by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
“Loss is not loss when properly perceived. Pain is impossible. There is no grief with any cause at all, And suffering of any kind is nothing but a dream. This is the truth, at first to be but said and then repeated many times; and next to be accepted as but partly true, with many reservations. Then to be considered seriously more and more, and finally accepted as the truth.” (W-284)
When my mother passed in 1997, it was a shock. I knew she had not been well, but she had seemed to rebound. She had worked at the Center on the very day of her passing and had been her usual cheery self. As she left for the day with my dad, she lovingly hugged and kissed everyone goodbye. Only later could I reflect on that day and see that it was her way of leaving this world of illusions in love and not sorrow. None of us knew at the time that later that evening at home, she would experience a fatal heart attack.
My first reaction after the shock was of loss. It was almost as if that was what I was supposed to feel. While certainly a normal reaction, I simultaneously thought, “But the loss of what?” I think it was fear that I had lost her because her body was no longer there, and yet I knew her essence, which was her love, was still all around me. As if my mom was orchestrating the entire experience, I began to feel the love that came to me from many people in so many ways. It so clearly showed me that I have not lost her love. Her love came from so many different channels, and as I was willing to see this, I realized there was no loss.
I also felt pain, grief, and suffering. But, when I faced this trio, I found them to be powerless. The pain, grief, and sorrow of not being around her was eased by knowing that she was all around. Perhaps not in the form I am accustomed to but in a feeling in my heart and mind. I see her when I am compassionate, kind, and giving. I feel her in my anger as I am reminded that to forgive others and myself brings me the peace and happiness that I really want. And I experience her love when I am willing to allow that love to come to me through all of God’s children. With all of this knowing, there was no room for the illusions of pain nor any desire to stay in the hurt. I was not denying any of my feelings. On the contrary, I was looking at them for what they were: an opportunity for me to accept the truth and fully experience the love that is all around. As this lesson says, “I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt. And I would go beyond these words today, and past all reservations, and arrive at full acceptance of the truth in them.”
Now, this full acceptance does not just happen. For me, this acceptance regarding my mom was a process. And the Course reminds us that it is a process, a process of us remembering the truth. That is why it simply cautions us to be patient and trust, as it says, “This is the truth, at first to be but said and then repeated many times; and next to be accepted as but partly true, with many reservations. Then to be considered seriously more and more, and finally accepted as the truth.”
I think this lesson’s instructions for remembering the truth are much like the instructions for making a new recipe. Let me explain by juxtaposing the concept of cooking a recipe with the concept of remembering the truth.
Recipe: You pick a desirable recipe and follow the instructions to create the dish.
Remembering: We desire to release ourselves from our pain and suffering, so we are willing to follow God’s recipe and trust Him with our hurtful thoughts. This lesson asks us to repeat, “I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt.”
Recipe: You put all the ingredients together. At this point, the recipe might not look like much, but you’re willing to keep going because you know you are working with good ingredients. So, you put it in a pan and pop it in the oven.
Remembering: You can’t work with any better ingredients than God and the truth in you. Therefore, with faith, you are willing to see the deeper meaning, even if you are not totally sure how it will work in your life.
Recipe: As the recipe is in the oven cooking, you can begin to see the potential: it looks pretty good, and it is starting to have a delicious aroma. But you may still have reservations because you have not tasted the result.
Remembering: The same is true when it comes to trusting God’s truth for our lives. We have felt support and peace at times in our lives and there seems to be a Helper there to get us through our challenges, but we might still doubt whether that Help will be there for us in the most challenging of times.
Recipe: Finally, the time is up, and you take the recipe out of the oven. You taste it and realize that all that you went through created quite a tasty dish. Now, you’ll save that recipe and use it again and again because you know it works!
Remembering: And so it is with God. When we actually turn to Him, even in our most challenging of times, He is there. He works because He is a “tried and true” recipe. But we will only know this if we turn to Him.
“I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt,” not because I am asked to deny my pain or suffering but because pain and suffering are not who I really am or who God is. When we get stuck in our pain, we have misread God’s recipe for our healing. He is not asking us to do anything but to have faith in Him to create a masterpiece of healing out of the pain and brokenness we bring to Him. He works! Let us elect to change all thoughts that hurt and begin the process of healing.
“Father, what you have given cannot hurt, so grief and pain must be impossible. Let me not fail to trust in You today, accepting but the joyous as Your gifts; accepting but the joyous as the truth.”