A breeze-caressed caribbean beach. A Japanese park shimmering with morning mist. These are venues where it might seem easy to find asylum from the stresses of modern life.
But, realistically, most of us need to find peace in a more accessible way. And often, we need to find it under fire - in the trenches of daily life. And traffic snarls, computer glitches, family tensions, layoff rumors. And sometimes even in the trauma of warfare.
Experts point to a multitude of possible cures for stress: sedatives, hypnosis, exercise, diet, visualization. Yet these haven't kept the worry level from climbing. Seven out of 10 Americans say they feel stressed.
Now, however, many say there's a better way to cope with pressure: a spiritual way. Making space to be with God in the rush of pressures that claim your attention - that's what delivers you from those pressures. Such moments of awareness that God, divine Spirit, is immediately present, bring a spiritual poise and grace in the midst of any challenge. (Some have called these moments of "epiphany.") Peace pervades, and disruption fades. Courage grows, and terror shrinks. God's eternal care is seen, and the limits of time back away. And ultimately, Spirit triumphs, and material pressures dissolve. They dissolve in the light of a spiritual perspective, where everything looks different. The impossible becomes possible. The dead-end road becomes a wide highway forward.
Moments of togetherness with God - with infinite Mind and perfect Love - are really oases of prayer. And Jesus urged his followers to defend these moments. "When you pray," he said, "go into a room alone and close the door. Pray to your Father in private" (Matt. 6:6, Contemporary English Version). That doesn't necessarily mean going into a physical room and shutting a door. But it does mean being alone with God in your thoughts. It means giving God your full attention. Your full love. And shutting out distractions.
There is safety in spirituality. You're protected by God's forever love. And you know it. This newspaper's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, explains, "Man's refuge is in spirituality, 'under the shadow of the Almighty' " ("Unity of Good," pg. 57).
Gerald Warre Cornish, a young British scholar in Greek studies, took refuge in his spirituality during the ferocious trench warfare of World War I. Cornish - like millions of soldiers on both sides of the 600-mile front between France and Germany - was holed up in trenches for months on end. Heavy artillery, machine guns, poison gas, were constant threats. Casualties mounted daily.
In the midst of this, Cornish found moments with God. And he began an astoundingly fresh translation of the New Testament in a notebook. In miniscule script, he put Paul's letters to the Corinthians and Ephesians into words that burn with Christian love.
Years later, friends published his muddy notebook under the title "Saint Paul from the Trenches." On its last page he describes the vision of God that gave him courage:
... all so-called facts, or news, no matter what they may be, or on what authority promulgated, in so far as they are fear-begetting or fear-begotten, are false, without foundation, and will be found in the issue and upshot of events to be wholly without reality, or just grounds for existence. But this, no one has the right to say except in the Christ, in the understanding of the one Mind which dissipates all contrary to itself, and recreates the world.
Such was Gerald Warre Cornish's epiphany in the trenches. We, too, can be free of fear and stress in our "trenches," and find peace in the knowledge of God's always present, always powerful love - "in the understanding of the one Mind," which transforms our own world.
I therefore, the prisoner of
the Lord, beseech you that ye
walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with
all lowliness and meekness,
with longsuffering, forbearing
one another in love.
Ephesians 4:1, 2
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society