On a drive with his young grandson, a friend of mine noticed a restaurant marquee that read: "God bless the world." "That's where we're going to have dinner," he told his grandson.
After the meal, my friend told the waitress why they had come that evening. She brought the manager, who smiled and then told them that the sign hadn't been what they'd originally intended. The restaurant had received instructions from its franchise headquarters to display "God bless America" on their sign. The maintenance man who'd been given the job to post the message had other ideas. The manager said that initially she'd been upset with the man. But then the phone began to ring. People called up all day to say how good the sign had made them feel - how much it had meant to them to see it. When she told the maintenance man of the impact his sign was having, he slumped in his chair and began to weep.
It's heartening in these times to see people expressing love for their country. Even in places where the political dialogue has often been highly self-critical, people are remembering the good things about each other and the system of government that makes those dialogues possible.
But there is an even greater, more wonderful sense of identity to remember - our identity as sons and daughters of God. Those words, "God bless the world," lifted the spirits of people passing by because they illuminate an essential truth. They point to a higher understanding of who and what we are. People responded naturally to the message and were encouraged by it. It's a prayer that we can connect with.
Praying that God bless the world is an example of what Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, illuminated in her spiritual interpretation of the Lord's Prayer. In explanation of the line "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," she wrote, "And Love is reflected in love" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 17). We can reach out to others in love because of the love that God has for us. Even (or perhaps especially) those we think might owe us something, or who have done us harm. Or those whom we think we have wronged. We can love because God is Love. Divine Love is the very basis of identity. To pray that all are blessed by Love is to express what is written in our hearts by God - the only real author and source of our being. Someone remarked that those words had made her feel like she had come home. Divine Love is our home, and its expression is supremely natural to us. Mrs. Eddy wrote: "Sooner or later all shall know Him, recognize the great truth that Spirit is infinite, and find life in Him in whom we do 'live, and move, and have our being' - life in Life, all in All. Then shall all nations, peoples, and tongues, in the words of St. Paul, have 'one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all' " ("Christian Science versus Pantheism," pg. 13).
That thought lifts us above fear and distress over who hates whom. Spiritual sense gives us guideposts through difficult days and leads us to a deeper, fuller understanding of our potential and intrinsic goodness that comes from God. It shows us where we are really going and inspires us to move forward with more courage and hope. This verse from the Bible sums it up for me - who we are, what we need to do, where we are headed as we rely on prayer:
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
I John 3:1-3
God has given us all that we need. We were made to overcome evil - the feeling of being separate from God and His creation. God does bless our world continuously. Our prayers will lead us into the fullness of that blessing - always real, always with us.