by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
“God gave to all illusions that were made another purpose that would justify a miracle whatever form they took.” (T-26.VII.15:3)
The other day I was looking at the mountain of trash I had put in the garbage cans and recycling bins at our house. As homebodies due to Covid, we have been creating more trash than usual and also cleaning out things that have been piling up. It’s been wonderful, though, that we can now recycle so many things.
The idea of recycling really came into fashion in the 70s with the purpose of reusing our garbage instead of wasting our raw materials and filling up our landfills. Remarkable things can be made out of recycled products. As a matter of fact, this publication you are holding in your hands is printed on recycled paper.
From the world’s perspective, we have tried to “clean up our act,” so to speak. But, what about from a spiritual perspective? Is our mental garbage taking up space in our minds and hearts and robbing us of the valuable resource of God’s help and healing in our lives?
Certainly, there seems to be a lot of “garbage” in our lives, whether it be the fear and anxiety we have over the pandemic, or issues of judgement and anger we may be holding about current or past relationships. Many of us walk around filled with “garbage” that is taking up space and wasting the valuable resource we are as a child of God.
The passage from A Course in Miracles that begins this article is an answer to such “garbage.” God is like the great Recycler of life, for He takes all our illusions and transforms them into a miracle. His purpose is to help us look at our “garbage” and see that it can be transformed into something we can grow from — something that can be productive in our lives, a miracle. But, for this type of transformation to occur, we must be willing to make the choice for our “garbage” to be recycled.
“If you do not protect it, He will reinterpret it.” (T-12.I.8:9)
If you are like me, you have no idea how recycling works. Oh yes, we understand the basic idea: Take our garbage and make it into something we can use, but how that process is carried out might be beyond our comprehension or even our desire to know. What we really care about is that we have the product to use, and we got it in such a way that was healthy for us and the planet. We can feel good about the process and even the result, but we don’t have to know all the little details.
Well, this is what God wants us to do with our lives. He wants us to understand that He can take any polluting, stinking, and overwhelming problem in our lives and recycle it into something productive for us and the world. We don’t have to figure out the “hows, whats and whys” of His healing process for it to work. As a matter of fact, it is probably beyond our understanding, because we look with such a limited vision at our problems. The point is, He can heal our issues, because He cannot fail. No problem in this world is stronger than God. There is no issue He cannot recycle into a miracle. But, and this is a big “BUT,” we must want His healing. We must want our healing and release more than we want the problem — we must value our natural resource as a child of God more than the separate, fearful, manipulating “garbage” we have made of ourselves.
Let the recycling begin!
“You have learning handicaps in a very literal sense. There are areas in your learning skills that are so impaired that you can progress only under constant, clear-cut direction, provided by a Teacher Who can transcend your limited resources. He becomes your Resource because of yourself you cannot learn.” (T-12.V.5)
This passage may seem personally insulting, but if you honestly think about it, we all are pretty handicapped in our spiritual thinking. The world and its problems are constantly bombarding us with seeming “proof” of our separation, limitations, and suffering. There is no doubt that we need help, and Help (the Holy Spirit) is exactly what God has given us. The Course contains a wealth of help and a clear-cut path for teaching us how to experience this help for ourselves. It gives us the tools we need to step back and allow God to heal our lives. I have never found another material that provides the spiritual insight of the Course’s text or the practical application of those spiritual insights through the Course’s workbook.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of those insights from the Course to help us allow God’s Answer to recycle our thinking and show us His miracle instead.
“Do not attempt to give the Holy Spirit what He does not ask …. It is your realization that you need do so little that enables Him to give so much.” (T-18.IV.1:6)
As I have mentioned before, we do not have to understand how God works to know He does work. Our understanding is not necessary for His miracle to take place. He does not need us to try and help Him, He only needs our willingness to join with Him and let His Answer work through us.
