Recent news reports have alerted us all to the urgent need to protect children from abduction, molestation, and other forms of abuse. Many parents are taking extra care to keep a watchful eye on their youngsters - for example, not leaving them unattended in a store or alone in a car. But what about when children go off to school or out to play with friends? What can we do to ensure their safety at all times?
To begin with, we can teach youngsters, in an appropriate way, how to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations. Obviously, the child who uses common-sense precautions - walking with friends, bypassing wooded areas, taking a ride only from family or family-approved drivers - is far less vulnerable than one who is completely naive.
Another essential element of protection is the daily, prayerful cherishing of a child's true spiritual selfhood in God. To realize, as Christ Jesus did, man's blessed union with God is to experience the saving presence of Christ, Truth, expressed so fully by Jesus.
Consider the Master's example. When he sent his disciples into the world, he alerted them to be wise to the ways of the world. But he also gave them a promise: ''Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.'' n1
n1 Luke 10:19.
The Master understood that our real being is inseparable from God and therefore actually inaccessible to evil. He knew that God alone is power, that evil is a deception, utterly impotent, though seeming to be power. So his promise to the disciples was not only a reassurance of the saving power of Christ in human lives; it was a statement of spiritual fact. Your pure spiritual identity, he might have said, is your salvation. The Lamb of God has already given you the victory over the beast of materiality.
Jesus knew that on the human scene his followers would encounter incredible opposition, and that they would need protection. But he didn't pass out material weapons. He prayed for them (see John 17:9-26). He gave them the ultimate defense - an understanding of God that would enable them to demonstrate the divine power whether or not he was personally with them.
Here is the Christian model for parents. Our loving, faithful prayers for a child, when based on an understanding of God and His care for man, are that child's best defense. We can begin by acknowledging the facts of being - that God is All-in-all and that man is not really a weak, vulnerable mortal but the indestructible offspring of Spirit. On this scientific basis we can pray daily to become more conscious of the truth of those under our care - to realize that their purity is untouchable, their substance uninvadable, their life immortal, because they are ''hid with Christ in God,'' n2 as St. Paul says. Above all, we want always to bear in mind that God is man's real Father-Mother and that His tender, loving care is with His children (all of us) each moment of every day.
n2 Colossians 3:3.
The simple awareness that God is Love strengthens and calms the human heart as perhaps nothing else can. Though we can't be with our children at all times, it's tremendously reassuring to know that because God is infinite, His love is always present to meet every conceivable human need. Children respond so readily to the truth that God is Love and always with them, so why not use this as a starting point for teaching youngsters about their unity with God? ''Spiritual love makes man conscious that God is his Father,'' writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, ''and the consciousness of God as Love gives man power with untold furtherance.'' n3
n3 Message to The Mother Church for 1902, pp. 8-9.
So far we've been talking about what a conscientious parent can do for his own child. But what about those youngsters whose parents may not know enough or care enough to protect them; what about those without parents; and, worst of all , those who are abused and molested at home? All of them need someone who loves enough to pray for them. Maybe that someone is you. Your prayers and mine will have a definite healing impact if they contain the spiritual conviction our Master expressed when he said of his followers: ''They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.'' n4
n4 John 10:28, 29.
DAILY BIBLE VERSE I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. . . . The Lord is our defence. Psalms 89:1,18.