Many of us have been touched by the story of the firefighters' chaplain who died as he gave last rites to a trapped comrade. Mychal Judge had been an inspirational leader to Manhattan's Fire Brigade #7. This was his prayer for the firefighters:
Lord, lead me to where You want me to go.
Let me meet who You want me to meet.
Teach me what I am to say.
Keep me out of Your way.
I can't stop thinking about the guidance brought out in that prayer. At first it seems like something only a member of the clergy would have to pray - to be that willing to put your own human will and pride aside in order to serve God. But the more I think about it, the more I see that it has a lot to do with clarifying issues for each of us at this time of national crisis.
In the swirl of emotions surrounding the events, it's easy to lose track of our own thinking. The intensity of shock, grief, and outrage can find us manipulated hour by hour, and things like hope and a vision for where civilization is going can be lost.
We've seen over and over during these past weeks how people are naturally drawing together for comfort and support. Somehow we're treating each other with a greater reverence. But in order to continue the strengthening, we need to maintain a mental independence. This allows each of us to make the unique contribution we have to make and to not get caught up in the "groupthink" that would overshadow the clarity and wisdom so needed as world leaders make the difficult decisions they have to make. Prayers for mental independence are needed for the nations and families of the world.
The woman who founded this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, alerted people to the thought patterns that guide daily life: "Evil thoughts, lusts, and malicious purposes cannot go forth, like wandering pollen, from one human mind to another, finding unsuspected lodgment, if virtue and truth build a strong defence" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pgs. 234-235).
To me, the chaplain's prayer brings out virtue and truth. As we go where God wants us to go, meet who God wants us to meet, and speak as He directs, there will be a blessing to others instead of harm. A fundamental part of the blessing is that we are protected from our own strong human passions and willfulness that would undermine life instead of enrich it.
One disturbing part of the tragedy is that we are confronted face-to-face with evil. It is the evil that has plagued civilization, causing humans to act out the worst crimes against humanity within a self-justifying philosophy of hate. But we were not created to perpetuate evil. We were made to evidence God. To be made as the image and likeness of God, as the Bible declares, enables us all to show forth the highest degree of moral and spiritual excellence. In prayer, we can find the stillness of God loving His creation, moving us past feeling overwhelmed by circumstances. Every time we align thought with the origin of life, we find new ways to help our families and communities.
This is the mental independence that moves civilization forward. We see this in each other every day - in the devotion within families, the dedication people bring to their work, the openness to new relationships, and acts of heroism.
The September 17 issue of the Monitor included the firsthand account of a man who was on the 68th floor of the World Trade Center when the first plane hit the other tower. Instead of panic in the stairways, he told of the generosity, compassion, and unselfishness he saw over and over again as the people checked their fear with love for each other. It was the same mental strength they saw in the firefighters who directed them once they reached the ground. It was mental independence that enabled unnumbered thousands to be saved that day.
Each of us is engaged in the work of saving civilization at the moment - of identifying the values we want to live, living them, and finding ways to communicate them to our children. It was the groupthink of fear, desperation, and hate that undergirded the terrorists' acts. Let us not indulge in the same mistakes. God is guiding.