My girl Lili is a smart pup. The other day at the dog-walking park, she taught me a life lesson. (And I thought I was supposed to be the teacher in this relationship!)
Lili was waiting at the bottom of a hill, scoping out prospective playmates. Out of the corner of one eye, she spotted a furry black thing approaching like a rocket. The canine in transit appeared to be looking for someplace to sink his teeth. I wondered if Lili would run for her life. Or if she would fight back.
Well, she did neither. She sat there as still as a stone with her head erect, and didn't move a muscle. The other dog lost interest, hung a left, and disappeared.
She did the right and brave thing, I thought. And then I remembered the Bible's words "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
I, too, have had occasion to put that statement into practice. A few years ago my husband purchased a 100-year-old (-plus) "fixer upper." The massive sandstone building had been divided into five flats, shabby through lack of care. We relished the thought of bringing it back ourselves to some semblance of its original beauty. And we figured the neighbors would be thrilled with the improvements, too.
They weren't. Some had been parking on the property illegally for years, and we had to ask them to respect the law. And it was all downhill from there. When the tenants complained about being harassed by one neighbor, we had to take out a restraining order against him. This happy project was turning into a nightmare.
When a problem looms large, we never hesitate to pray for help. A friend who prayed with us spoke about God's government of the universe. About how God holds each of His sons and daughters in perfect harmony, by means of an unchanging, spiritual law. "... man's harmony is no more to be invaded than the rhythm of the universe ...," wrote Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science ("Retrospection and Introspection," pg. 61). Also: "God never made evil.... He knows it not.... We therefore need not fear it" ("Unity of Good," pg. 20).
These spiritual truths required us to look away from the problem and focus on the harmony and goodness God causes. We weren't hiding our heads in the sand. We were zeroing in on reality; discerning the truth of God.
We're each truly made in God's image and likeness. And that's the likeness my husband and I prayed to behold in our neighbors every time we ventured down to that property. We continued to pray as we went about our work. If confronted by a disgruntled neighbor, we learned to be mentally still, and alert enough not to react aggressively - just like my Lili! Right where things appeared ugly, we affirmed God's real nature, expressed in our neighbors, as loving, good, and reasonable.
When David in the Bible went up against the giant Goliath, a seasoned warrior, it looked like David wouldn't stand a chance. But David proved that we need not tremble at the sight of evil. To apply that principle to our situation, my husband and I could declare: "God is All and God is good. And God gives us the power to hold our thought to good and to have good in our lives."
Again Eddy wrote, "Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 261).
We're still working away on that old house, and things have settled down considerably. While we still keep on praying, we have a lot to be grateful for. We've learned it's important not to get so immersed in your troubles that you neglect to acknowledge any signs of good along the way. My husband and I are grateful that our tenants live in harmony and often tell us how much they love their home. On balmy evenings it's not unusual to see several of them sitting outside enjoying a barbecue. (I understand that a couple of times they even invited some of the neighbors.)
When your peace is invaded, you can resist the chaos and be still, for "the Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea" (Ps. 93:4).
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society