Grace under pressure

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

It was overtime in the championship football game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants. The winner would play in the Super Bowl.

Lawrence Tynes, the Giants kicker, had already missed two field goals. As he left the field, his coach "raged at him like a maniacal drill sergeant" (The Boston Globe, Jan. 25).

Minutes later, the coach had a key decision to make. Should his team try another field goal to win the game? Before the coach had a chance to make up his mind, Tynes surprised his teammates by bolting onto the field. With the windchill at 23 degrees below zero, Tynes knocked the ball through for a 47-yarder to win the game.

Asked about how he kept his focus in the middle of his coach's rantings, Tynes said, "I know he's yelling at me, I just never hear him."

Keeping calm when faced with pressure depends in large part on whom or what we decide to listen to. Even knowing that we always have a choice can be extremely helpful. Tynes's decision not to listen to his coach enabled him to focus instead on preparing for his next kick.

The Bible is filled with examples of those who were in situations where listening to the right voice made all the difference. When the Philistine army challenged Israel to a battle, sending their champion, Goliath, David offered to fight him. Goliath ridiculed David and tried to frighten him. But David's focus was on God. He answered, "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand..." (I Sam. 17:45, 46, New Revised Standard Version). Then David ran toward the Philistine and defeated him with his slingshot.

The outcome might have been different if David had let Goliath's intimidating words make him afraid. But he didn't. He stayed calm and kept centered on what God was asking him to do.

I faced a situation a couple of years ago that also demanded quiet resolve and focus. I was serving as a Christian Science practitioner (someone who devotes himself or herself to healing spiritually through prayer) at a family camp, when an 8-year-old boy fell in a game and hit his head hard on the ground. His parents, accustomed to turning to God in prayer for healing, asked me to pray with them for him because he was showing symptoms of a concussion.

As I prayed, I realized that I had to do two things immediately: turn away from being impressed by the accident, and listen to what God was telling me about this boy. As I got quiet and focused only on God, reassuring thoughts told me that he was safe because he dwells "in the secret place of the most High ... under the shadow of the Almighty" (Ps. 91:1). Another idea said that he could never fall out of God's arms, because God, Love, was embracing him every moment. That's why he was safe and protected, not hurt.

His parents and I comforted and reassured him, and we read out loud from the Bible and sang hymns. We prayed Mary Baker Eddy's prayer for the little children:

Father-Mother God,
Loving me, –
Guard me when I sleep;
Guide my little feet
Up to Thee.

"Miscellaneous Writings1883-1896," p. 400

In a short time, I felt a deep peace reassuring me that he was well as God's whole child. Later that afternoon, he and his parents went for a walk. The boy was completely healed; that night he went to the bonfire on the beach and the next morning rode a horse.

Scary, dark thoughts may scream at us on the football field, at work, camp, anywhere. But we can remember that there is always a way out: Stay focused on God and listen to His messages of peace and healing.

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