A friend of mine had a small zoo down in the basement of his house when he was growing up. His father was an expert on reptiles such as snakes and turtles and lizards, and kept a collection of them there.
When my friend's dad gave talks at schools and other places, he would take some of the reptiles along with him. Lots of people are afraid of reptiles, and he hoped that if people understood them more and respected them, they wouldn't have any more reason to be afraid. You've probably gone to events like this at school or the science museum, where people get to see and even hold a snake. As for my friend, he was used to having reptiles in the house, and had been taught how to handle them safely. He knew how to feed them, clean their cages, and make sure all was well.
At one point his parents went away on a short trip, and his dad gave him the responsibility of looking after all his animals. Even though this was something he was used to doing, there was one problem. You see, the biggest reptile in the collection was an alligator. Every so often it was important to change the water in his tank. And this was one job my friend didn't really like to do.
But he had no choice. That water really needed to be changed. And every time he went into the room to do this, the alligator would hiss and thrash his tail. (This was no time to pick him up!)
What would you do if you were in my friend's shoes?
His family were Christian Scientists, and he had gone to Sunday School for many years. He went upstairs to his room to pray, which was his way of dealing with problems, even ones like this. He felt there had to be a way that he could give proper care to this animal. It was important to change the water; my friend was trying to do something that was good. He certainly wasn't going to hurt the gator. He knew the real problem was fear. Even he was a little afraid of this alligator - and the alligator seemed to be afraid of him. As my friend sat down and began to pray, he knew that God had to have an answer for him.
There is a book called "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures." This was written by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered the Science of Christ. It points out that the Bible says God is good. It shows that there is a law of God that promises we can never suffer for doing good to our neighbor. One sentence in the book says, "Whatever it is your duty to do, you can do without harm to yourself" (Pg. 385). When we are doing something good, we are protected by God and His law. That has to be true even if our neighbor is an alligator!
This is what my friend learned. As he prayed - thought about these spiritual truths - he felt he should read in the Bible. So he picked it up and started at the beginning. And in the very first chapter, he came across these verses: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (Gen. 1:27, 28).
God gives man (you and me and everyone else) dominion! The authority and ability to do good, to do whatever is right. For my friend, this was a whole new way of seeing things. His fear disappeared. He couldn't be controlled by fear and also have dominion.
With this new thought, my friend went right downstairs to the room where the alligator was. All was quiet. No hissing. No tail thrashing. He picked the alligator up, put him into another tub, changed the water, and put him back in his home.
God has given you dominion. Do you have to take a test? Climb the rope in gym? Pass some thugs in the hallways at school? You're not controlled by fear when you remember that God has given you the authority and ability to express His goodness. His powerful love leads and guides and protects you in everything you do.
You can visit the home page of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, at (www.tfccs.com).