The scene: A busy car-rental agency on a dazzling summer morning. Lines snaking across the office, with impatient day-trippers pushing to get out into the sun.
The clerk behind the desk looks up in dismay as yet another person joins the queue. The clerk exclaims frustratedly, "Oh, my Gaaahhdd!"
Tension ripples through the line, until one of the customers calls out, "Oh, do you have one of those, too?"
"Yes, I do," says the clerk, something close to relief crossing his almost smiling face.
"What would we do without Him?" chips in another customer in the line, and the scene is transformed. There is nothing but cheerfulness from that point on.
I was in the line that morning, and could hardly believe what I was seeing and hearing. Or, when my turn came, how quickly and graciously I was served.
I came away realizing how easy it can be to defuse a tense situation with the right word - in this instance a God-based response that brought not only lighthearted relief but healing.
As I drove away from the rental yard, I wondered if there is any expression - any expletive - in the world that's more overworked than "Oh, my God!"
Many lovers of the Bible find its inappropriate use offensive, blasphemous. It's just too disconnected from the truths that undergird their study and prayer - thoughtlessly remote from the faith shown in such lines as "My God, let, I beseech thee, thine eyes be open, and let thine ears be attent unto the prayer that is made in this place" (II Chron. 6:40); and, "O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me" (Ps. 30:2). Think also of God's promise in Leviticus that He will be our God, and we will be His people (see Lev. 26:12).
In these and many other Bible citations, the writers make their appeals directly to God, declaring their unswerving trust in His supporting, healing power. We are assured that any of us can claim an intimate relationship with God and call for divine help whenever we're stuck.
As I see it, we all have a God whom we can freely and legitimately call ours. But the words my God should be used with honesty and conviction. Then they are quicker than the latest DSL technology to connect us with the divine source of happiness, peace, spiritual contentment.
It doesn't take long to discover that we don't need "My God!" as an expletive in our vocabulary at all. And when we do use the phrase to affirm our link with God, sincerity helps us avoid sounding possessive or too pious.
These words are a great way to begin our prayers - establish right up front who is in control of our lives and to which family we belong. This declaration takes us straight to a place where we are all securely held in the palm of God's hand, and where we have instant rapport with God's other children.
Here we share God's infinite peace and comfort and yet have a relationship with Him that is so individual that there is no competition or any way we can impinge on another's freedom. After all, God is not, strictly speaking, exclusively ours. His widespread arms embrace everyone - even those who are not yet sure that they belong there.
I'm learning that this relationship doesn't have to be announced. It's already here, deeply grounded. It's the best possible foundation for thought and action. We don't have to push to the front of a line to establish it, though we are required to make an honest, deep commitment to God.
When we can all speak the words my God with gratitude and truthfulness, the words themselves will become meaningful to us, renewed, transformed. Then questions such as "Do you have one, too?" will direct the attention of everyone toward God - and everyone will find themselves open to receive His blessings.
Press patiently on; God is good, and good is the reward of all
who diligently seek God.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)