Grace under fire

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

The wildlife sanctuary gave us close encounters with snowy egrets, cormorants, a raccoon, and the teeming fish life of the rust-red waters of the mangrove forests. I felt drawn away from the family to listen on the bank to the sound of the fish, turtles, and insects popping bubbles on the surface of the mangrove pool. It was a melody of gentleness, peace, and delight. I felt strongly the glory of God's kingdom here on earth and felt my place in it. I thanked Him for this beautiful gift.

After standing there alone for about five minutes, I was startled when I looked down and saw that my legs, bare feet, and sandals were covered with red fire ants. I had been standing in the loose sand of their nest. As I stepped away, I knew I had a choice to make – to continue to acknowledge the peace of God I had been cherishing, or to panic. I chose the former. Calmly brushing the ants off, I refused to believe this situation was outside God's control. The harmony of God's kingdom working in the nature preserve promised that my life was in harmony with the ants. I can't say it was easy to maintain this perspective, especially when the ants started to bite me. I knew they were just reacting to the disturbance to their home. I patiently picked off the ants, one by one.

When I got to the car and was telling the family about the beauty of what I'd seen, I would suddenly yelp with an ant bite. I'd have to stop driving and find another ant to toss out the window. Eventually all of them were removed. I kept praying, and within less than a half-hour, the welts on my skin were gone. There was no pain, and there were no aftereffects.

This experience has been a good example to me that even in a crisis situation we can resist the pull to react and to be manipulated by strong human emotions. The moment I made my choice to continue acknowledging the peace of God I had been cherishing, I was also refusing the urge to react in panic. No matter what extreme human emotion seems called for in a difficult situation, the law of God is always present to give us a basis for feeling secure and calm. Life can be extremely harsh – the breakup of a family, the death of a loved one, the loss of a business, or a debilitating illness. But no matter how overwhelming the circumstance, God unfolds the provision of His Love, as we turn to Him step by step.

So much of extreme emotion is based on the fear of not knowing what to do. We get buried in anger, grief, and intense human longing because we can't stop thinking of ourselves as unknowing victims of forces outside our control. But this is never the reality of life based on God's faithful care. No matter how dramatic the situation, nothing can stop us from turning prayerfully to God to find honest steps forward. Just as there was a foundation of peace and goodness from observing the mangrove pool that day, so there is always an unfailing source of strength.

One thing that could keep us from turning to God is the fear that He is the cause of the bad thing that's happening. That old theological adage "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away" fools us into thinking of God as fickle, manipulating us through a series of bestowals and punishments. The omnipotent God, divine Love, has no need of such tactics to command our obedience. God is not the destroyer of goodness, but the defender.

Life sometimes involves wrenching changes, and God is actually the one thing that stays the same regardless of the fluctuation. This Principle of life continues to bless us and tempers the extremes that would undermine our peace of mind and good humor.

Jesus faced hunger, mob violence, the pain of desertion, and the horror of crucifixion. But his resurrection shows us that our relationship to God is never interrupted. This passage by Mary Baker Eddy gives insight to Jesus' overcoming of obstacles: "Even the crown of thorns, which mocked the bleeding brow of our blessed Lord, was overcrowned with a diadem of duties done. So let us meekly meet, mercifully forgive, wisely ponder, and lovingly scan the convulsions of mortal mind, that its sudden sallies may help us, not to a start, but to a tenure of unprecarious joy" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 201).

That is a promise of our own grace under fire.

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