Like a theme-park attraction that simulates an earthquake - floor and walls of a fun house shaking while patrons' legs turn to jelly and stagger until the "earthquake" ends - the world stage now seems to offer only the shakiest footing to all players.
No wonder it appears, at least to some, that most everyone involved - Americans, Iraqis, French, Russians, Turks, and others - has been lurching recklessly, stumbling into one another, causing collisions no one wanted.
A review of what got us to this point may one day make for instructive history. Almost certainly it will fuel the I-told-you-so mills for years to come. Right now, though, the pressing issue is not how we got here but where we go next. And for that we want to search out and lay hold on whatever stability we can grasp and bring to this desperately unstable scene.
If political and military instability triggered unintended harm in the run-up to war, they threaten more damage midwar and postwar. For instance, the US Army chief of staff, looking at the postwar scene, warned that stabilizing Iraq - and this is after it has been defeated - could entail a military presence of 200,000 troops. That doesn't begin to address the instability coming from terrorist cells purportedly fanning out from Iraq. Or the distrust among allies who are trying to let a public face of friendship veil their behind-the-scenes fury.
Yearning for a peace-enhancing step
I'm in no position of political might. I don't even know where the lever is that shuts off the power to the fun house "earthquake." I'm not sure anyone knows. So, I find myself yearning for some peace-enhancing step to take. Again and again I find myself returning to Isaiah, heeding his spiritual insights. "Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation" (Isa. 33:6).
Where do that wisdom and knowledge come from? Not from a political think tank, a presidential brain trust, or a dictator's military advisers. Not from any human source at all. Isaiah, characteristically, pointed his listeners to the Almighty, the one divine intelligence or Mind called God. Isaiah spoke out of both divine inspiration and practical experience. He had seen the healing, steadying power of the Almighty's understanding. He knew how reliable turning to God always is.
If I can prayerfully glimpse that the wisdom and knowledge of God are real and powerful, then I will have contributed, at least in some slight degree, to the stability of our times. I will have drawn on the saving strength of divine wisdom. I won't have added to the acrimony that's already fractured too much. I will have employed what saves us from instability and delivers us to peace and security.
Like a rock plateau that safely grounds everyone on it, God's presence affords sure footing to all comers. And that's what I want to see in prayer - a rocklike plateau, a divinely secure locale, large enough and high enough for everyone to take refuge above the dangers of instability and war. A welcoming and solid presence, offering a sanctuary of peace in the midst of madness. God's wisdom and knowledge give me the map leading to that rock. But I can't find myself there unless I also see in it a place for all others - including those whose actions I applaud, and those by whose actions I am appalled.
Perhaps this plateau, this high ground with its unshakable certainty, is what Isaiah hinted at when he said, "The Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains ... and all nations shall flow unto it.... And he [God] shall judge among the nations ... and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:2, 4).
That's a promise so rich, so sweet, we want to do everything possible to bring it into view, into everyday life. That is, plainly, why we pray. Not to get God to bestow something He has withheld - which He'd never do - but to glimpse the present reality of His care, His stability, His peace and security.
Every glimpse of the promise brings us closer to peace. So, how to pray? One approach is to realize quietly these spiritual facts: the stabilizing effect of God's wisdom; His embrace of us all in His assuring calm; His outpouring of spiritual understanding (and, therefore, of His steadying power and saving presence). Such realization, such prayer held to faithfully can't help being a healing power. The instabilities of the current crisis surely must pass. It worked in the lions' den. And in the fiery furnace. It still works today.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "God is not the shifting vane on the spire, but the corner-stone of living rock, firmer than everlasting hills" ("Unity of Good," pg. 14).
Perhaps this "living rock" is a divine presence, vibrantly alive and responding to the current need, and unshakably secure. The whole range of God's all-good nature is the healing presence we need. Especially if we're to find stability, safety, and peace at a time when the earth seems to tremble and quake with fear. Planting ourselves on this rock, we build on the only real foundation for a stable and lasting peace.