In the heart of our cities, an unshakable stronghold

Today’s contributor shares spiritual ideas that lifted her fear when she was traveling alone on a city bus in a troubled neighborhood – and buoyed her hope for the possibility of greater peace in urban settings and beyond.

When people heard what neighborhood I lived in, they often asked about its safety, gang activity, crime. I usually had to pause before answering. Images of neighbors and gang members whose names I’d learned and sounds of gunshots and sirens flooded my thought.

It was a challenging, exhilarating time. Could I count the times I was mentally on my knees in prayer? Probably not, but neither could I count the ways I’d seen the hand of God tenderly at work – uniting, reassuring. I saw how God’s care comes in the form of intuitions that direct us and give us confidence. This inner voice is sometimes quiet, sometimes loud, but always it comes with the assurance, calm, and conviction of limitless divine Love.

I recall how one night I was taking public transportation home by myself and found myself filled with fear. I was the only woman on the bus, and I had a good five-block walk home once I got off.

As we rode along, I felt an urgency to pray and reached out to God with my whole heart. I thought about things I’d been learning in my study of Christian Science about the ever presence and power of God’s love.

Fear lost its hold on me in those moments as I pondered just how loved, precious, and mighty each one of God’s children is, as the very expression of God – of divine Love, Life, Truth. Certainly this expression includes no predisposition to fear or violence.

I thought of Christ Jesus’ example – with all that he faced, he showed how we too can face down fear and hatred with love, forgiveness, and compassion. At one point he said, “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity;... men’s hearts failing them for fear.... And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:25, 26, 28).

Even when things feel overwhelming or scary, right in those moments we can “look up” mentally, spiritually; we can open our hearts to God’s ever-present, constant power. There is always something so much deeper going on than what things look like on the surface – something invulnerable, indestructible, ready to be discovered: the integrity of our true being as God’s loving, safe, spiritual creation.

My walk home from the bus that night was peaceful. I didn’t hurry. I listened to the sound of snow crunching beneath my feet, watched for stars and airplanes. I felt a lightness grounded in knowing that God was “walking” me – and everyone, everywhere – home, right then and always. I felt more concretely than ever before that the understanding of God’s allness was more than ample to bring peace and security, no matter whom I came into contact with. It was a deeper safety than I had ever felt – a glimpse of the divine presence always at hand to meet every need. And I arrived home happy and safe.

That experience, along with many others, has given me such hope for greater peace in our cities and beyond. But healing our communities doesn’t take place with just one prayer. It takes a moment-by-moment willingness to let go of our own judgments and fears. In a poem titled “Satisfied,” Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, writes:

Aye, darkling sense, arise, go hence!
Our God is good.
False fears are foes – truth tatters those,
When understood.

Love looseth thee, and lifteth me,
Ayont hate’s thrall:
There Life is light, and wisdom might,
And God is All.
(“Poems,” p. 79)

There is no place where we can be cut off from the power and presence of God. An earnest, understanding reliance on divine Love brings freedom from fear and danger. Beginning with our own hearts, each of us can contribute to combating fear, hatred, resentment, and prejudice in our cities, our families, and in the world.

Adapted from an article published in the Aug. 7, 1995, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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