A pipe bomb went off at an elementary school in a town near us. Earlier that week there had been another school shooting in the country.
For me, these events pressed the question "What can I do to ensure my children's safety?" This led to a larger question: "What can I do for the world's children, who seem so vulnerable?"
I can help my kids see ways to watch out for trouble, but trying to teach them everything, or to physically protect them at every moment, is impossible. Metal detectors, locks, security patrols, and gun control legislation all have their limits of effectiveness.
To get to the root of the problem, I've been digging in to learn how to pray better.
For me, that has meant finding out more of who God is. It's becoming clearer that God isn't some big human. God is Love. Love surrounds my children. God is the only power. All-knowing. All-powerful. All-loving. Even just beginning to grasp these facts, I see the way out of fear.
I'm also learning to pray by understanding better who my children really are. The Bible says, "The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life" (Job 33:4). This describes the spiritual identity of all people, including children.
I strive to identify my children not as my mortal offspring, but as the very likeness of Spirit. But sometimes I feel resistance to really accepting this spiritual view of them - resistance in the form of fear for their safety, but also in the form of my own selfish love, pride, or desire to feel needed and important. Maybe I think being too spiritual will prevent me from enjoying all the cute things my kids do, or miss out on the fun we have.
But in fact, seeing that my children are truly God's children has only added to the fullness of our relationship. I feel so much better knowing that I am truly assisting in their safety by understanding God's protection of them. I am praying for them by keeping in mind that safety is an innate gift from God.
This relates even to safety from sickness. Recently our family was visiting relatives for Thanksgiving. Several people were sick with a contagious, nasty virus. But I kept thinking of how God was in charge of all His children, and that He was completely maintaining their health. We were there several days, and our four children remained well.
What about the young people who commit violence? We can't leave them out of our prayers. God hasn't left them out of His creation, although it takes effort to maintain this compassionate conviction. If we accept that God is supreme, we can't be thinking that some people are in the divine Spirit's creation while others aren't. This is where we can affirm in prayer that right where there seems to be a motivation in someone to do wrong, there are really only God's good thoughts. The founder of this newspaper observed that thoughts from God "... never lead towards self, sin, or materiality, but guide to the divine Principle of all good, whither every real individuality, image, or likeness of God, gathers" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 299).
Praying from the basis that God is the only cause, and that only His good thoughts have power, can help guide the thoughts and actions of children and adults into alignment with righteousness.
A modest example of this occurred when we moved next door to a house with a broken fence. Someone mentioned that our neighbor was rigid and unyielding - that he'd never agree to repair or replace the fence. Whenever I thought of him, I tried to maintain that no one can be stubborn, because God isn't. God's children can only think and do as they are guided by the good thoughts of the creator.
Not long after, this neighbor knocked on our door and asked if I would consider helping him put up a new fence between us. This was the beginning of a friendly, happy relationship.
We can pray for our families and the world by making sure to accept as true only what is good and Godlike about one another. Good thoughts are God's thoughts. They aren't just positive thinking; they are correct thinking. And they protect us in both big and small ways.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society