When the 'gentleman caller' isn't a gentleman

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

In just a few weeks, my daughter would be leaving home to spend her junior year abroad. All summer long I had been contemplating the event with a mixture of sadness and happiness. Happiness for her and her adventure ahead, and sorrow for me, because I was going to miss her.

Now, I couldn't wait for her to go. Not because I wanted to get rid of her, but because I wanted to keep her out of harm's way.

Earlier that summer she'd met a young man at a party, who soon was calling her 10, 15, sometimes 20 times a day. Initially, the calls were requests for dates - dinner, a movie. She refused him, politely, and then, as the calls became more frequent, less politely.

This happened over 20 years ago, and today there are legal steps we might have taken. But at that time, I started running interference, picking up the phone. She was out, she was busy, she didn't want to speak to him. None of this dissuaded him. His language turned threatening, and, at times, venomous. We had shouting matches, which I invariably chose to end by slamming down the phone.

This in fact had just occurred. Now it was ringing again. I was scared. Scared for her. Scared of him. She worked at night. Did he know her route to and from work? Was she in danger? I thought she was. What to do at that moment? Pray, I thought.

I left the kitchen, walked out onto the deck, sat down, and tried to silence fear. But with the young man's anger reverberating, I wasn't having much success. What made me think I could protect her from someone like that?

I reached out to God, and this is what I heard: "Why not put her in the kingdom of heaven? There's no place safer than that."

At first the idea startled me, but gradually it took hold. I've always loved Jesus' statements about the kingdom of heaven. One, that it's always at hand; two, that it's within me. Within her. Within everybody. Or as the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, once wrote, "Heaven is not a locality, but a divine state of Mind [God] in which all the manifestations of Mind are harmonious and immortal, because sin is not there and man is found having no righteousness of his own, but in possession of 'the mind of the Lord,' as the Scripture says" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 291).

No sin in heaven? Of course not. A place "in which all the manifestations of mind are harmonious"? Absolutely. As the beloved daughter of God, I knew that my daughter was one of those manifestations and, as such, ever conscious of God's great love for her, cared for, guided, watched over, enveloped, protected, completely shielded by that Love. Ensconced in heaven, and heaven ensconced in her, no harm of any sort could possibly come to her.

I continued to reason along this line for 20 minutes or so until eventually I felt enveloped by peace. My daughter was safe. I absolutely knew that. With great relief, I got up from my chair to go inside.

Much to my surprise, I sat back down. What about the young man? Didn't he, too, have the right to heaven? To be saved from sin? From harmful and malicious thoughts? I no longer remember the exact nature of my thoughts about him, except that when I finished praying, I no longer thought he was unredeemable. I was convinced that what was true for my daughter was true for him, too. They were both manifestations of the Mind that is God. They were both safe.

He didn't call again. A few weeks later, her dad and I took her to the airport, and amidst a flurry of hugs and tears, saw her off to Europe.

The first letters from abroad were just beginning to arrive when one day I picked up the phone and there he was. I quickly informed him that our daughter had left the country. But he said, "I didn't call to speak to her. I wanted to speak to you and apologize for my behavior. You know," he added, "I'm not really like that."

"Believe me," I said, "I know you're not." The entire conversation, while cordial, couldn't have lasted more than 30 seconds. We wished each other well and hung up. We haven't heard from him again.

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