A cold rain dripped down my neck as I stepped onto the narrow, muddy road outside a tiny airport waiting room. Suitcase in hand, I peered out at an irregular patchwork of ramshackle houses, weather-worn plywood sheds, and old Quonset huts.
As far as I could see along the treeless horizon of this remote arctic village, there was no sign of my hotel. Or a pay phone I could use.
I'd waited until the last of the passengers had left. But still the guide had not come. So far, my long-anticipated tour wasn't going quite as advertised. Was this a vacation? I asked myself.
When plans unravel - whether you're stranded in unfamiliar surroundings or facing conditions that are hard to bear at home - it's an especially good time to pray.
Prayer is a way of praising God, of acknowledging God's good power with us. Biblical people often praised God like this. For example, the Hebrew king David prayed, "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all" (I Chron. 29:11).
When we don't see God's care at hand, we can ask Him to help us perceive His love in ways we can understand - in ways that meet our needs. The textbook of Christian Science begins with this promise: "To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. vii).
God's care is always available because we're His/Her children. We're inseparable from God. No matter where we are, God is already there. When we accept this, even in the middle of an airport or an unfamiliar street, we can begin to see love expressed, sometimes in very surprising ways.
That's what happened to me on that rainy night. Even though I felt like a lonely outsider who'd been forgotten, I made it a point to thank God for caring for everyone: the villagers, the missing tour guide, and me. This prayer was helping me to see past the situation at hand, to realize that God was my guide. I began to understand that no place, however unfamiliar or uncomfortable, can ever be "Godforsaken."
And then I reminded myself why I'd chosen this unusual destination in the first place. I'd wanted to learn about the courage and resilience of a community working to keep its traditional ways while also accepting change. I'd wanted to understand how people can pull together to live productively in a place often ravaged by extreme weather and unconnected by road to the outside world.
I realized I'd already begun to recognize God's qualities, such as intelligence and love, in this village. For example, I'd already noticed many villagers being especially kind to each other, warmly welcoming returning friends and helping to carry a mountain of baggage. And when I looked at the surrounding buildings with a more friendly eye, I had to admit that regardless of their appearance they'd been intelligently constructed to withstand the area's notoriously high winds and drifting snow.
In those few moments, as I tried to see signs of God's qualities in what was around me, my attitude changed. I no longer felt like an outsider at the mercy of a faulty tour company. Instead, I glimpsed that no one can ever be isolated from infinite Love, or be outside of God's community. It includes us all.
How did I get to the hotel? As I stood there, a man walked up, smiling. He had been meeting a friend at the plane. Knowing that taxis were scarce, they'd come to offer me a ride. As I hopped in their truck, we quickly discovered we all shared the same profession and had much in common. Imagine my delight when, instead of simply dropping me at my hotel, my new friends gave me a wonderfully insightful tour of the entire village. I gained a different perspective on the community than I otherwise would have. In fact, I saw more that evening than I did the following day, on the official tour!
The message? Let God be your guide.
The Christian Science Journal, published monthly, contains in-depth articles about God's care.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society