and Health, pg. 188).
I realized that this dog had no conscious or real motive for attacking me. That is, I meant no harm to him or his home. This deepened my sense of love for him - and acted as a protective shield. The attack stopped as quickly as it started.
I arrived home and called the owner to tell him the dog was loose, quietly explaining about the attack, saying I had not been harmed. And this was true; there were teeth marks in my arm, but they disappeared almost as quickly as the attack.
For our neighborhood's safety, particularly the children's, I suggested to the owner that the dog be kept chained. Apparently he'd already broken several chains - this dog was part wolf! It was then that I understood why he'd attacked me near his property. He was protecting his lair. The "embryonic thought" that wolves behave a certain way was the source of the aggression.
For several days I continued to pray for the safety of our whole neighborhood - the dog included. Isaiah's sweet reference to the wolf dwelling with the lamb was particularly reassuring (see Isa. 11:6).
A few months later, I met the dog's owner in a store. He said he'd been unable to find a chain strong enough to keep the dog hooked, and that his wife had given him an ultimatum: her or the dog. So he'd found a new and safer home for him on a farm.
I had found a better conviction of "the control which [divine] Love held over all." Both the dog and our neighbors (including owner and wife) had found added safety, peace, and harmony.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society