When I was in grade school, my family crossed the Pacific Ocean on a cargo ship going from San Francisco to Yokohama, Japan. We were four of twelve passengers on a huge freighter filled with a wide variety of cargo, including six seals in wooden crates strapped on the deck. They were en route to a Japanese zoo, and my brother and I enjoyed watching the crew feed them.
The first part of the trip was sunny and calm, but about halfway across the ocean we passed through a typhoon, which could not be avoided. We were confined to our cabins, and everything that could be was lashed down. There were very strong winds, and huge waves crashed over the decks. The ship was tossed from side to side and the seals were barking incessantly. It seemed as if we could roll over at any moment and that there was little the crew could do to help. It was very frightening.
That’s when I began to pray with the Lord’s Prayer to calm my thought (see Matthew 6:9-13). I knew that God, who is divine Love, was the true creator of everything in His spiritual universe, including all of us. I felt sure that our Father-Mother God could comfort and care for us (see Isaiah 66:13).
As I lay in my bunk, holding on to the side railings so as not to be tossed out, I noticed a Bible in a net hanging over the bed. I was not very familiar with the Bible at that time, but I remembered from what I had learned in the Christian Science Sunday School I attended that God is good, that He loves and cares for His creation in all ways, and is “a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). I also knew from my own family’s experience that through prayer people can be helped and healed, and that the Gospel of Mark told a story of Christ Jesus stilling a storm (see 4:37-39).
Comforted by these ideas, I took the Bible out of the net and began looking through the New Testament to see if I could find that story. I became engrossed in reading about Jesus’ life and healing work, and felt a sense of calm, although the storm was still raging.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, refers to the Bible as “the chart of life, where the buoys and healing currents of Truth are pointed out” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 24). While reading, I began to understand that God is Life, and that in spiritual reality Life is fully expressed at all times. The Bible tells us that Jesus restored life to several people who had died, and that he himself was resurrected from the grave.
I had been afraid of dying in the storm, but as I thought about these ideas, it came to me clearly that I was not going to die, that we were all safe and cared for. I came to see that even in frightening situations, we can pray to feel the presence of God and to know that we are safe in His care, that nothing could be more powerful than our heavenly Father. As the last line of the Lord’s Prayer says, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.” I realized that nothing, in truth, could oppose the omnipotence of divine good, God.
There was a period of calm in the storm when the crew was able to bring us things to eat and drink, and reassure everyone that all would be well. They also managed to feed the seals, check the cargo hold, and make some repairs to the ship. The ship and all the passengers and crew made it through safely. And when we reached our destination, we were full of gratitude and rejoicing and felt a special bond with our fellow passengers and the crew.
This is one of the first times I remember praying for myself and for others; I’m sure others were praying as well. During this trip I learned many things spiritually, including gaining a deep sense of the relevance of Scripture to our everyday lives. God truly “stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people” (Psalms 65:7). His love, which everyone can feel and know, casts out fear and brings healing (see I John 4:18).