As my Egyptian-born husband neared retirement, he hoped to spend more time in Cairo and Alexandria with his family. A few months later, an opportunity came up for me to go alone to Egypt and live for several months.
My brother-in-law, Amir, invited me to stay with his family in Cairo and enthusiastically began to give me lessons in Arabic.
I learned Arabic phrases very quickly. "She's the best in my class," Amir joked; but as the weeks and months progressed, I found the congested urban setting of Cairo difficult.
Never had I seen such poverty. There had been terrorist bombings in the resort city of Dahab on the Red Sea, riots between Coptics and Muslims in Alexandria, and large political demonstrations downtown. Loneliness and homesickness pushed in. Sometimes I couldn't sleep, or I woke up feeling ill.
One morning, Amir said he thought I was spending too much time alone in my room. I finally admitted that I was nervous about leaving the house, because, as an American, I felt too exposed, too visible.
"You can't live your life being afraid," he said. "You have to put yourself in God's hands."
I knew he was right. I needed to pray, but I was feeling so overwhelmed, I didn't know where to start.
I had brought a book with me called "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, and I was very glad to find this passage in it: "The starting-point of divine Science is that God, Spirit, is All-in-all, and that there is no other might nor Mind, – that God is Love, and therefore He is divine Principle" (p. 275).
This sentence showed me that I could begin any prayer by affirming that God is All. Every time I was tempted to feel that I was living in an environment over which I had no control, I reminded myself that God is infinite. He is present in all places at all times, so not only could I be safe back home but also in the Middle East. When homesickness whispered, I prayed to know that happiness is wherever God is and that my existence was inseparable from my Creator, so I would never be in circumstances where I was happy in one neighborhood but not in another.
If I woke up in the night, I gratefully pondered some of the synonyms for God that Mrs. Eddy used in that sentence – Spirit, Mind, Love, Principle – to enable me to see more of God's allness.
Since God is Spirit, there is no material circumstance or condition that could limit His power to care for me. The fact that God is Mind rules out the possibility of depression, loneliness, fear, or discouragement having control over me, because these emotions are not sent by God.
God as Love meant I wasn't left to struggle as I went about my studies, interacted with others, or moved about the city. God as Principle meant that His law was present, governing all creation, which allowed me joyful self-control, not fearful retreat.
Beginning my daily prayers along these lines made them specific and practical.
Eventually my Arabic improved enough that Amir encouraged me to take taxis by myself, giving the driver directions on my own. I was often out walking at night with my sister-in-law, so happy that she commented, "You've changed. You are not so afraid anymore."
Peaceful sleep returned, as did my health. New friendships developed, despite the language barrier. and I began to feel loved, appreciated, cared for, and safe.
At the end of my stay, Amir declared that I had successfully graduated. "Now you have to return for the second part of my class ... soon."
I'm planning to return in a few months, but meanwhile I pray every day, several times a day. And every prayer begins, "God is All."