THE lines are long -- longer than those we used to see on television showing people in Eastern Europe waiting to buy bread. They are refugees waiting for precious water in a desert. Refugees in the Middle East have been in the news recently. There have been numerous accounts of severe crowding and shortages. But along with these, other stories have come out about relief from unexpected sources, about acts of great selflessness and ingenuity, about faith despite pervasive uncertainty. Here and there we are learning that refuge is in fact being discovered right where the refugees are and most need it: in the midst of the exoduses to safety and in the makeshift camps of blankets and bedsheets. Good somehow is penetrating.
Some years ago a relative of ours fled with her infant son from what she perceived was a dangerous situation. Her mental state at the time was unstable, and she was traveling in very cold weather with literally only the clothes on her back. There was almost no food for the baby and little money. The first time the family learned of her whereabouts, she had hitchhiked almost 2,500 miles -- clear across the United States.
Our family had relied on God for all kinds of needs in the past. Although to us this challenge was different from any we had ever faced, in our hearts we knew that it surely wasn't beyond God's help and power -- and therefore not beyond the reach and the healing effectiveness of prayer. And so praying is what various family members began to do.
Something that came to me almost immediately and to which I returned again and again during those days is this line from a hymn in the Christian Science Hymnal: ``None can beyond Thy omnipresence stray.'' Through prayer I began to see clearly God's perfect government of this relative. I realized that ultimately it didn't matter what she believed was wrong or threatening. The determining factor for her and her child -- and for all those she was encountering along the way -- was what God was knowing about them.
What God, divine Mind, knows is not simply another view of a situation. It's the truth of it, the fact that man, His spiritual image, is safe in His care. Conscious of God or not, we are in truth permanently in His perfect care, dwelling in His love. We are the indispensable ideas of Mind -- forever in and of divine intelligence. From this universal, all-embracing, spiritual haven there is no escape, there is no outside, for there are no boundaries -- no line we can ever cross in space or time or thought that will leave us bereft of God's goodness and affection and strength. God's love is ever operating in our behalf.
The Psalmist knew this well. ``Whither shall I go from they spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?'' he wrote. ``If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.'' To the extent we understand and accept the spiritual reality of God and man, it governs our lives. This effort on our part, in turn, helps to disperse the dark clouds of confusion and hopelessness for those individuals and situations we are embracing in thought.
As the days passed, we heard from any number of people as to where this relative was and how she and the baby were doing. Some were friends, most were strangers. People fed them and sheltered them, in a few cases for days at a time.
We found out after they returned home that one night this relative and the baby had slept outdoors in a city park. But it turned out to be an unseasonably warm night, and they were never disturbed. On another occasion they were picked up in the early morning hours during a snowstorm by a truck driver. The man drove miles out of his way to take them to his mother's home for the night. When they arrived, his mother was asleep. But she readily took in this tired young woman and infant, made them a hot meal, and put them to bed. The next day this trucker took them to stay with other relatives of ours in the area, and from there they were brought home -- safe and sound. Since that time, mother and son have made continued progress.
Our prayers have tangibly beneficial consequences when we ourselves are relying on God to do the caring, the nurturing, the tending of others. He is the true Father and Mother of every single individual in His creation, and no amount of human goodness, of itself, can match the protective power and the healing capacity of His love for us. This is why it is so important that our efforts to do good be God-directed and God-centered. According to John's Gospel, Jesus said that, of himself, he could do nothing. ``The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works'' was what he told his disciples one time. This spiritual law is something we can lean on, too, when safety for ourselves or others seems tenuous -- or even nonexistent.
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Step by step will those who trust Him find that `God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.'' Even if, as we pray, our or another's need for home, nourishment, transportation, family, isn't met in one grand sweep, we can rejoice in every step of progress, every opportunity to confide in our divine Parent's perfect ability to shepherd His own offspring.
At each juncture, we have the right to look forward to seeing God's unique provision for this individual, for that situation, for right now, and for later. Each solution, we can be sure, will evidence the intelligent good and comfort of the Christ, the true idea of God. We can be sure that there never will be a time when God, divine Love, will not be there for us all.