The image of twelve young boys and their soccer coach trapped in a mountain cave with no way out captivated the entire world. Around the globe, regardless of race, religion or colour, people collectively prayed for these boys and the team of Thai navy seals, experienced divers and volunteers who were racing against time to bring everyone safely out of the cave.
I’ve asked myself what lesson I learned – other than not wandering into dark caves – from this rescue. What stood out to me the most was that, even in that dark, silent remote place, one could sense a moment when the coach and the boys and the rescuers refused to give in, shifted their thinking and held on to hope. Faced with rising monsoonal water and every reason to panic, the rescuers became inspired with new ideas and ways to think about the problem. Even after one of the divers died in staging the attempted rescue, grief did not erase their hope and determination.
It reminded me of many Bible stories where individuals felt trapped; stuck in a hopeless situation and yet, with a change of thought, their experience changed. The prophet Elijah, for example, feeling so utterly discouraged and alone that he felt like dying, sat in a cave, and in his despair reached out to God. And the Bible says that God came to him as a “still, small voice.” That “voice” shifted his thinking, and inspired him to go forward in his teaching and healing mission to the world.
To me these are ancient and modern examples of how prayer isn’t so much asking God to change circumstances like a magician, it’s rather a willingness to shift the way I am seeing and thinking about a problem so that I can be divinely influenced and guided.
As a young woman, I was adventurous; always out hiking and skiing in the mountains with friends. On one cross country skiing trip, I became separated from my group and was left alone, lost, in the wilderness. Initially, I panicked. But I remembered Elijah’s moment of despair and fear. I realized that I too could turn directly to God and listen. I obediently did so and became willing to completely change the way I was thinking about the situation. Almost immediately I felt calm reassurance and hope. I sat down to eat the last of my food. Shortly, I had the thought to ski in a certain direction, even though that would defy all the “stay where you are” rules of being lost in the wilderness. I felt divinely directed. Suddenly, I saw a little red flag – always a good sign. Then another. I followed the flags all the way to a road where I was able to ask for help to get to the parking lot where my friends would be. It turned out that those little flags were not normally there. They had been accidentally left from a race the previous week, yet I had been led to them.
That divine influence is within each of us. There is no place so remote that we cannot hear and feel it’s inspiring, loving guidance when we listen.
Christian healer and writer, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote about this divine influence as God’s love:
“Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way. Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action.”
God’s love can reach an ancient prophet or modern day skier in the wilderness as readily as it can find 12 boys and their coach in a cave.
Anna Bowness-Park is a Christian Science practitioner. She lives in Victoria, B.C. You can find her blog at http://anna-bownesspark.ca
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* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, August 4 2018