The oil spill and God's finger

A Christian Science perspective.

Think back over recent weeks, and the headlines most likely to appear in your thought will have something to do with BP, environmental disaster, Deepwater Horizon, heartbreak, and helplessness. But not too many specific names of individuals come quickly to many observers of this tragic issue.

How about Hans Brinker? When you think of an oil blow out, this is a name that will register for a few people. You may not recognize the name, but you’ll remember the legend behind it. As the story goes, an 8-year-old Dutch boy asks his mom if he can take some cakes to a blind friend some distance away. Off he goes, eventually visiting an hour with this friend. Finally Hans is on his way home, but it’s dusk and there’s a long way yet to walk.

Han’s dad is a sluicer, responsible for lowering the wooden gates or sluices (where water moves into the canals) at the end of the day so the people won’t be flooded. Hans is especially sensitive to the significance of this important work in Holland. So when he hears water trickling through the dike as he moves along, it isn’t surprising he stops short. His heart skips a few beats and he rushes to the dike to see what’s going on. Although it’s a small hole, Hans can see what will happen during the night if he doesn’t stop the leak while it’s controllable.

He places his finger in the small hole in the dike. As the night wears on and his pleading calls for help wear out, he stays faithfully through the night, teeth chattering and body shivering. He is found the next morning and becomes a hero. For some people his unselfish efforts have come to represent a spirit of sacrifice and fidelity that symbolize true courage. While the story isn’t rooted in historical fact, the imagery of a finger in the dike has inspired many. It wasn’t just a small finger but a very large courage that could save a community.

I’ve thought of that imagery when praying about the Gulf oil leak. The Psalmist tells about the fingers of God arranging the heaven of stars. Christ Jesus refers to putting down evils with the finger of God. I’m not one who believes in an anthropomorphic god. But I do believe such symbols can convey a sense of the remarkably precise power that a God of divine Principle, perfect Love, can exercise. If Bible writers and characters can convey such a sense of God’s ability to pinpoint the formations of stars with His spiritual touch or remove an evil such as an illness from an individual, why couldn’t such a divine presence – using the image of a symbol – put His finger on a relatively tiny oil leak?

Do we have to ask God to do this for the sake of our environment and our own well-being? Not if the Bible is right and God is divine Love, already knowing every need, caring for every need, rejoicing in every need being met. Our part has more to do with bearing witness to what divine Love is always doing for us. Maybe we’ll see it as some surprising or unexplainable way the oil simply stops spewing. Or maybe there will be an expression of intelligence (that comes from all-knowing divine Mind, instead of human guessing) that will place the right kind of “finger” on the out-of-control oil. Some would call that an angel message. The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “My angels are exalted thoughts…. With white fingers they point upward to a new and glorified trust…” (p. 299). The need is not for a human finger pointing but for angel thoughts pointing us in an inspired direction.

The important point is that we recognize there is a power and commitment, reminiscent of what that little Dutch boy was supposed to have experienced, right at hand. And it will find a way to meet the human need.

For a Japanese translation of this article, see The Herald of Christian Science.

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