Who keeps us safe?
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
Personal security is serious business these days, particularly for women. Self-defense classes are popular. Some arm themselves with a cellular phone. Others carry a whistle, or even a gun. Taking precautions has its place. But, as I learned some years ago, our highest sense of security is found in God, whose care doesn't depend on our being humanly prepared. I found this out for myself during a crisis.
I was 22, and I worked in a busy part of Boston. One day, I ate my lunch while sitting at a curb out front, some distance off a busy street.
I felt safe. Business people came and went. Fellow employees strolled the grounds. A security guard passed me on his rounds. A bird's twitter caught me in mid-reverie.
I looked up. A tall man leaned over me and asked the time of day. He was dressed in a strange and unfamiliar way. I answered him, but to my dismay, instead of moving on, he sat down right next to me.
Passersby had vanished. Fellow employees were nowhere in sight. The security guard was on the far side of his route. I was alone with this man, who was actually leaning against me. With lunch spread over my lap, I couldn't jump up and make my escape. Even worse, instinct told me that if I tried, he would physically stop me.
Here I was in front of a building full of people, with no one aware of my need. I had to look to God for safety. Not wanting to show fear, I looked the man straight in the eye. He made rude remarks about women of my racial group, and demanded answers to personal questions.
As a hateful monologue ensued, I began to have a conversation of my own - with God. Ever since I was a child, I'd grown to understand God as the all-powerful creator, learning that He created everyone as His own spiritual offspring, perfect and good. While growing up, I had faced a bully or two, meeting their threats with courage and love through prayer I learned in Sunday School - prayer that included the heartfelt assurance that right where a bully was, there was actually God's loving child, hiding behind a mask of meanness ready to be stripped away.
But at this moment, I feared that I wasn't up to the challenge of seeing the perfect creation that God made. This person whose eyes I held in mine seemed too threatening. A silent prayer took form: "OK, God, there is no way for me, at this moment, to see this man as Your perfect child .... But," I continued silently, "I do know that I can never be in a situation that You cannot handle. Father, there must be a truth that I can know that will save me and him."
I felt a great warmth overflow me. As this man's speech grew more hostile, I heard a voice ask from within: "Do you believe that God is the creator of the universe and of everything in it?"
"Yes," I responded mentally.
"Do you believe that God is in control of everything in the universe?"
"Then isn't this man also a member of the universe and under God's total control?"
With conviction I was able to answer, "Yes, he surely is."
Then, the man stood up. He raised his arms and swung his fists at my face again and again, but they never reached me. It appeared that he was actually being moved away (a distance of some 50 yards) against his will. He continued to yell and swing his fists, when it looked as though he was pulled suddenly around the corner, out of my sight. I am convinced that divine power is what drew him away from me.
I was free. Even more wonderful, I had a deeper certainty about my safety ever afterward. Some years later, when I faced another man - this time one with a knife - I was able to perceive the perpetrator as God's creation, completely perfect. After some difficult minutes, the man apologized and fled, calling out "God bless you!" Both experiences proved to me that we don't have to be afraid - and that we can find security in God's care.
The very circumstance,
which your suffering sense
deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)