I WAS midway through Officer Candidate School (OCS). The humidity was above 80 percent and the temperature was 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher every day. The program was designed to put as much pressure as possible on a candidate. The reasoning was that if he would crack under battlefield conditions, it would be better that this be discovered in training. Only a certain number out of each platoon would be allowed to graduate. This did not make it easy to foster friendships. I was very lonely and needed a friend desperately.
My parents had raised me as a Christian Scientist, and I had experienced many healings as a child and as a young adult, so I naturally turned to God for help in this situation. My prayers expressed an earnest desire for comfort during this time of stress. I was very familiar with this statement made by the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need'' (p. 494).
I prayed to understand and experience the absolute truth of this statement. I had been taught that because I am a child of God, the Bible's promises apply directly to me and that I can rely on them. The Biblical view of man as the child of God was most clearly presented through the ministry of Christ Jesus. Jesus revealed many of God's most precious promises through such statements as "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him" (Matthew 6:8).
Through prayer, we learn what these promises mean and how to rely on them in daily life. This involves learning more about the true nature of God as divine Love and of man as His likeness. Since the Bible states that "God is love" (I John 4:16), we can use the word Love as a synonym for God. God is omnipresent, as the Bible makes clear, so Love must be always present, and the spiritual qualities included in the idea of Love-such as kindness, completeness, and joy-are also ever present. According to God's law, opposite qualities, such as loneliness or despair, can never be present and therefore can have no real effect in our lives. The result of prayer based on a spiritual understanding of the law of divine Love is healing.
So, since I had a human need for friendship, I prayed by knowing that divine Love would meet that need. I never doubted that God would answer my prayers.
One hot, muggy day we were in the woods in a warfare training session when a beautiful monarch butterfly came and landed on my hand. All the other men saw it land on my hand and admired it, too. Hours passed and the butterfly was still on my finger! Our training class ended, and we got on the trucks to go back to our compound. That night in the barracks I put the butterfly on my bedpost next to my pillow. The next morning I woke to find it right where I had put it and just as beautiful as I had remembered it being the day before-in fact, more beautiful, because its presence had instilled joy and love in me that were impossible to put into words at the time. I felt this was evidence of the warm, comforting, and reassuring presence of divine Love.
I showered and got dressed for morning formation and carried the butterfly with me. My fellow candidates seemed to be eagerly waiting to see "our friend." Just before roll call, our winged friend gently lifted off my finger and took flight. We all watched it float away in that special way that only butterflies can do, bouncing through the air joyfully and beautifully.
Nothing can describe the feeling of having one's prayers answered in such a way. I felt reassured of God's ever-presence and of the infinite, tender love that He has for me and for all of His children. What had begun as a blessing for me had blessed all those around me, too. I had been reminded that God is our best friend and is always with us, always available to comfort us in our hour of need, whatever the circumstances and wherever we are.
As a direct result, I gained a new view of my fellow candidates, and they seemed to view me differently, too. I no longer thought of them as competitors. I ended up making several friends and eventually graduated from OCS as a second lieutenant.