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Facing the storm—with peace

From the June 2014 issue of The Christian Science Journal

I grew up an avid reader in a family of book lovers. From an early age, I treasured reading the Christian Science Bible Lessons, chapters of the Bible, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. However, I also loved stories of a more secular nature, and nothing was as thrilling to me as adventure stories of survival, in which the protagonist is usually left in an apocalyptic situation with little more than their bare hands, their creativity, and their knowledge of how to stay alive.

But while I happily devoured these books for the grit and resourcefulness they taught me, an unpleasant side effect of perpetual anxiety grew over the years. I found myself dealing with extreme apprehension regarding political and international situations. It was hard to fight a frequent tendency to stockpile or hoard things, and I had increasingly terrifying nightmares. I seemed unable to escape the rumination: Am I prepared? Do I have the supplies, let alone the skills, to deal with a true catastrophe?

Two years ago I faced this anxiety more directly during a hurricane that swept up the East Coast. My husband and I had taken all of the human footsteps we could to prepare. And yet I was still unsettled. My well-stocked, vivid imagination threw one dire situation after another through my head, the last being the possibility of evacuating. What would I grab?

I created a small list of survival necessities: clothing, tools, my Bible, and Science and Health … and then I stopped right there. As I pictured grabbing the books from my nightstand, I had a crystal-clear moment of Truth’s inspiration: The only resource one ever needs is the truth of divine Science. More than bottled water or matches, students of Christian Science have the facts of divine Mind’s infinite knowledge and care that will always guide them to every human resource and through every human footstep. Calm reliance on our Father-Mother is necessary to reach the foundation of spiritual peace, from which we can see God’s infinite supply, safety, and assurance. 

I remembered a story a Christian Science lecturer once shared about an art competition on the subject of peace. Artists from all over the region presented works of breathtaking beauty and stillness. Yet, to everyone’s surprise, the winning painting was of a ferocious, destructive storm. “Where’s the peace?” many asked. In answer, the judge pointed to a small bird singing quietly on a branch in the midst of the storm. “That’s peace,” he replied.

Where is my thought when the storm hits? I wondered. Do I get caught up in the fear and hysteria, the misery, and the catastrophic wake? Or, like the bird, do I stand before the mental fire, the wind, or the earthquake, perceiving instead that God is the “still small voice”(I Kings 19:12)—rather than the destruction—holding me irrevocably in peace and provision?

I suddenly realized that while it is understandable and often wise to prepare for human circumstances to the best of my ability, it is far more important to prepare my spiritual thought. Months before, I’d read an article on survivalist strategy that indicated six basic human needs: shelter, food, water, fire, first aid, and self-defense. So I considered each one from a spiritual perspective:

SHELTER: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty,” says the 91st Psalm. The Hebrew word for Almighty means “the breasted one,” or “mother.” What comfort there is in knowing that no matter what the human picture of home or community looks like, we are tucked safely away in the nest of our understanding of God’s Mother-love for us!

FOOD: The spiritual truth of food was best explained by Mary Baker Eddy in her statement in Science and Health, “Our bread, ‘which cometh down from heaven,’ is Truth” (p. 35). Our real food is the understanding of our spiritual relationship to God. No matter what material condition we seem to be facing, nothing can diminish the knowledge of our spiritual reality, and thus can we wholeheartedly witness ample provision in every situation.

WATER: Just as our real bread is Truth, our true water is the Word of God, sanctifying and cleansing us “with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26). This Word, the truth which Jesus lived and demonstrated and which Mary Baker Eddy gave us the key to understanding and proving for ourselves in Christian Science, is with us every second. So no matter what appears before us, our cleanliness, purity, and sustenance are ever present in the Word of God. Even just one statement of Truth carries with it the full power and presence of divine Love.

FIRE: Fire is necessary for heat and for light. Heat is included in our understanding of divine shelter, in the warmth of Love’s presence and care for us. Light is equally divine. If we’re following Christ, “the light of the world” (John 8:12), by studying and demonstrating the Word, then we have everlasting life—and all the resources necessary to live comfortably, safely, and eternally.

FIRST AID: No portion of God’s provision for His children is clearer to a Christian Scientist than healing. The history of Christian Science is written in healing, both mental and physical. God’s promise is clear in Exodus 15:26: “I am the Lord that healeth thee.” Isaac Leeser’s translation reads, “I the Lord am thy physician,” which leaves no room for doubt as to where we should turn. We can place our complete trust in God to bring healing in every circumstance.

SELF-DEFENSE: Finally, the last great human need for survival is an ability to defend oneself against attacks. But we know that God is Love, a divine law that governs the whole universe. No matter what the situation in which we find ourselves might be, the fact of harmonious unity among all creatures of God, large and small, overrules any claim of discord. We can stand firm in our understanding of Love’s complete control of its universe, including man. And we can watch as evil’s claims evanesce before our eyes—for they were never real to begin with. 

With this glimpse of the reality that “divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (Science and Health, p. 494), I released years of built-up anxiety I hadn’t even known I’d been carrying. That morning’s entire experience, from rumination to inspiration, lasted no more than about five minutes, and I went through my day with a lighter step and a greater confidence that I was protected, no matter what I saw around me. The eventual hurricane left my husband and me safe, untouched by any effects from the storm. And with newfound understanding, I was able to pray for those who appeared to have suffered, knowing the truth of their eternal protection and supply in God’s harmonious reality.

Several months later, I realized that I had not had a single apocalyptic nightmare since that day. Hoarding behavior had also fallen away naturally, as had the addiction to cataclysmic literature. And I had stopped wrestling with a crippling fear of being humanly or mentally unprepared for a seeming disaster. I had been instantaneously healed. And I remain free to this day.

Emily Maixner lives in West New York, New Jersey, and works in New York City as an actor, singer, and audiobook narrator.

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