Friday, May 20, 2005

Accident, or opportunity?

A version of this article by Laura ran in The Christian Science Monitor, Tues. May 17, 2005

My sisters and I were rear-ended the other evening.

On the way to a girls’ night out, our car was rammed from behind with a loud smash. Each of our three heads pitched forward and snapped back. Stunned and jolted, I watched as my younger sister (who was driving) jumped out of the car to survey the damage. The two drivers began to exchange information and agreed to call the police. We moved the cars off the road to wait for the squad car.

For a while I couldn’t think. Fears filled my head. What if we were injured? What if the other driver wasn’t insured? I was due to fly home the next day -- what if this delayed my trip home somehow? The word “whiplash” hung in the air, although we didn’t discuss it at length. My anxiety actually began to make me feel nauseous.

While we waited for the police, the other driver burbled forth her life story. She had just had surgery. She was going through a divorce. She had a chronic skin condition. She was late on some of her bill payments.

All of this just added to my confusion. The policeman arrived, and my sisters and I got back in the car to wait for him to write up the report. And that’s when the rubber hit the road, so to speak.

After comparing notes about how we were feeling -- they were jolted, I was queasy – I said, “All right now. How can we think about this?” This was family code for, “I’m a little too upset about this, can we make the conversation more positive?” And my older sister got right to it.

She reminded us that we had a choice. We didn’t have to think of ourselves as victims, or the other driver as at fault. We could instead see this as an opportunity to learn something, to help someone else, and to love each other.

My sisters and I are all familiar with the teachings of Christian Science as found in Science and Health, though we each practice in different degrees. We were all willing at that moment to share spiritual ideas to help each other relieve any tension or anxiety.

Christian Science has as one of its key concepts the idea that Love is omnipresent, that it fills all space. It also teaches that this Love is omnipotent, or all powerful. To me, this has always meant that Love is irresistible. I can’t ever be separate from it, I can’t ever fall out of it. I am enveloped in Love. The discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes, “The depth, breadth, height, might, majesty, and glory of infinite Love fill all space. That is enough!” (Science and Health).

The three of us considered together the omnipresence of Love, defined in Science and Health as God Himself. We talked about how this idea of Love could turn around what our eyes and ears were telling us. I was especially grateful for this thought, because as the passenger in the backseat, I had the best view of all of us when the bump occurred, and I was having a hard time letting the image go. It kept replaying. My sister reminded me that if we hung onto the image of impact, we’d be stuck being worried about the consequences. The idea that Love was the only thing really there helped me turn from this image and entertain a new idea -- that we were all children of God, brought together to witness to His love.

In the car that evening as we talked, I began to see that the other driver was also enveloped in that Love. And it became clear to me that if she was in Love, and my sisters and I were in Love, there could be no conflict, no injury. I could feel compassion for the other driver, see past her litany of troubles, and regard her as the beloved of Love.

Everything calmed down for me after that. I lost any fear that there would be unpleasant repercussions from this circumstance. The damage to the two vehicles was minor. We soon went ahead with our girls’ night out plans, and the conversation continued along spiritual lines, giving us an evening rich in understanding and support. Later I sent a note to the other driver, letting her know that we were all fine and sharing how we’d prayed, and I included a copy of Mary Baker Eddy’s book. Now, when I look back, it seems the entire episode provided not an accident, but an opportunity, for love and blessing.

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