A Shepherd for trying times
A Christian Science perspective on daily life
Those of us who work and live in London sometimes feel that the threat of another terrorist attack is infiltrating our way of life.
The threat has had a catastrophic effect on property prices. Fewer people are coming to London's shops. Some tourists are hesitant to visit. The situation reminds us of another time when we were scared to go into town because of IRA bombings.
I have resolved to take each gloomy threat and see its opposite from a spiritual dimension: to bring to light everyone's right to freedom from fear and terror; to counteract the terror with a different law of a higher nature - the universal law of good; to embrace the fact that we all have the same infinite Father-Mother God.
As a child in Iran, I was taught to memorize the 23rd Psalm. We lived in dangerous times then, too. Our parents asked us to memorize this psalm in order to give us comfort and protection.
Now as an adult, I have come to see the benefit of this psalm for a wider world, in which we are united by having one Shepherd. We are all part of the same herd. Regardless of our religious or spiritual beliefs and traditions, we are all ultimately going to the same destination and are guided by the same divine Shepherd.
The first verse in this psalm contains the key word, my: "The Lord is my shepherd." If the Lord is my Shepherd, I belong to Him and no other. He cares for me, and I am identified with Him.
One of the tasks of a shepherd is to mark each sheep as his own. Typically, this would involve cutting a notch in the ear. The sheep would be literally earmarked for that shepherd and would forever be identified as belonging to him.
What makes this so special is that we all have the same Shepherd looking after us. So we are all earmarked as the creation and children of one God, from the one infinite source, and nowhere else.
A Sunday School teacher asked her group of children if any of them could quote the entire 23rd Psalm. A little 4-year-old girl was among those who raised their hands. A bit skeptical, the teacher asked if she could really quote the entire psalm.
The little girl stood up, faced the class, and said: "The Lord is my shepherd, that's all I want." Then she promptly sat down. She may have missed a few verses, but I think she captured the true meaning of Psalm 23.
Mary Baker Eddy in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" substituted the word "shepherd" with "Divine Love": "[DIVINE LOVE] is my shepherd; I shall not want."
That is the bond we all have to one another - divine Love. And nothing can change that fact. She continued:
"[LOVE] maketh me to lie down in green pastures: [LOVE] leadeth me beside the still waters.
"[LOVE] restoreth my soul [spiritual sense]: [LOVE] leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for [LOVE] is with me; [LOVE'S] rod and [LOVE'S] staff they comfort me.
"[LOVE] prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: [LOVE] anointeth my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
"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" (page 578).
This psalm gives me hope. The fact that we are all united in this one infinite divine Love is a promise of safety and of an answer to terrorism.
Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep,
and seek them out.
As we go to press, we've heard that hurricane Katrina has reached Category 5 status. People around the country are united in prayer. The Bible records "the Lord was not in the wind" (I Kings 19:11). The power of God is the power of good protecting and guiding all at this time; it is there for everyone. Mrs. Eddy wrote, "How blessed it is to think of you as 'beneath the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,' safe in His strength, building on His foundation, and covered from the devourer by divine protection and affection" (Miscellaneous Writings, pg. 263).