'First of All, God ...'
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
Ten days. Ten days. After one horrific moment in which their car veered off the road and plunged into a deep canyon - a crash the mother did not survive - how in the world did 5-year-old Ruby Bustamante endure for 10 days before rescue workers finally found her at the crash site in a remote area of California known as the Badlands?
A few details give an answer, of sorts. Her injuries weren't too serious - bumps and bruises and minor cuts, along with a fractured knee and a finger on which minor surgery has since been performed.
She ate packages of Top Ramen and drank bottles of Gatorade stashed in the car before the trip, and those supplies may have lasted through about seven days of the 10-day ordeal. She had a jacket to sleep on. The nights aren't that cold this time of year in southern California.
I have no reason to knock Gatorade or Top Ramen noodles. We have them in the kitchen cupboard even as I write this. But if you're like me, while those details sketch in the picture a bit, they don't begin to give a convincing answer as to how she really survived. Far more compelling and insightful is the response a family member gave when asked how Ruby survived. "First of all, God, and the prayers by the family. We're a tough family."
That's a good thing. Toughness must have come in handy, and fueled those prayers. Maybe it's a toss-up whether those 10 anguish-filled days were longer for the girl at the bottom of the canyon or for the family at home, who had no idea where she or her mother were. But into that void of knowledge the family poured its prayers. "First of all, God ...."
As for Ruby at the bottom of the canyon, it's awe-inspiring to imagine the resourcefulness of this gutsy little 5-year-old. And the positive effect those prayers of her family had. Another factor seems almost certainly to have been in her favor - her innocence. This, first of all, comes from God, and so serves as a kind of protecting armor.
It's curious. Innocence sometimes gets billed as an attribute that leaves people vulnerable, exposed to harm. In fact, it always seems to be doing just the opposite. Have you ever stopped to consider how often innocence protects people from harm. Innocence - a God-bestowed quality within each of us, but one that is especially easy to see in young children - is forever showing up in stories of daring and danger where individuals, against all odds, end up delivered back to shelter and safety.
Consider the story of Daniel in the Bible. True, his was no 10-day ordeal, but it must have been one very long night he spent in a den of hungry lions. In his explanation to the king the next morning as to how he had survived, he said, "My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt" (Dan. 6:22). There it is again. Innocence. Protecting Daniel just as it did Ruby.
This innocence isn't naiveté so much as it is a purity straight from God to each of us as His sons and daughters. No wonder it has such saving and protecting power! It's that special, untainted quality that Jesus loved so much in children, perhaps because it was so in keeping with his message of the healing, saving, protecting power of Christly love. Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy loved innocence, too. She once wrote, "Beloved children, the world has need of you, - and more as children than as men and women: it needs your innocence, unselfishness, faithful affection, uncontaminated lives. You need also to watch, and pray that you preserve these virtues unstained, and lose them not through contact with the world. What grander ambition is there than to maintain in yourselves what Jesus loved, and to know that your example, more than words, makes morals for mankind!" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," page 110).
If the world needs innocence, the place to begin is where others have begun their prayers. First of all, God. Then the power that protects and saves and delivers comes more into play. And the Rubys of this world inspire the rest of us to nurture our own God-given innocence.