I had just returned from Christmas leave, which I’d spent visiting a college friend who lived in a beautiful home with thick carpets and exquisite furnishings. As I stepped into my room on the USS Valley Forge, I was unexpectedly overwhelmed by the bleak austerity of my new home compared with the luxury I had just seen in my friend’s home. I had a steel room with a washbasin, mirror, desk, and bunk bed, and I shared a community bathroom and shower that was just down the passageway.
As it began to sink in that this would be the type of home I would have for the next 20 years of my naval career, I felt a deep sense of depression and remorse. I had worked hard to get into the United States Naval Academy and graduate after four rigorous years, only to serve on ships whose furnishings would be very much like what I was seeing.
The son of a single working mother during the Depression, I had lived in humble surroundings – from a room in a boardinghouse to an apartment where I shared a bathroom with a neighbor – but I had never felt impoverished because I had the love of my mother, and the Bible and “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy, always present for inspiration and comfort. I recalled “God is Love” and “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (Science and Health, p. 494), written on the walls of the Christian Science Sunday School I had attended. But as I compared my shipboard quarters with my friend’s home, I felt I had made a terrible career mistake with only myself to blame.
Then one day I was making a zone inspection, which consisted of checking all the safety features of the ship: watertight doors in case of flooding, hoses and firefighting equipment in case of a fire, and gas masks in case of biological attacks. It suddenly dawned on me that Love had designed that ship to preserve life – from its blueprints to my inspecting that safety equipment – and I was surrounded by this Love.
Ideas I had learned in Sunday School and from reading the Bible and Science and Health flooded my consciousness, and the depression, remorse, and self-pity immediately vanished. It was as if a light suddenly turned on in my consciousness, even though my surroundings hadn’t changed.
I completed a 20-year career on and off aircraft carriers without ever again feeling impoverished. When I brought friends who lived in beautiful homes on board for Sunday dinners and movies in the wardroom with my fellow officers, they would invariably comment on how fortunate I was to live in such an environment of camaraderie. The statement in Science and Health, “The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares” (p. 574), took on new meaning. The angel message of being surrounded by Love was all I needed to heal the depression and remorse I had been feeling.
My shipboard quarters never changed much during those 20 years, but my view of them had, and my career choice for the Navy has been a blessing I wouldn’t want to have missed.
This verse from Mary Baker Eddy’s spiritual interpretation of the 23rd Psalm rings true to me: “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” (Science and Health, p. 578). This is a promise fulfilled to each of us as we entertain those angel thoughts of divine Love.