My earliest memories, as a World War II baby, are of the things my parents did to support my dad's work as a Christian Science wartime minister at Fort Knox and two other military bases in Kentucky. Though he was a civilian, he worked side by side with the military chaplains - ministering to men and women of all faiths. He made hospital rounds to the wounded, held services at the bases, talked with soldiers about to be shipped overseas.
And then there were the Sunday- afternoon get-togethers at our house, where my parents would serve lunch to 10 or 15 servicemen and -women each week. These people just loved being in a real home for a few hours, during their last days before being shipped out. Absorbing the atmosphere, eating fried chicken, holding a toddler on their laps.
But even as a very little child, I knew there was a lot more to those Sunday afternoons than chicken and comfort food. There were long conversations about what loomed ahead for these soldiers. Sometimes they were scared, and in the privacy of our living room, they said so. I remember seeing grown men cry when they talked about their families.
It was also in that living room that I heard about how much God loves each one of His sons and daughters. And protects each one. How each of us lives in the fortress of God's love for us. "Under the shadow of the Almighty," as the 91st Psalm puts it. In fact, I know - even though I was too small to understand the words exactly - that it was in that living room where I first heard the lines of that great psalm.
My father loved that psalm and turned to it all his life as a Christian Science practitioner. And my mom did, also. So did those soldiers and their families. Think of the lines in it - written thousands of years ago by Middle Easterners living in an occupied land, under the constant threat of retribution for their belief in one God: "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.... He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."
Over the years since World War II, and still today, men and women who had sat in our living room with us so many years ago, have looked up my mom and dad to say that yes, they had felt those angels watching over them during the war - protecting them, guiding them. Even under fire, even in prisoner-of-war camps, even when they were wounded, they had experienced the refuge and strength of God's unsurpassable power and love.
Mary Baker Eddy, too, experienced the love of God in her life - rescuing her from illness, poverty, and abandonment. Maybe that's why she became so convinced that God is Love. In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she invited the reader to substitute the word Love, for God or Lord, in the 23rd Psalm (see pg. 578). One could do that with the 91st Psalm, too. "Divine Love is my refuge and my fortress ... in divine Love will I trust."
It's compelling to realize that God's constant, comforting, mothering love is also a fortress. Strong and unassailable. But also gentle, tender, healing.
And this holy love leaves no one out. It knows no sides. It gathers everyone, wiping away animosities and hatred and terror. It's the hope of the nations - the force that must eventually unite us all. It has the power not only to preserve us in conflict, but in a practical way, to help us find a resolution to conflict. A way to assuage terror. A way to peace.
Mary Baker Eddy especially loved the 91st Psalm and based a beautiful poem on it - one that was later made into a hymn. This verse from it, to me, explains why humanity must inevitably come to consensus. And to peace.
Love is our refuge; only with mine eye
Can I behold the snare, the pit, the fall:
His habitation high is here, and nigh,
His arm encircles me, and mine, and all.
"Poems," pg. 4
Those arms of divine Love are around us all - you, me, everyone. Wherever we are, whatever our nation. And in those arms there are no enemies; there are only brothers and sisters.