When i first heard about last year's high-school shootings in Springfield, Oregon (near my own city of Eugene), I was absolutely stunned.
At the time, my family's apartment complex - located in one of the highest-crime areas of the city - had been the scene of constant thefts and car break-ins. Now, hearing how a young man from a typical middle-class, two-parent family had caused such tragedy overwhelmed me. The encroachment of crime and violence was just too much.
I found myself looking to the universe and asking, "What type of city do I live in?"
I knew I had a right to turn to God for clear answers. The Bible is filled with stories about people who, like me, have felt totally depressed with the human condition. Job, Moses, Elijah, King David, were all people who turned to God and found a clearer, more uplifted vision - a way out of hopelessness.
I studied the Bible and prayed for over a week. I also studied "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, which offers a spiritual interpretation of many of the stories and concepts found in the Bible.
One morning, I was up very early reading a prepared lesson from those two books on the subject "God the Only Cause and Creator." A selection from the 21st chapter of the book of Revelation seemed to speak directly to me: "And he [an angel] carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God" (verses 10, 11).
That image gave me a vision of hope for our city, because it reminded me that God is the only creator and that each of us is His spiritual child. We all live, now, in Him. To God, our perfect safety is not a vision of things to come, but a present reality. As His daughter, I had a right to appreciate and praise the presence of God's spiritual city - His reality - right then.
Also in those readings was this related statement, referring to God as Mind: "Mind is the divine Principle, Love, and can produce nothing unlike the eternal Father-Mother, God. Reality is spiritual, harmonious, immutable, immortal, divine, eternal" (Science and Health, pg. 335).
When I thought about this, it was easy for me to envision a "city" as safe, protected, joyous, and lovely; and to picture the inhabitants as God's creation - harmless, inspired, and productive.
For a few brief moments, I truly felt as if that spiritual reality was the only thing that existed, and that I, along with everyone else, was included in it. What an incredibly lovely feeling!
I was so sure that this was an answer for me, and that I could expect to see evidence of this prayer in my life, that I decided to take a walk. I felt deeply joyful and grateful for the first time in quite a while. I saw beautiful hills surrounding me, early morning runners and bikers enjoying the quiet, and a sky that reached to eternity.
Two women on the path were discussing the high-school shootings. But instead of rehashing morbid details, they were talking about Jesus' great forgiveness while he was on the cross, and the healing power it had. They were inferring that, as a community, we could find healing in forgiveness.
I have to say, I never expected to hear anyone talking about Jesus on that bike path, in that part of town, at 5:30 in the morning! It showed me very clearly the power of prayer to lift me and maybe even to help my community contemplate the present reality of God's holy city. My depression was gone and did not return.
Two months later, my neighborhood had a Crime Watch meeting. Everyone there talked about a change that had taken place in our apartment complex. Very few people reported any theft, even though we'd expected an increase during the summer months. More important for me, though, was that people seemed happier and more contented living in the apartments.
A beautiful feeling of community had been developing. Perhaps we all had felt something of the healing presence that comes with dwelling in the city of God.
The police in the author's city have recently reported a sharp decrease in crime for the second half of 1998.