by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
Remember the days of car radios when you had to dial in the station? Depending on what might be blocking your signal, whether it be location, atmospheric conditions, or how you were holding your mouth, you might get good reception or a lot of static. Well, I had one of those cars. I remember once, when I was driving with my husband Paul, and I tuned into a station with a lot of static. Now, Paul is a musician with almost perfect pitch, so he does not like static; he wants to hear the clear beauty of the sound. I, on the other hand, was not as refined because I liked the station. He asked me how I could listen to a station with all that static. Since the station was a favorite and it never came in very well, I just tolerated it. I had gotten so used to the static; I didn’t even notice it anymore.
“The ego depends solely on your willingness to tolerate it.” (T-9.VIII.6)
It hit me that this story is really a metaphor for life. We have gotten so used to the “static” of life: the fear, anger, frustration, judgments, feelings of worthlessness, depression, etc., that we don’t even think there can be another way. We lament about all the disasters taking place and who is and is not responsible for them. We chew on this side of the problem and then that side of the problem, but like a useless piece of gristle, it needs to be spit out and not tolerated any longer.
“You who identify with your ego cannot believe God loves you.” (T-4.III.4)
We put up with the pain, suffering, and problems of life because we don’t think we deserve anything better. We don’t realize that there is another station clearly transmitting an alternative to our pathetic opinion. It is time we tune into the truth. We have made a mistake about who we are. A Course in Miracles would tell each of us that we are God’s holy child, we are the light of the world, we are the Kingdom of Heaven, but we have let a belief in darkness enter our minds, and so we need to be reminded of Who we are.
Like the story of the prodigal son, we feel we have left our Father’s home for what we thought the world could offer us. Now the world and all its problems seem very real to us, and we find it hard to believe that our loving Father would accept us back after we have forsaken Him for the world. And yet, like the prodigal son, when we come Home to our Father (when we turn to Him), He welcomes us with open arms. For to God, we have never forsaken Him or left Him – we were always with Him.
When our son Jeffrey was about three years old, he went through the stage where he would wander away from us. At that age, kids are exerting their will and often go in the direction they want, even if the parent says no. One time Paul let Jeffrey wander away in hopes of teaching him a lesson. Instead of immediately going after him, Paul watched from a distance. When Jeff thought he was all alone, he began to cry. Paul quickly appeared to comfort him. Even though Paul told Jeffrey he was always watching him, and Paul was with him now, Jeff continued to cry. It took Jeffrey a while to finally be comforted.
We think we have wandered away from God’s love and care. Yet we have never left God’s awareness. The moment we are willing to identify with the truth of who we are, we will know ourselves again and feel the unity and joy that brings. Just as Jeffrey was still afraid and crying after he was found, so do we often feel lost in this world even though God is holding us. We need to remove the barriers that we have built up against His love and presence in our lives.
“What you believe is true for you. In this sense the separation has occurred, and to deny it is merely to use denial inappropriately. However, to concentrate on error is only a further error. The initial corrective procedure is to recognize temporarily that there is a problem, but only as an indication that immediate correction is needed.” (T-2.VII.5)
The Course tells us that the ego is nothing more than a mistaken thought. It is a thought that we could be separate from God, from His safety and love. But even though this thought is nothing, we have made its nothingness seem quite real. The world with all its devastation and beauty, our bodies with all their strengths and frailties, and our relationships with all their challenges and opportunities are all reflections of the thought of separation, of our ego.
It would make no sense to deny this world or its effects on us, since we still believe in their reality, and A Course in Miracles does not ask us to do this. Instead, it asks us to look directly at every event, situation, or person who causes us pain and tune into the truth instead of the illusion.
The Course tells us, “The best defense, as always, is not to attack another’s position, but rather to protect the truth.” (T-3.I.2) We will never escape from our suffering by denying that we think we are these physical bodies or by ignoring the things of the world. But, by focusing on the truth in every situation, we will be placing our attention on love, which is our Source and the only thing that can transcend this illusory world.
When Jeff was just learning to walk, he would pull himself up by grabbing the leg of our black lacquer piano. He would move all around that big piece of furniture leaving little handprints all over the place. Before Jeffrey came into our lives, I never would have tolerated a smudge or mark on our beautiful piano. But with him, I didn’t see the handprints as something that took away from the beauty of the piano, but rather as what really made the piano beautiful. Those little marks reminded me of love. Oh, I cleaned the piano, but now I did it in gratitude for the life of the one who made those marks.
Perhaps there are people or situations in your life that have made an unpleasant mark. You will never heal those situations by denying them or attacking them, but only by transforming them in love. The key to healing is where we place our focus – what we are tuning in to. Unless we embrace this truth of who we are and who they are, we will continue the world of pain and suffering.
“The ego’s opposite in every way, we call a miracle.” (C-2.5)
We no longer need to be satisfied with the “static” that the world offers us. It is time for us to live the life God intended. We were created to be heirs to the kingdom, and we need to accept that inheritance. The world and its myriad problems cannot change the truth of who we are or the love that God has for us. We need to start looking at these problems and see through them with God’s Help to see the answer. This is the miracle God wants us to experience.
A Course in Miracles tells us that whatever the distress in our lives or the world, it is a call for help. No matter whether we think the deed was done maliciously, purposefully, or accidentally, the answer is always the same. “The only judgment involved is the Holy Spirit’s one division into two categories; one of love, and the other the call for love.” (T-14.X.7) The Course goes on to say that we are too bound to our perceptions to recognize love or a call for love and therefore we do not really respond to what a person or a situation is really offering us. But we can, with God’s Help, allow a miracle to shift our perception to see the gift of every person and situation in which we find ourselves.
I am reminded of a story about when Jeff was just learning to speak; he would talk all the time! When we would drive around in the car, he would be busily looking out the windows taking in and commenting on each thing that caught his eye. I would always try to comment on what he said and help him say the words. But one day his words were far better than mine. We drove by the scene of a terrible accident. The car was squashed up like an accordion. Not a word came out of Jeffrey’s mouth as he looked, and I wasn’t quite sure what to say but the obvious. Before I could say a word, Jeffrey put his little arms out towards the car and said, “Hug!” He saw the hurt and his instinct was so right.
“When a brother acts insanely, he is offering you an opportunity to bless him. His need is yours.” (T-7.VII.2)
We need to look with the innocence of a child and that is what the Holy Spirit can help us do. The Holy Spirit’s vision looks through the form of the problems in our lives straight to the truth. He lifts us out of our desire to sit and dwell on what we think was done to us so we might be healed. He sees every block to our peace as an extension of love or a call for love, and therefore knows that the only answer is love. The Course reminds us that this way of seeing cannot be hard to do, since it is not we who do it – that is the Holy Spirit’s job. Our job is to want it to be done.
We have that opportunity every moment, but especially when the holidays roll around. During these times, there is often more of a willingness to give moments of grace to ourselves and others. We seem to be more willing to allow the possibility of peace, love, and healing to replace our angry, fearful thinking. It all depends on us, however. Where will we dwell? Will we remain in what we have become used to: the static thoughts of judgment and fear? Or will we recognize that we deserve more and tune into God’s love to lead the way in all our actions?
I am hopeful. I read the newspaper and listen to the news, and when I allow God’s love to lead the way, I am grateful that into each situation I encounter, I can offer a blessing. I have another chance to be a miracle worker and bring the awareness of love to my mind by extending that as my gift to the world.
As the Course requests, “Let us be glad that we can walk the world, and find so many chances to perceive another situation where God’s gift can once again be recognized as ours!” (T-31.VIII.9) If we can tune into this truth, this will truly be a holy season.