by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
“Have faith in only this one thing, and it will be sufficient: God wills you be in Heaven, and nothing can keep you from it, or it from you. Your wildest misperceptions, your weird imaginings, your blackest nightmares all mean nothing. They will not prevail against the peace God wills for you.” (T-13.XI.7)
In this day and age of concern over the pandemic, weather disasters attributed to global warming, and conspiracy theories running rampant on social media sites, it certainly seems as if our faith is being tested. These things are, as the above passage says, some of our “wildest misperceptions, weird imaginings and blackest nightmares.” And yet, we are reminded that no matter how horrendous they may be and how impossible their solutions may seem, they will not prevail against the peace God wills for us.
This may be all well and good, but those “figments of our imagination” seem very real to us. We can’t very well ignore them with a casual wave of the hand and say they simply don’t exist, and A Course in Miracles is not asking us to do that. We are not told to deny our problems, but instead to look past the surface that may currently have our attention and see a deeper meaning, to see the truth.
It has been said before that the Course is a non-dualistic system, meaning that as much as we believe there is truth and illusion (love and fear), only one exists. And thank God the one the Course says is real is truth, or love. Acceptance of the truth means we have not left our home in God; we have not attacked our Father and made a distorted image of ourselves; we are not simply a body forced to walk this world alone and frightened, hoping to carve out a meager existence before the uncaring god of time robs us of our only treasure, the life of our body.
Truth tells us that even though we may currently feel we are separate from each other and from God, every experience, no matter how frightening or disheartening, is an opportunity to lead us to God and the peace and healing He promises us. We are simply asked to have faith that God cannot fail, to withdraw our faith in the mess we have made, and believe in and offer our trust to the Holy Spirit whose job it is to give us a “faith lift!”
The Holy Spirit says to us:
The truth is true. Nothing else matters, nothing else is real, and everything beside it is not there. Let Me make the one distinction for you that you cannot make, but need to learn. Your faith in nothing is deceiving you. Offer your faith to Me, and I will place it gently in the holy place where it belongs. You will find no deception there, but only the simple truth. And you will love it because you will understand it. (T-14.II.3:3)
This is a beautiful and very comforting passage, because it not only states the truth but asks very little of us except that we give our faith to the Holy Spirit who will do the rest for us. Even though it asks little of us, the Course cautions that this is the hardest lesson “twisted minds” will ever learn. To put our faith in the fact that only the truth is true, that nothing else but this matters, and to give our faith to the Holy Spirit to teach us this lesson, is a real “faith lift!”
Part of what prevents us from giving our faith to the Holy Spirit is we cannot figure out how He could fix the problems we see all around us. But remember, the Holy Spirit does not work from our frame of reference. He has a “higher” (a more complete) frame of reference — that of God. We are not asked to understand how the Holy Spirit can solve the problems of life, but to have faith that if He says it can be solved, then it will be solved. “There is no problem in any situation that faith will not solve.” (T-17.VII.2)
But real conviction in faith comes from experience, and not from words. As we read in the Course, “We place faith in the experience that comes from practice, not the means we use. We wait for the experience, and recognize that it is only here conviction lies.” (W-pI.r.V.12:2) So the following are a few “faith lifts” from the Course that might help in your practice towards your conviction in faith!
“Faith Lift” #1: “Forget what you have seen, and raise your eyes in faith to what you now can see.” (T-19.III.10:5)
Just because you are a student of the Course does not mean that you will not face challenges and limitations in your life, but you will instead use these situations as teaching aids to learn what to avoid and what to seek. As we read in the Course, “Do not despair, then, because of limitations. It is your function to escape from them, but not to be without them. If you would be heard by those who suffer, you must speak their language.” (M-26.4) This does not mean we are to suffer, but that through our challenges and opportunities we will be able to understand what others may be experiencing and raise our eyes in faith to another understanding of the “suffering.”
A while back, I read about a young man who, after murdering his parents at home the night before, opened fire on his classmates in a public school. Unfortunately, reports such as these are not new and can cause us to feel sick and discouraged by the portrayal of today’s youth. And yet if we “raise our eyes in faith” we can escape from the limitations of this situation and see a new perspective.
An interview that followed this incident presented the boys who tackled the youth who opened fire killing two students and wounding many. These boys were asked why they risked their lives. Their response was that they didn’t think of it as risking their lives, but rather as helping their friends. They said they really felt no fear for their own lives, they just knew they needed to help. It was because of their heroic measures that many students were saved. This situation should give us all a sense of hope and faith in our youth and inspire us to lift our eyes from the images we have seen to a new perspective, one that does not deny the circumstances where we find ourselves, but one that allows a new perception – a “faith lift” to come to us in the midst of the nightmares of the world.
