Recent headlines suggest we have good reasons to be afraid. From gang violence in neighborhoods to arrests of Al Qaeda suspects in California to the mounting death toll in Iraq, some feel their own "terror alert levels" climbing like the mercury in thermometers.
In my own community, gang violence prompted the neighborhood to hold a meeting in my church. Afterward, a friend quoted these words from Psalms: "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God" (Ps. 20:7).
These words made a big impression on me, but not half so big as the impression they probably made on those who first heard the wise man utter them so many centuries ago.
In fact, to the wise man's contemporaries, such words would have sounded more like the ravings of a madman than wisdom. At that point in history, horses and chariots were the backbone of military might. People counted them as we count bombs and guns today, and predicted the outcome of battles based on their numbers. How many of us would be willing to embrace a contemporary paraphrase of this psalm: "Some trust in guns, and some in bombs, but we trust in God"?
I remember how I learned that I could trust God ... no matter what. I was 11 or 12, and I was riding my aunt's horse in a forest miles from her house. No one knew where I was. Usually, these rides lasted a few hours, but this day, as we galloped along an unfamiliar path, I was swiped off the horse by a low-hanging branch. I landed on my head and was knocked unconscious.
When I regained consciousness several hours later, I was lying safe between the horse's hooves, and being nuzzled. The horse's legs surrounding me and his massive chest above me felt like protecting walls, and his muzzle against my cheek was like a kiss. In that woozy waking moment, I was conscious of pure Love - not merely the affection of a horse, but the all- pervasive Love that is God.
Lying there in the dirt and the leaves, I knew that what I was learning in the Christian Science Sunday School was true: God is Love, and God's loving intelligence permeates all existence; all God's creatures express it; and I couldn't be separated from it ... no matter what.
I managed to get back into the saddle. I couldn't sit up, so I just lay down on the horse's neck, and he took me the miles back home. All the way, all I could think was how much God must love us if even this horse was expressing that love so clearly.
Gradually, the awareness of God's love filled my consciousness, crowding out the thumping in my head and the blurriness in my vision. By the time I arrived home, I was sitting up and holding the reins. There was no evidence of a head injury, and eventually my aunt, frantic from my day-long absence, decided it wasn't necessary to go to the emergency room.
From that day, I have remained convinced that God does love us and care for us, practically, tenderly, and always. From that day, I have continued to see God's care, not only in the country, but also in the city - even facing gangs.
One evening I was meeting my husband downtown. As the sun was setting, I entered a subway station and passed through the turnstile right into a gang of teenage boys. I suddenly remembered that this particular station had recently been the site of several violent incidents, including shootings. Except for the gang and me, the station was deserted.
It occurred to me to leave, and leave quickly, but to do that would be to accept that Love, God, was not there, and I didn't believe that. These teenagers were God's own children. So I walked through the gang and down the stairs to the platform. Despite their belligerence, I kept my thought focused on their loving Parent, whom Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, called "our Father-Mother God" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 16).
Confident of God's tender care for us all, I was not afraid. Soon a monk walked through the gang, introduced himself, and sat down next to me. Then an older man joined the monk and me. The gang dispersed, leaving only a few of them quietly waiting with us for a train.
Some trust in chariots, some in guns, but I will trust in God ... no matter what.