When our daughter-in-law received her master’s degree, the only thing she wanted was for everyone to come to a graduation party at her and our son’s house. On the way down to the party, it dawned on my husband Paul and me that his ex-wife Susan would probably be there too. At the time of this party, Paul and I had been married for over eleven years and for many of those years Susan’s presence had served as a great lesson in forgiveness for both of us. We hadn’t seen her for years, but that had not stopped us from continually asking for help in healing our perception of her.
We had stopped trying to change her and make her understand we were not going down the path to hell, or that we were not spiritually or morally corrupting the kids because of our beliefs, which was how she viewed us for years. We had decided it was not up to us to change her, but for us to heal our minds and the way we viewed her. And, even that, we finally realized we could not do, but we could allow it to be done through us by the Holy Spirit. Had it worked? Was the Holy Spirit really able to transform this relationship into a miracle without our help? Was our willingness really enough?
When we got to the party, sure enough Susan was there with her husband. We greeted everyone, and, as the party progressed, we couples seemed to gravitate to each other. It did not seem contrived, but instead quite natural. We were actually enjoying each other’s company. She was so different or was it we who were so different? Of the many people at the party, the music, and celebration, our daughter-in-law and son were happiest of all at the sight of us together. They were taking pictures of us as they said, “Oh, let’s get a picture of the parents together — this is great!”
When did this transformation happen? That night? Of course not, it had been happening the moment we were willing to get our judgments out of the way and allow the Holy Spirit to give us “so much more.” Not only did He give us so much more, but He blessed our kids who were so happy to see the joining. He can create miracles out of the little we give Him, and He does not need our “help” — only our little willingness.
The recycling of our image of Susan, gave us a healed mind, a new friend, and gave our kids the joy of seeing their parents together. Susan and her husband, a week later, even sent in a donation to support Paul’s work with inner-city kids. The Holy Spirit’s recycling of our minds truly gave us a shift in our perception that we could have never imagined.
“Do not attempt to understand any event or anything or anyone in its [the past’s] ‘light’. . .” (T-14.XI.3:8)
The Course constantly reminds us we cannot understand anything as it truly is from our past perceptions. Viewing life from our past prevents us from understanding the present and the miracle God is offering us. One of my favorite prayers from the Course says:
“I do not know what anything, including this, means. And so I do not know how to respond to it. And I will not use my own past learning as the light to guide me now.” (T-14.XI.6:7)
It then continues with its explanation of what this prayer will give to us: “By this refusal to attempt to teach yourself what you do not know, the Guide Whom God has given you will speak to you. He will take His rightful place in your awareness the instant you abandon it, and offer it to Him.” (ibid) We are instructed once again that so little is asked of us, only to get out of God’s way so His Teacher, the Holy Spirit, can recycle our past thinking into a present miracle.
After a personal crisis, Paul was inspired to start KidSingers, a nonprofit organization that works with at-risk kids in our community. Out of a seeming tragedy, Paul allowed God to recycle his pain and hurt into a miracle that has, for nearly a quarter of a century, helped thousands of youths. In the early years of KidSingers, we would recruit kids by taking a 16-member adult ensemble into elementary schools to perform music education shows. This was a big hit! Kids loved the music and wanted to join in the fun and inspiration.
We must have done hundreds of programs, and I served as the MC (mistress of ceremonies). One particular performance stands out to me. It was at a school that had a number of deaf students. These children sat in the front rows and were signed the words to each of the songs performed by our ensemble. When we asked for volunteers to help us with a part of our program, one of these children raised her hand.
Since I was choosing the volunteers, my first inclination was to not choose her because of her “handicap” — I didn’t want to embarrass her (or myself!) if she could not understand, but something greater than myself took over, and I chose her and brought her up to the front. I realized I could not communicate my words to her, but the interpreter could, and she did. Each of the four children we selected, were asked to sing a note, but how could I help this child I perceived as challenged?
