by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
When I was growing up, every summer our family traveled the country. My dad was a salesman, and during the school year we were home with mom. He missed having his family around, and even though it was more expensive to travel with the family, he felt the benefits outweighed the costs. I am so grateful he did, because we saw some beautiful country and some interesting sites.
You have to remember this was back in the 60s when color TV and 3-D glasses were cutting-edge technology. As my brother and I sat un-seatbelted, and peered out the window of our un-air conditioned station wagon, we were fascinated by the billboards.
Each one piqued our interest for the next one …. World’s largest hole in the ground 15 miles ahead! … See the 8th Wonder of the World 10 miles ahead! … Scientist baffled by massive sight 7 miles ahead! … Turn up ahead! Turn NOW! Don’t miss this amazing spectacle!
As kids, of course, we believed everything those signs said. Our parents knew better, but they couldn’t help getting sucked into our enthusiasm. The “8th Wonder of the World” usually turned out to be pretty uneventful, but there was always a gift shop.
Those billboards still work today. When I have since traveled some of those familiar highways of my childhood, I have noticed a few of those old signs are still up. Maybe it’s just too costly to take them down, but those outdated ads are still up “shouting” their stories.
We’re a lot like billboards. Some of us have done some pretty elaborate advertising about ourselves.
We’re a lot like billboards. Some of us have done some pretty elaborate advertising about ourselves. We may talk a good story, but the proof of what we advertise is not in our words, but in our living. This certainly is not a new idea. Both the Bible and A Course in Miracles say, “By their fruits you will know them.” In the new age movement, the catch phrase has been, “Walk your talk.” As a matter of fact, when I Googled that concept, it came up more than 67 million times!
There’s a lot of desire to “walk our talk,” but it’s not the easiest thing to do. The Course’s suggestion that all decisions are a choice between love and fear seems simple enough until we are faced with that irritating person yet again.
We are told in the Course that neither time nor season means anything in eternity, but often the dawn of a new year seems to give us more willingness to start again on a path of awareness. Fortunately for us, the Holy Spirit can certainly make use of this willingness. We need not change our job, move, or find a new relationship to experience the peace and fulfillment of life that is right here now – we just have to be willing.
If you are willing, perhaps these steps from the Course’s workbook lesson 302 might be just the nudge you need. What I like about this lesson, “Where darkness was I look upon the light,” is that it doesn’t say anything new. Instead, it lays out the basic premise of the Course’s thought system in four points to help you walk your talk.
1. We remember our Source: “We thought we suffered. But we had forgot the Son whom You created.”
The Course tells us this is the basis of all our problems: an identity issue. We are creations of God, imbued with all the attributes of our Creator, and light and joy and peace abide in us because our Father put them there. As creations of love, what is not love cannot be a part of us; therefore, fear, suffering, or darkness cannot be our reality. With that said, the fact that we are co-creators with God means we have the power to experience our reality or not, but we can’t lose it. As the Course tells us, “You can wait, delay, paralyze yourself, or reduce your creativity almost to nothing. But you cannot abolish it.” (T-1.V.1:5)
The reality of who we are remains available to us whenever we are ready to accept it. Much like the fairytale of the ugly duckling who never quite fit in with the other ducks because he was really a beautiful swan, we don’t fit into the world of pain, suffering, and fear because we are holy creations of a loving Father.
2. We accept responsibility: “Now we see that darkness is our own imagining, and light is there for us to look upon.”
This reality starts to dawn on us naturally as we begin accepting the first premise. If we are co-creators with God, then the world is a reflection of our power to choose. In the case of the world, we fell asleep to our reality in God and in our dreaming made a nightmarish world of fear, hate, attack, and guilt. This is not the world of a loving God; it’s a parody of a childish mind out of control. Have you ever seen a two-year-old throw a temper tantrum? We are much like that — we are out of control. This world seems to be beyond us, but it is our dream and therefore can be changed from a nightmare to a happy dream.
When I was a little girl, I had a recurring dream of planting black seeds outside our house, watering them, and having a gorilla grow from them. The gorilla would chase me inside the house, pushing open the front door I’d slammed behind me. I would run to the bathroom, lock the door, and then wake up in terror as the gorilla pounded on the door. The last time I had that dream, I ran into the house, again closing the front door behind me, but instead of the gorilla chasing me inside, he rang the doorbell. My grandmother (who had never been in my dream before) opened the door, and invited the gorilla in for tea. I thought she was insane, as I ran for the bathroom, but the next thing I saw was the gorilla having tea with her. She invited me to join her strange tea party, which I did, and that was that.
I never had that dream again. I had faced my fear (with the help of my grandmother), and it was not so terrifying after all. I can see now that I planted and cultivated the seeds that grew the fear I then thought was chasing me. When my grandmother (who symbolized Christ’s vision) helped me to view my self-created darkness in its true light, the story changed. I had no more need of the nightmare.
