Just when it seemed as though the news from Iraq couldn’t get any worse, upsetting reports of Islamic State brutality toward their captives – Christians and others, including men and women – continue to escalate.
This isn’t the first time in history that tyrants have resorted to barbaric methods to enforce their reigns of terror. The biblical book of Exodus records the story of the Egyptian Pharaoh, who attempted to solidify his power by ordering the execution of all the baby boys born to Hebrew parents. But out of the darkness of that historical moment also came proof of God’s power, delivering innocents from a despot’s arrogant claims of authority.
I turned to the story in Exodus when the news of escalating brutality broke. Bible stories, I’ve found, can be such a helpful springboard for prayer – especially when I consider them in their spiritual light, as articulated in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science.
In this story, when Pharaoh gives the order for the execution of all the baby Hebrew boys, one mother does something daring. She makes a basket of bulrushes for her son and places him inside. Then she floats the little ark in the Nile River, near to where the Pharaoh’s daughter and her maids are bathing. Pharaoh’s daughter finds the baby, and she keeps and raises him as her own, even though she knows he’s a Hebrew. Thus, Moses’ life is spared, and, in the end, he goes on to lead his people, the Children of Israel, right out from under the Pharaoh’s thumb – to a land of safety, fulfillment, and promise (see Exodus 2:1-10; 13:17-22).
As I read the Moses story this time, the image of Moses’ mother – building an ark and placing her child inside – became a guiding light for my prayers for all those persecuted by the group now known as Islamic State (formerly called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS). Of course, we all yearn to protect the innocent and the helpless. That’s a natural impulse. But the idea that really lifted up my prayers was the deepening understanding that the mothering love of God is already doing just that.
As we come to know the nature of God through prayer, it becomes clear that our Mother God doesn’t need to intervene in the face of danger. Her kingdom, the heaven where we truly dwell, is the infinite allness of God, who is good. In this ever-present allness, good is supreme. Our Mother God, being Spirit, created us spiritually – without a single element of matter to make us vulnerable or to separate us from Her. So our Mother’s great gift to us isn’t that She puts us in a safe place in times of trouble. Her gift to each of Her children is that we are in the safety of Her allness perpetually.
There was another ark in the Bible, the one that Noah built. Noah’s ark typifies even more fully our spiritual safety from destruction and was deeply meaningful to Mrs. Eddy because of her own experience in dealing with various forms of evil – as can be seen in her definition in Science and Health: “Ark. Safety; the idea, or reflection, of Truth, proved to be as immortal as its Principle; the understanding of Spirit, destroying belief in matter. God and man coexistent and eternal; Science showing that the spiritual realities of all things are created by Him and exist forever” (p. 581).
Prayer that enables us to perceive what our Mother, God, is seeing and doing allows us to discern spiritually that the people of Iraq – that the citizens of any nation, whether it appears war torn or peaceful – forever dwell in God’s ark of safety. Each one’s true identity is necessary to the completeness of God’s creation. Each has a purpose as distinct and eternal as Moses’. Each precious child coexists with his Mother, with her Mother – held in the safety of Her inviolate love.
There is nothing greater than the peace that comes from glimpsing, even just for a moment, the wholeness of Mother and child, God and idea, “coexistent and eternal.” In light of this realization, arrogant despotism falls. Love’s allness reigns. And every individual, everywhere, finds liberty – and safety.