My panic set in for only a second, and then again, I felt as if something greater than myself erased my panic and past perceptions of deaf children; I saw only an enthusiastic child who wanted to be a part of the performance. The interpreter signed to her to sing a note, and without hesitation this little girl sang a note with more ease than some hearing children! I could not believe what she did! It was wonderful for everyone: the child, the other students, the teachers, the other singers in our group, and me. It proved to me that my own past learning was very faulty, and if I had followed it, I would have missed the miracle. I did not know the gift this child would be for all of us, but God did.
I was taught a valuable lesson that day. I realized this child was not the one with a handicap, but I nearly was! My handicapped thinking and lack of understanding nearly caused me to miss the miracle. Thank goodness God’s Resource was with me, and I was willing to let my past thinking be recycled, with His Help.
“…do not attempt to make yourself holy to be ready to receive it [the holy instant]. That is but to confuse your role with God’s. Atonement cannot come to those who think that they must first atone, but only to those who offer it nothing more than simple willingness to make way for it.” (T-18.IV.5:4)
This is one of my favorite quotes from the Course because it reinforces how simple this course is. God’s help is available right now. We don’t have to be able to quote chapter and verse from the Course, to have completed the workbook perfectly, or understand every line in the text for Him to help us. We don’t need to find an “expert” teacher in this world in order to learn how to understand or study the Course. We don’t even have to release our anger over a specific situation or release our judgment about a particular person. We are asked to come to God in our suffering, our confusion, and our feelings of inadequacy and ask for help. The Course continues by telling us this:
“You prepare your mind for it [the holy instant — God’s answer for our lives] only to the extent of recognizing that you want it above all else. It is not necessary that you do more; indeed, it is necessary that you realize that you cannot do more.” (T-18.IV.1:4)
I am in no way suggesting that it does not take a great deal of study, prayer, and vigilance to the Course’s message in order to understand or do what the above passage is asking of us. First, we must want God’s Answer for our lives, above all else. Next, we need to realize that it is not only necessary we do not do more, but vital to recognize we cannot do more. Both processes take a great deal of practice.
I have been a student of the Course for 44 years, and I am still learning. I have been asked many times, “Do you still get angry. Do you judge? Have you forgiven all your relationships?” My answer is always “I am in the process of healing.” I still get angry, judge, and withhold my forgiveness, but it doesn’t last as long as it used to. Peace is becoming more important to me than anything else, even if I still have an attachment to the “anything else” at times.
Bill Thetford, co-scribe of A Course in Miracles, was once asked, “How do you know when you are really understanding the Course’s message?” His answer was, “How long do you hold a grievance?”
It is not that we have figured out how to heal the issues of our lives — as we have read, that is not even our task. We must want God’s Answer for our lives; we must want the peace He is holding out to us more than we want to stay in our problems. That is our task, and thankfully we have His Holy Spirit to help us even with this. We don’t have to feel guilty if we get angry or experience a challenging situation in our lives — as if we have done something bad to make them appear. We are simply asked to come to God with all of our pain and hurt and confusion and leave it with Him. We must want His Answer more than our problems.
God’s Recycling Process
God can recycle anything. He will never judge your “garbage” as worse or better than another’s. To Him, all of our “garbage” is the same: merely a shadow, a puff of smoke that God’s Son has placed before the Resource God has given Him. Don’t let those shadows or illusions keep you from recognizing the miracle that He can create out of your illusions.
The following little poem, by that great author “anonymous,” has a clever way of expressing God’s recycling process…
I have in my hands two boxes
Which God gave me to hold
He said, “Put all your sorrow in the black,
And all your joys in the gold.
I heeded His words, and in the two boxes
Both my joys and sorrow I store
But though the gold became heavier each day
The black was as light as before.
With curiosity, I opened the black
I wanted to find out why
And I saw, in the base of the box, a hole
Which my sorrows had fallen out by.
I showed the hole to God, and mused aloud,
“I wonder where my sorrows could be.”
He smiled a gentle smile at me.
My child, they’re all here with me.”
I asked, “God, why give me the boxes,
Why the gold, and the black with a hole?”
My child, the gold is for you to count your blessings,
the black is for you to let go.”
Hallelujah! Let go and let the recycling begin!