Years ago, Dr. Frankenstein’s monster chased me almost every night. I ran so fast, but he was always right on my heels. I can still see him now: arms thrust out in front of him, a face full of grotesque stitches, and of course, that bolt poking through his neck. It was terrifying! I’d wake up, my heart pounding, yelling for my mom. Into my room she’d rush to comfort me and calm me down.
This continued until Mom explained how to escape from nightmares.
“Pay attention when you’re asleep, and you can tell when you’re dreaming,” she told me. “Then you can decide to open your eyes, which will stop the chase, and the fear.”
I tried it out and found that it did the trick. After that, when the chase began and the terror escalated, I recognized the dream for what it was—a monster movie—and opened my eyes. There I’d be, safe and sound in my bed, with no cause for fear in sight. What a relief!
Eventually I began to understand that my mom’s helpful tip could be applied to more than just nightmares. It is possible for anyone, in any situation, to wake up from fear and feel safe in God’s presence.
As adults, we would never believe that monsters could chase us. But most of us deal with nightmarish fears fairly frequently. Things like losing your job, and consequently, your life savings. Or maybe the fear of sickness in yourself or a loved one is the monster that’s pursuing you and threatening to overtake your peace. Perhaps a material past full of regret is haunting you. It makes no difference what your Frankenstein monster looks like, or whether you’re asleep or awake. You can open your eyes to the reality of your safety and be free from scary scenarios.
That’s right: Fear and the circumstances that would occasion it, are like a dream—without any more power to harm you than the monster in a child’s imagination. Why? Because God, infinite Good—the only creator of everything—is here right now. Good fills every nook and cranny throughout all creation. There isn’t any room left for anything unlike Him—not even something frightening hiding in a dark corner of your thought.
I’m not saying that shortfalls and other challenges don’t seem real in our everyday lives. But I know from my own experiences, and from studying the Bible, that you don’t have to believe everything you see, hear, or feel. The healing career of Christ Jesus is a great example of that! One account from his life is in the book of Matthew. Jesus was healing and speaking to a crowd of 4,000 people when dinnertime rolled around. There were only seven loaves of bread and a few fish among those thousands of people, and no McDonald’s anywhere. But Jesus told his disciples to feed the crowd anyway. How could he have made such an outrageous request? Jesus’ conviction that everyone would be fed came from his understanding that God’s provision for those people couldn’t be limited to such an inadequate quantity of food. He was right; the disciples passed out the loaves and fish, and everyone ate until they were full. Afterward, the disciples even collected seven baskets of leftovers! Jesus had his eyes open: He saw abundance where the five physical senses pointed to lack.
You can also know that right where the material senses are telling you to be afraid of running out of resources, God’s love is supplying you with more than you could ever need. When sickness is right at your heels threatening to take you down, God’s wholeness is on the scene. Since He is your creator, you are like Him—whole, complete, well—now. When a bad past is part of your monster movie, you can know that today, in this very moment, God is showing you that He has defined you from the beginning. No horrible past has ever created anything about you, or anyone else.
In any frightening situation, you can apply the “nightmare escape trick” Mom taught me all those years ago. Recognize that the terrifying circumstances in your life have no more power to harm you than the events in a horror movie. Affirm that only God’s goodness is present to define you and your life. This will open your eyes and allow you to see that you have authority over dream-like images of fear. You’ll find yourself safe, right where you belong, with the all-presence of divine Love comforting you every step of the way. Now that’s a treat!
Here’s another Bible example about challenging fear:
2 Kings 6:15-17
Other helpful ideas:
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy
On a recent walk, I had an experience that made me feel like I was following cookie crumbs home; the waymarks were that sweet.
It was a cool fall day and I was very content crunching my way across the occasional fallen leaf on the sidewalk. Then, up ahead, I saw a message written in chalk. As I got closer I read, “You are needed.” How sweet! I looked around; was that message for me?
I doubt the author had someone specific in mind when she wrote it. She had to have known that the well-used sidewalk would have many passersby; they would all see those words. They would see them regardless of their gender, age, or race. They would see them no matter what kind of car they drove, what size house they lived in, or even what job they had. Each person traveling that stretch of sidewalk would get to think about the fact that he or she is needed. I paused to ponder the depth of that message. For me, it had spiritual significance.
One of the synonyms for God that Mary Baker Eddy uses in the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, is Mind. The Mind she’s talking about isn’t a brain, churning out information via the five material senses. She’s talking about divine Mind, the source of our spiritual sense of things. You know, that comforting voice that calmly tells you that everything is fine?