In nature, the antidote to every poisonous plant grows within close proximity. The same is true of our thinking; within every seemingly dark and fearful thought is the potential for light, the truth. Where will we dwell? As we accept responsibility for the experiences of our lives, it is not so we can make ourselves guilty, but so we can affect a real and lasting change – from darkness to light. As the Course reminds us, “…the Holy Spirit has another use for all the illusions you have made, and therefore He sees another purpose in them. To the Holy Spirit, the world is a place where you learn to forgive yourself what you think of as your sins.” (W-64.2:2)
3. We are never alone: “Christ’s vision changes darkness into light, for fear must disappear when love has come.”
This is a critical step in our understanding. We can’t escape from fear on our own because we are the ones who insanely thought we could make an opposite to love (fear), and therefore believe in our “creation,” even if it is an illusion.
From our current perspective, we can see no way out. Much like the little boy who put his finger in the hole of a dike to plug a leak, only to have another leak pop up in need of another finger, we keep trying to fix a “leaking” world from the same fearful, limited, and lacking perspective, and it never works. Nothing changes until we move our focus from the problem to the solution. This is not denial, but instead a decision to join our minds with the Holy Spirit and look directly at what the problem seems to be so that we might move past it to the solution beyond. We are guaranteed that Help will be given us, and we will succeed… “For His [Holy Spirit’s] promise is always, ‘Seek and you will find,’ and under His guidance you cannot be defeated. His is the journey to accomplishment, and the goal He sets before you He will give you. For He will never deceive God’s Son whom He loves…” (T-12.IV.4)
As we look at the darkness and invite Christ’s vision into our thoughts, our minds become open to the miracles that are our inheritance. The Course quite dramatically and poetically puts it this way…
“A miracle has lighted up all dark and ancient caverns, where the rites of death echoed since time began. For time has lost its hold upon the world. The Son of God has come in glory to redeem the lost, to save the helpless, and to give the world the gift of his forgiveness. Who could see the world as dark and sinful, when God’s Son has come again at last to set it free?” (W-191.8:1)
Wow, what a thought! To realize that as we allow Christ’s vision to light our minds, we begin to dissolve all those thoughts of fear and darkness we have grown so comfortable with. It does not take time, but willingness. Why would we not be willing to arise in our glory so we might help those who feel lost or helpless, and in the process heal ourselves? We forgive so we can be healed, but everyone is helped by our “selfish” (or should I say “selfless”) act, as well.
4. We walk our talk: “Let me forgive Your holy world today, that I may look upon its holiness and understand it but reflects my own.”
As each of the preceding thoughts gently leads to the next, this is a natural outcome of allowing Christ’s vision to lead the way. Our evolutionary thinking can begin to change us on a cellular level, because, as our thoughts change, our world will respond.
When you look back through time, you see the physical process of evolution on man, but we can also see our emotional evolution. The founders of this country were slave owners. Even though they may not have condoned the harsh treatment of slaves, they did not abolish it. Even Jefferson said the issue of slavery is for another time, and that time was about one hundred years later. We know now that even Lincoln would have forgone the slaves’ freedom if it would have avoided a civil war. Of course today the idea of enslaving someone is unconscionable.
We are evolving into the truth of who we have always been. Imagine a future where forgiveness does lead the way. Where our first thought is a willingness to see the holiness in this world and each other, since we know that is our only reality. Why would we condemn another if we truly understood we would be condemning ourselves as well?
John Lennon sang in his classic song “Imagine” that to imagine a world of love, unity, and peace wasn’t hard to do; and, I would add, when we even consider the possibility – have a little willingness – it’s the beginning of our evolution into the Self we have always been.
It’s time we begin to look at the shackles we perceive in the world and realize they cannot stop the Holy Son of God from accomplishing his mission of healing the thoughts of separation. Let us no longer be comfortable with thoughts of hate, fear, and attack. Let us look directly at them and invite Christ to be our vision. We may not know how to remove them (that is the job of Christ, the Holy Spirit) but we no longer value their presence.
As the Course tells us…
“Freedom is given you where you beheld but chains and iron doors. But you must change your mind about the purpose of the world, if you would find escape. You will be bound till all the world is seen by you as blessed, and everyone made free of your mistakes and honored as he is. You made him not; no more yourself. And as you free the one, the other is accepted as he is.” (W-200.5:1)
So we let Christ show us the world that would set us free and the reality of those we have judged either good or bad. Now we can see them as they truly are, without their past or ours as well.
This is a process of choosing again and again for healing and help. Just as a baby stumbles and falls as he learns to walk, but he never gives up. Every adorable attempt is met with laughter and applause because he tried. So when we stumble, let’s laugh away the feelings of defeat and guilt and remember we walk with and to God; “could any way be holier, or more deserving of your effort…?” (W-155.12:3)
As we enter into this New Year, let’s walk our talk as we start again on our journey without distance to a goal that has never changed – to be excited to know each thought of forgiveness is a healing balm, not just for us but for this world.
Pick up that workbook from the Course and dust it off. Start again or for the first time. It’s not a race, but be consistent. When you fail, try again and again and again.
“Forget not once this journey is begun the end is certain. Doubt along the way will come and go and go to come again. Yet is the ending sure. No one can fail to do what God appointed him to do.” (M-Epilogue)