“Faith Lift” #2: “Put all your faith in the Love of God within you; … This is the answer to whatever confronts you today.” (W-50.4:3)
This thought from the workbook of the Course also reminds us if we put our faith in illusions, they will fail us. Why should that surprise us? After all, we all know the story of the man who built his house on sand and then came “Katrina” (or pick any of last year’s 31 devastating tropical storms or hurricanes) and washed it away. The wise man, however, built his house on rock, a solid foundation that could not be washed away by the ravages of the world. So it is with our faith. It’s not that we lack faith, but that we have placed our faith in nothing, in illusions, in a faulty foundation. “Faith makes the power of belief, and where it is invested determines its rewards. For faith is always given what is treasured, and what is treasured is returned to you.” (T-13.IX.2:5)
We believe, with great “faith,” we are this distorted image of God’s child, deserving of pain, suffering and sacrifice. Therefore, when the “storms” of our lives come, this distorted image thinks it deserves the disasters. “His Voice has spoken clearly, and yet you have so little faith in what you heard, because you have preferred to place still greater faith in the disaster you have made.” (T-16.II.8:4) And yet God is telling us of His love for us, that we deserve His love, and that His love is the answer to whatever may confront us today. All we need do is call upon that love in faith and withdraw our faith in our illusory images (of ourselves and the world).
A few years back, the BBC aired a miniseries entitled Merlin. It was an interesting series about the myth of this wizard (best known in the mythology of Camelot) who was created to keep the belief in magic alive. Merlin rebelled against the queen of magic, who supposedly created him, but her powers were much stronger than his. The harder he tried to defeat her, the stronger she grew.
Finally, he discovered her weakness: simply withdraw the investment in magic. If everyone just ignored her and her magic, she would have no power, since magic only had power if there was faith in it. And so it is with our egos and the illusions they weave. As we withdraw our faith from the illusions and build our faith on the love of God within us, the truth grows stronger. Since there is nothing else but the truth, the rest simply disappears. “The way to correct distortions is to withdraw your faith in them and invest it only in what is true.” (T-3.II.6)
“Faith Lift” #3: “Your capacity for allegiance to a thought system may be misplaced, but it is still a form of faith and can be redirected.” (T-6.in.2:5)
This thought should give us a great sense of peace and hope. We may have put, for more years than we care to count, our faith in this world and the things of this world, but all our efforts are not in vain. The practice in the allegiance we have given this world can now benefit us, if we are willing to give that same allegiance to the Holy Spirit. His job is to take all our years of training in the ways of the world and now redirect them in such a way that they can now heal us and the world. If it were left up to us to do the redirecting, we would have good reason to be concerned, but it is not. God has given us a guide in the Holy Spirit who can and will help us. “Step back in faith and let truth lead the way. You know not where you go. But One Who knows [the Holy Spirit] goes with you. Let Him lead you with the rest.” (W-155.10:3)
Our faith truly lies in the Holy Spirit’s ability to transform our lives, not in whether we can understand how it can be accomplished. As we read in the Course,
“…if escape from guilt was given to the Holy Spirit as His purpose, and by One to Whom nothing He wills can be impossible, the means for its attainment are more than possible. They must be there, and you must have them. … For if you have the means to let the Holy Spirit’s purpose be accomplished, they can be used. And through their use will you gain faith in them.” (T-22.II.5:6)
The fact that the Holy Spirit can redirect where we place our faith and thus transform our lives is certainly reinforced when you think of the life of Oprah Winfrey. Here is a woman who is considered one of the most powerful women in the world because of her work in the media and philanthropy. Her personal fortune is estimated at 2.7 billion dollars.
After a successful twenty-five-year run of her TV show, she now runs her own TV network. She established a school in South Africa to give girls a chance to break the cycle of poverty of this black female population. She established the “world’s largest piggy bank,” where people from all over the world have donated their spare change to raise millions of dollars (matched by Winfrey) to send disadvantaged kids to college. And she has led a country, faced with an illiteracy crisis, back to reading with her book club. All this from a woman who was born to unmarried parents in 1954, raised by a grandmother on a Mississippi farm with no indoor plumbing, and raped by a cousin as a child.
It’s apparent Winfrey’s mission and message have been to let the Holy Spirit use her, and all she has accomplished, to not only transform herself but the lives of others. Her story, and the story of so many others, can become a beacon of faith as to how the Holy Spirit can redirect our faith and circumstances in life into a transformative power that can heal us and our world. “On your little faith, joined with His understanding, He will build your part in the Atonement [healing of the thought of separation] and make sure that you fulfill it easily.”
In our society we lift everything from our bottoms to our faces to make ourselves beautiful, but what will truly bring beauty to our lives is to lift our faith. This world may show us many reasons to be faithless, but let us remember to lift our eyes in faith to the transformative solution God is holding out to us. As we read in A Course in Miracles,
“As faithlessness will keep your little kingdoms barren and separate, so will faith help the Holy Spirit prepare the ground for the most holy garden that He would make of it.” (T-19.I.15)
As this new year begins, let us plant our faith in God and watch the beauty it will create in our lives and world.