For several weeks, my apartment building had been terrorized by local pranksters, who would ring the buzzers of multiple apartments at one, two, three in the morning. It was frightening to be awakened from a sound sleep by the insistent buzzing – especially when it seemed to strike without warning.
One night, after several weeks of silence, my buzzer rang again. This time, though, it wouldn’t stop. Minutes passed. I felt paralyzed with fear. Just the day before, a couple of my female friends had been talking about local women who had been attacked. When the buzzing finally stopped, all I could hear were the creaks in the hallway outside my apartment. Even though no one was there, I couldn’t shake the feeling of dread.
I texted a Christian Science practitioner for help, and her words – and prayers – brought me instant calm. She referred me to Mary Baker Eddy’s spiritual interpretation of the 23rd Psalm, which Mrs. Eddy included in her seminal work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” (see p. 578). In Mrs. Eddy’s version of Psalm 23, she emphasized God’s nature as divine Love, infusing the comforting words of this psalm with a mother’s tenderness.
“[Divine Love] is my shepherd; I shall not want. [Love] maketh me to lie down in green pastures: [Love] leadeth me beside the still waters.”
It was powerful to think of being not in the presence of fear, but in the presence of Love. To feel Love ministering to me and to anyone who might be feeling afraid. It was the next line, though, that caught my attention:
“[Love] restoreth my soul [spiritual sense].”
I realized that it wasn’t enough to see myself as a vulnerable woman who could at least turn to divine Love for help. In fact, Love was lifting my thoughts higher – to a spiritual sense, or what you might call a spiritual perspective, of the situation. Had God created a mortal woman who was capable of being victimized? Had He created a mortal man capable of being a victimizer?
The Bible says that God created man “in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). Though it can sometimes feel difficult to see our neighbors – and especially our enemies – as full of mercy and goodness, in the darkness of that night, Love was giving me just that spiritual sense of man and woman. I saw that I was endowed with the strength to resist fear, and the authority to say no to the suggestion that I could be a victim. Likewise, Love showed me that man’s God-given qualities of gentleness, tenderness, and infinite worth could never be undermined or lacking.
My buzzer never rang again after that night, but this spiritual sense of God and His children has persisted. I’ve regularly returned to it as I’ve prayed about women’s issues worldwide, and again recently after the brutal rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Maybe that sounds absurd given the smallness of my experience and the gaping horrors of those others. But Love persuades us to see otherwise. Love shows us that we don’t have to concede to the misogyny that would fuel these heinous acts. Love shows us that we can rise above the mortal view of ourselves as helpless victims, forever at the mercy of fear, evil, and chance. Love relentlessly pursues us with the facts of existence: that we were formed by Love to live as Love’s own children.
As the psalm says, Love restores our spiritual sense – our Love-based view – of ourselves and others. Where in that view is there any room for a victimizer or a victim?
When we’re faced with acts of terrorism, it’s important that we’re not just saying comforting words without understanding them. I yearn each day to feel more of a conviction of the reality of Love’s universe – God and His idea, bound together by grace. What inspires me to keep praying is the knowledge that Love is at work on our behalf, helping us to see everyone, everywhere, as purely good – and as incapable of evil.
Psalm 23 explains why: “[Love] restoreth my soul [spiritual sense]: [Love] leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
It’s for God’s sake, and our own, that we were created to live as His loved and loving children. Never to stray. Never to be lost. But as the psalm concludes, so that we may stay safe forever in the safest place in the universe: “the house [the consciousness] of [Love].”