What an earthquake can't ruin

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

When phone service was finally restored, I got a call from a school principal who had a job opening. The kindergarten teacher had quit on short notice, and the new term would start in a week. My first inclination was to say I couldn't possibly take the job.

We had just been through the January 1994 earthquake in southern California that downed a freeway interchange. After being shaken from our beds at 4 o'clock in the morning, we'd spent the night in the backyard, the ground rolling and shuddering beneath us. I was grateful that my family and neighbors were unhurt. Power was back on. We had water, but the hot water heater had pulled away from the garage wall. And that was the problem.

I had stored all my teaching materials in the garage for several months while I took time off work to help a relative who was recovering from an illness. Every box was ruined. There wouldn't be time or money to replace anything before taking over the new position.

Still, I didn't say no. Although the freeway was closed to the south, it was open all the way north - the route to the school. My loved one had fully recovered and was back at work. It was unusual to get a teaching position mid-year. I called the principal back and took the position, knowing I'd be starting with no supplies.

Wondering what I would do next, a Bible verse came to mind: "What hast thou in the house?" The prophet Elisha spoke these words to a widow whose sons were about to be sold into slavery because she couldn't pay her debts. She appealed to Elisha for help, and looking around, he said, "What shall I do for thee? Tell me, what hast thou in the house?" (see II Kings 4:1-7).

The woman replied that she had nothing except a pot of oil. Elisha, seeing the opportunity, told her to go borrow pots and containers from the neighbors.

I have to admit that, at first, I didn't see the relevance of acknowledging what was "in the house." "Don't you get it?" I thought. "There isn't anything in the house. It has all been ruined." But the thought kept coming back to me. I remembered the widow's response. She didn't argue. She obeyed.

She and her sons borrowed every pot they could get, went into their house, and closed the door.

When they were alone, the widow began pouring the oil into the pots, and every pot was filled until they'd used them all, and there was yet more to be poured. Elisha then told her to take the oil and sell it to buy her sons' freedom, and the oil continued to sustain them.

As I kept wondering what all this had to do with me, I remembered a line from the 23rd Psalm: "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." And Mary Baker Eddy's interpretation of that psalm translates "house of the Lord" as "consciousness": "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [love] for ever" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 578).

I reasoned that ideas dwell in consciousness - that the consciousness of God is everyone's true home. Looking at the mess in my garage, I could see that all of the ruined items were really thoughts captured on paper.

The divine consciousness would never be subject to earthquake or fire, or destruction of any kind. So the ideas that those charts and books and bulletin board displays represented were still intact, complete, and they were still mine - "in [my] house" - because they had their source in God, and God imparts His perfect ideas to me.

So, I shut the door on doubt, and when I opened the door to my new classroom, I found that the teacher next door had kindly decorated the classroom for me with things from her own collection.

A few weeks later, this teacher walked in with a huge box of arts-and-crafts supplies a local store had donated to the school. She showed me new ways to use them, and we spent several lunch hours happily making everything I needed for my class.

I continue to be blessed by that time I took a decade ago to acknowledge what I had "in the house." I now teach teachers how to make classroom materials and, by acknowledging God as divine consciousness, and myself as a complete idea forever dwelling with Him, I've never lacked for a new idea or for anything I've needed in my teaching.

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