Since the divine Mind is infinite, it takes all of spiritual creation—from the idea of the smallest insect, to the idea of the most magnificent mountain—to express His infinite nature. And the sidewalk chalk writer, whether she knew it or not, was standing up for the absolute necessity of every idea in the infinity of Mind’s creation. After all, an infinite Mind who is the spiritual creator of everything there is, needs infinite spiritual ideas to express Him in all His beauty and magnificence. What would Mind be without ideas? I snapped a picture of the message on the sidewalk and kept walking.
I went a short distance and saw another chalk-written note in the same scrawling hand. This one told me, “You are important!” Again, I knew this applied to anyone passing by. It made me smile as I remembered this passage from Science and Health: “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, ‘Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters’” (pg. 13). It occurred to me that everyone on the sidewalk, and everyone in all of Love’s, God’s, vast creation, is so important to Him that they’re being supplied with everything good right now—impartially, universally, and abundantly. Again, I snapped a picture and walked on.
I wasn’t surprised to see the third declaration. In fact, I was looking for it. It said, “Be ‘you’ nique.” I laughed. Even the message was unique! Clearly, the sidewalk author had a great grasp of Soul. Like Mind and Love, Soul is another synonym for God. Soul is our individuality. Our unique identity is Soul’s expression of each one of us. I like to think of it as the creative side of God: dazzling vibrancy, a colorful character, the joy of laughing—the things that make you, you! Or, in this case, everything that makes you, “‘you’ nique!”
It’s raining today, and I’m sure as I write this, those powerful notes of encouragement are being washed away. But I’m not worried; they’re already safely tucked away in my thought, and in the truth of God’s infinite universe. I don’t need the chalk messages to remind me that everyone, including you and me, is needed, is important, and is unique. What a great sidewalk lesson!
I won’t lie: I’m a dog person. You could say they’re my favorite kind of people. Not all dogs, however, are created equal.
Every morning I take a walk around my neighborhood. One of the houses I pass is a home daycare center, and sometimes there are kids outside playing. There are also two white dogs that live there. They’re the small poodly types—you know, curls here and there, and really yappy? As I walk by, they always run and jump along the wrought iron fence and bark at me. Every.step.of.the.way. They’re poor examples of neighborliness; one day, one of the kids imitated them and barked at me, too!
It’s been that way for a couple of years, so I’m used to it. I usually engage with them, tell them I’m no threat, that sort of thing. But they still let me have it—until recently, that is.
You see, a few months ago, I had the privilege of having a beagle as a houseguest. He’s a confident ten-year old, and he knows things—important things—like exercising his dominion over yapping nonsense. We spent ten days together, eating treats, and taking long walks, and he taught me a great lesson.
The first day we passed by the chaotic poodle house, he stopped to see what all the commotion was about. He and the poodles sniffed each other through the fence—typical dog greeting. Then my friend turned up his nose and away we went. We left those little yappers in our wake!
Every day after that, when we walked by the poodle house, my beagle friend and I did the same thing—heads up, eyes straight ahead, feeling the dominion over the yapping. I could almost hear him sending those dogs a message: “I’m not interested in you now or ever, because you have nothing to say that I want to hear, and I’m too busy moving forward to stop.”
In this case, it was dogs doing the yapping, but how many times have you heard that annoying blabbering in your thoughts? It goes something like this: “What if I get sick? What if I don’t have enough money? What if my marriage fails? What if…what if…what if?!” In the study of Christian Science, we call that mental nonsense “mortal mind.” It has a relentless way of sharing information with us that isn’t at all helpful. But mortal mind knows nothing of God, the divine Mind, and His completely unconditional love and perpetual care for all of us. It’s important to only listen to God because God is the only one who can (and does) give us correct information about ourselves. He tells us that we’re whole and safe and that He’s already taken care of everything in our lives. Actually, since there’s only one God, or Mind, this other nonsensical mind really has no voice, no right to speak.
Too soon, my beagle friend went home, and I was on my own with this lesson. But it worked for me, too, even when I walked alone. In fact, that’s also how I deal with mortal mind’s babbling now. Head up towards God, thought focused on what the one and only Mind is telling me, I move briskly forward. No hesitation, no engaging, no pausing to see what the yapping is about.
I know what I learned from the beagle is effective because the other day when I walked by the house, my curly little neighbors were sitting in a chair in the front yard. They didn’t even move. They looked at me, but didn’t say a word. Just like the poodly yapping, mortal mind’s valueless gabbing can be silenced, too. And the results are equally tangible. Less annoyance. Less worry. And even: healing.
Some helpful citations on this topic:
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy
I hope these insights will inspire readers to think more spiritually about themselves and the world around them!