Aa a child, I had a wonderful set of blue books that my older sister had outgrown, filled to the brim with fables and fairy tales. At the time, I just thought I was enjoying some good stories. But the lessons and advice I took from those little pieces are with me still.
One of my favorites told of a mother hen who had a number of chicks to feed. As she went about baking bread, she went to the other barnyard animals.
"Who will help me?" she asked again and again. Each time, all her friends said they were too busy. But each time, she found a way to accomplish the tasks herself.
I would read this story over and over with great delight, reveling in the independence of the mother hen and the cleverness with which she told off her busy friends. The story made the point that the hen kept on going - even with no help at hand. As she persevered, she found the resources and the native intelligence she needed. And in the end, she succeeded.
One day recently, I was helping a number of friends and family members face some difficulties. The details overwhelmed us all. Meanwhile, problems I'd been facing myself surfaced in a particularly disturbing way. I needed some help. But I didn't want to ask my family or friends, since they were already dealing with so much. I felt like that fabled hen!
"Who will help me?" I wondered. That's a poignant question for any of us when problems seem overwhelming, and especially when no help is at hand. I decided that I would take my question to God.
I've come to know God by many names, most of which I've found in the Bible, names like Father and Mother and Love. In at least one place, the Psalmist calls God "my helper" (Ps. 30:10). In prayer, I appealed to the God whom I also knew as my helper.
For a moment I became very still. I sat down in a chair and folded my hands in my lap. And listened.
I've prayed many times like that - and God has always answered me in direct, practical ways. Sometimes the answer comes in my recalling a Bible verse. Sometimes I remember a wonderful event in my life that proved God's care for me or for someone I deeply loved. Sometimes, after this kind of prayer, I just feel very loved myself!
This time, as I sat there listening, this sentence came to thought: "In this age, the earth will help the woman ...." I recognized this as being from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (pg. 570), a book that has helped me consider the teaching of the Bible in fresh ways, and to apply it to the details of my daily life. Here the author, Mary Baker Eddy, has commented on an allegory from the twelfth chapter of Revelation.
A woman "clothed with the sun" gives birth to a child. Immediately, an ugly, evil dragon pursues the woman and her baby. The dragon sends out such a flood of water from its mouth that it looks as if both mother and child will be drowned. But, says the Bible, "The earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth" (verse 16).
Somehow, I felt greatly comforted. I didn't know how "the earth" was going to help me, but I've so come to trust these communications with my divine Parent - my helper - that I just knew that the chaos my loved ones and I were facing, and the flood of events, weren't going to drown us.
Soon after I reached this peace, there was more accord over what our next steps should be. Though there are still challenges, I have been able to do everything I've needed to do to care for those I love. On several occasions I've been able to take spontaneous, short vacations that have refreshed me.
Sometimes, as in that story about the mother hen that I loved so much as a child, it's the little tasks that threaten to overwhelm us. After all, the hen just wanted someone who would help her bake bread! Like her, we may not get any help from our "barnyard friends."
But - we can ask God, "Who will help me?"
And - the God who is our helper will answer!
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society