Since the British railways were privatized in 1996, there have been a lot of complaints about bureaucratic tangle. A friend of mine told me how she had spent several hours unsuccessfully trying to plan a journey by train. The biggest problem, she told me later, was the employee in the ticket office who she felt was incompetent.
Several weeks later, I also had to plan a trip which appeared to be a routine matter, but when it came to the crunch, there were no connecting flights when I wanted to travel, the fares were more than my budget allowed, and nothing seemed to be working out.
These thwarted travel stories made me think of a delightful Bible story about a prophet named Balaam. Balaam's donkey sees an angel standing in the path, which Balaam doesn't see. Balaam completely misinterprets the situation, and he beats the poor animal for going every which way but forward. They end up having a confrontation in the street, which finally ends when God opens Balaam's eyes, and he sees the angel (see Num., chap. 22).
In the case of my frustrated plans, I started to consider that there might be an angel in the way - one of "God's thoughts passing to man," as Mary Baker Eddy defines them ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 581). Maybe I had to wait to see what directions God was giving to me and what His purpose was for me in my travels, and not allow my own planning to blind me to a higher purpose.
That day, I had to visit someone in hospital, and on my way there I prayed to know what to do. It occurred to me that the hospital was close to the offices of another airline. They were open, so I asked if they had any flights. They had one the next day at a knock-down price. This proved to be the right flight, not only because of the price, but also because of the events that followed.
This journey took me through a different city, where I was able to have lunch with a friend who lived there. The previous week the organization she worked for had been subject to a hostile takeover, and all their jobs were threatened. As we discussed this, I realized that the company planning the takeover was one that I'd worked for temporarily. Without betraying any confidential information, I was able to outline the business philosophy of this company in a way she found useful. I had also worked for another organization that had researched people's reactions and attitudes towards threats of redundancy.
During lunch we were able to consider some ways she could help in this situation. Over the following year my friend and I kept in touch and prayed together about her situation. Due to the state of the economy at the time, the financing of the deal wasn't straightforward, and the company taking over had to rethink its financing strategy. This unprecedented takeover was finally resolved in an amiable way.
My friend's prayers had good results in another way, too. Having survived the takeover and having gone to work for the new company, she was subsequently offered a new, much more suitable post nearer her home. So having been willing to follow the whole situation through, she then progressed to a better position for her.
It may at first seem unlikely that an episode that happened thousands of years ago involving a man and his donkey could contribute to resolving a situation today. But it's possible and normal to acknowledge God as our guiding authority, whatever hindrance or obstruction may appear to be in the way. We have a right and a privilege to overcome threatening or obstinate behavior and to find the blessing it may disguise. This comes about not by beating the donkey, but by recognizing the angel.
The very circumstance,
which your suffering sense
deems wrathful and afflictive,
Love can make an angel
Mary Baker Eddy
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor