In late summer, just after I returned from a week away from a very hot New York City, I read an e-mail message from the management office of our building, warning of a bedbug infestation. I was also informed that the bedbugs had been found in an apartment on my floor.
As a native New Yorker, I’m not unused to hearing about bedbugs, which helped me absorb this report with a measure of calm. As a Christian Scientist, I know that God, not material forces, is always in control, and that an infestation, as with any form of discord, can be dealt with through prayer.
Still, the idea of our home possibly being infested with bugs, unpleasant at best, nagged at me, like, well, a bug bite! I tried to keep uppermost in my thought that good, not fear, is prevalent and is truly a shield, as the Bible tells us. In the book of Genesis, God assures Abram, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (15:1).
As I listened to reports that bedbugs had been found on buses, in movie theaters, in retail stores, in moving trucks, even in celebrity apartments, I challenged this news by affirming to myself that God is everywhere, and His spiritual universe contains not a single destructive creature. Only harmony dwells among God’s inhabitants. At lunch with a friend, I realized that the bedbug subject in New York rated with terrorism in terms of the amount of news coverage it was getting. It seemed right to claim this for myself and also for the entire city, that everyone could feel safe, unbullied, and secure, for the simple reason that God is taking care of His universe.
A church meeting that I attend yearly, which always brings me inspiration and new insights on how to pray more effectively, for myself and for others, was about to occur. Two friends who’d been planning to stay with me were so supportive when I told them they might want to find other lodging, given the traffic in my building: movers wearing hazmat suits; liveried exterminators; hunting dogs trained to sniff out bedbugs; and weary tenants expressing despair, sometimes fury, in the elevators.
My friends weren’t the slightest bit dissuaded from coming to stay. I was the one who had allowed myself to get so distracted by the idea that bugs rather than divine Love could rule my roost. While my friends did end up staying elsewhere, they continued to remind me that I, too, could consider the situation spiritually and steadfastly.
So I did. First, I looked up “infest” and found that it derives from the Latin infestare, and infestus, meaning “hostile.” One of the definitions reads: “to spread or swarm in or over in a troublesome manner.” I realized in prayer that nothing can “spread or swarm in or over” infinite God or His beloved spiritual children, created in His image and likeness. They are never the instigators or the victims of hostilities. We have God-given dominion over “every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28).
Searching in a concordance, I came across a pertinent reference in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy that reads, “If mortals would keep proper ward over mortal mind, the brood of evils which infest it would be cleared out” (p. 234). Further research led me to revisit a psalm: “There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” (91:10).
As ever, a return to the Bible and Science and Health returned me to right thinking, to the understanding that a spiritual approach to human woe of any sort trumps all and God’s allness trumps matter.
Out of this spiritual approach have come calm and a desire to help others look at the nuisance in the same way rather than be overwhelmed by alarming bulletins and advertising. I’ve seen no evidence of bedbugs in my home, and I’ve found a new way to help my neighbors – to utilize my prayers to comfort and calm my thoughts and theirs, and to bring restored peace and order to others. This approach, and its result, is good news.