SOON after I'd started the long, steep descent down the mountain I saw the first sign: ``Runaway truck ramp -- 1 mile.'' Then, `` mile,'' then `` mile,'' and finally the ramp -- a long dirt track leading off the highway and graded steeply upward, so that a runaway rig could go barreling onto it and run out safely to a stop. I passed two of these ramps before I reached the valley floor. Pretty smart highway planning, I thought. And what a relief to any truck driver who'd lost his brakes! Instead of careening down the mountain to certain disaster, he'd know there was safety ahead, a respite, a quiet stopping place.
All this set me to thinking about times when my own life had seemed like a runaway, hopelessly out of control. Have you ever felt like that? Most people have. Where a relationship, a job (maybe no job), our health, our bank account, the terrible state of the world, advancing age (too fast!), or a combination of such things can bring us to a point of utter helplessness and resignation.
But I've learned that right when we seem to be losing the battle with life's tribulations, there is something we can do. We can pray for deliverance -- and expect to receive it. There is never a situation so terrifying, disarrayed, humiliating, or even life-threatening that God can't deliver us from it when we obediently turn to Him in humility and trust.
In the Bible we read, ``Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.... Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you.''1
Once I felt deeply depressed over a relationship that seemed clearly headed for ruin. I had tried many different ways to save it -- or at least slow down its deterioration. But nothing worked.
Then, finally, I turned to God in humble, yearning prayer (as I should have done in the first place). And that was when I found the Bible passage quoted above.
How comforting it was to realize that this ``battle'' wasn't even mine to fight. In fact, in the spiritual realm of God's kingdom, which Jesus told his followers ``is within you''2 -- within the real being of each one of us -- there was no battle, no frustrating cross-purposes, conflicting goals, acrimony. There was only God's salvation, His tender saving grace, His love for all His children -- me and my loved one included.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes: ``Remember, thou canst be brought into no condition, be it ever so severe, where Love has not been before thee and where its tender lesson is not awaiting thee. Therefore despair not nor murmur, for that which seeketh to save, to heal, and to deliver, will guide thee, if thou seekest this guidance.''3
Surely I could be humble enough to trust Love's, God's, guidance -- and learn those tender lessons!
So I began. As a truck driver would have had to do to save himself if he'd lost his brakes on that mountain road, I obeyed the signs. I headed off the road, so to speak -- to pray, and listen, and learn my lessons. I found that I had a lot to learn about disposition, attitude, patience, forgiveness, mercy, understanding, and lovingkindness. And it worked. Over the years since then the relationship has flowered -- in direct proportion to how well I've kept learning Love's lessons.
Such lessons, of course, reach far beyond the confines of individual lives. They also teach us how to make a difference on the broader world scene. Haven't we all read a newspaper or watched television and come away with the despairing feeling that with so much going so wrong there's little we can do but sit helplessly by?
Well, that isn't all we can do. The same humble prayer that guides us in day-to-day activities and keeps us safely on our own road to spiritual progress can clarify our perception of the world at large. And when prayer lifts thought above the dismal mortal picture, it's often possible to glimpse a healing solution to even the most apparently hopeless human problem. We may also discover practical ways to participate in the solution ourselves. (Send a check; write a congressman; volunteer our services; keep praying.)
So, we don't have to be overwhelmed by runaway lives in a runaway world! When we watch for, and prayerfully obey, the signs -- God's tender guidance -- we can always find a safe place: that secret place the Psalmist talks about in the ninety-first Psalm, where we can call upon God and He answers us; where He is always with us to deliver us and show us His salvation.
1II Chronicles 20:15, 17. 2Luke 17:21. 3The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, pp. 149-150.
BIBLE VERSE: Fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee.
Jeremiah 30:10, 11