“Love the people of this city.”
Victory in dark hours
In Moscow at the height of the Cold War, this writer was seized with terror during the night. Only later did he learn how important it was to recognize God’s care at that moment.
By Alan Lindgren
From the July 2, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel
*Photo – Allposters.com
Yea Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I Will Fear No Evil
by Frank C. Papé
Frank Cheyne Papé, who generally signed himself Frank C. Papé was an English artist and book illustrator. Papé’s earliest illustrations are found in books for children from around 1908, including The Odyssey and The Pilgrim’s Progress. A number of Papé’s original drawings, together with some of his correspondence, is preserved at Stanford University. Wikipedia
I was in Moscow during the height of the Cold War, in the dead of winter. As an artist and teacher, I wanted to absorb Russian culture and art, and get a deeper feel for Russia’s people. At around 1:00 a.m. one night, I woke up in my hotel room in a cold sweat, terrified. I had no idea why, and I couldn’t shake it. Wanting desperately to break out of the fear, I pulled out Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy for inspiration and started reading, but it was tough going, like walking through tar. It felt as though the ideas, and God Himself, were on another planet.
I pulled out a copy of The Christian Science Journal I’d tucked in my bag before leaving the United States and opened it to an article. I don’t remember the title, but one line stopped me cold: God has already given us the victory. I went back over it a dozen times, at least, and let it roll around in my thought. Slowly it took hold and started sinking in: As God’s child, I was already victorious.
A measure of peace began settling over my thought, and I started feeling anchored to something solid, to the spiritual truth of God and of man’s inseparability from Him … my inseparability from Him. Some warm, comforting waters started filling cold, dark chambers.
God has already given us the victory. I began feeling God right there, giving me calm perspective, dominion, wholeness, success. He had never left. How could He? God is All. Where could He go outside of Himself? He is infinity. Better yet, how could I ever leave Him, feel outside of Him, His love, His care? Man is—each of us is—what God is knowing about Himself.
Fast-forward a week later. I’m in Vienna, where I pick up an International Herald Tribune. One story stops me in my tracks. The place: Moscow. I reread the piece and double-check the dates and timelines of the story. On the very nights I was in my hotel room, feeling that inexplicable terror, in a small apartment not far away, one of Russia’s best-known dissident (and Christian) writers and his family were living through a terror mine couldn’t touch. This writer had already spent years in the infamous Soviet prison camps called Gulags. He and his family had just gotten an underground warning that the KGB was planning to arrest him again, and there was nowhere to hide, nowhere to flee. They were waiting for the knock on the door. The writer knew what it would mean: imprisonment again, possibly torture, probably the Gulags. If they kept him alive, they’d no doubt send him back to the Siberian wilderness, where he had already spent decades in punishing hard labor. He’d never see his wife and sons again.
Of course, I was immensely grateful to God for this remarkable deliverance. After all, the man was an enemy of the state, and a loud one. The Soviets rarely let such men live, let alone give them a “get out of jail free” card. The experience taught me some valuable spiritual lessons. One of them is that it’s often in the darkest hours, the most frightening or depressing, that a new, spiritual idea is being born. And that birth so often includes an innovative solution to what looks like an impossible situation. In this case, the Kremlin’s bright idea was simply to release the “enemy”—rather than lock him up or kill him. I know it wasn’t my individual prayer alone that brought about this writer’s and his family’s freedom—yet I can’t help believing that these powerful, God-given ideas contributed to lighting up the city’s mental climate, which included the KGB’s mind-set and its usual modes of operation.