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PART II.  SECTION 7.  What is the Holy Spirit?

Lesson 289 The past is over.  It can touch me not.

  1. Unless the past is over in my mind, the real world must escape my sight.  For I am really looking nowhere; seeing but what is not there.  How can I then perceive the world forgiveness offers?  This the past was made to hide, for this the world that can be looked on only now.  It has no past.  For what can be forgiven but the past, and it if is forgiven it is gone.
  2. Father let me not look upon a past that is not there.  For You have offered me Your Own replacement, in a present world the past has left untouched and free of sin.  Here is the end of guilt.  And here am I made ready for Your final step.  Shall I demand that You wait longer for Your Son to find the loveliness You planned to be the end of all his dreams and all his pain?[1]
Photo credit: http://www.nyt.com

I have a bad habit of holding on to things. It may sound funny to some, but I like to reuse Zip-Lock bags and cottage cheese containers.  I have been known to rinse out a paper towel and hang it to dry.  Bread wrappers, old pillowcases, glass jars, heck – even old curtains, have been put to second, and even third uses under my frugal, penny-pinching watch. 

While there is nothing wrong with getting a second use from something, there are times I take it too far.  Suddenly I will see my amassing glass jar collection and realize that I have no room on the shelf for the case of black olives we just brought home from Sam’s Club.  I will see the sad excuse for an oven mitt that I was sure would end up a lot cuter and more practical when I patched two old ones together and feel ashamed of the time I wasted stitching it together.  The dresses that I made for my grandnieces commencements out of extra pillowcases were not the smash-hit that I had pictured them to become, and nobody appreciated the homemade aprons I made for them out of my old striped curtains and Chinese coasters one year at Christmas.  Lately, I have made a pact with myself to let things go after they have served their original purpose.  Letting things go keeps my life simple and free.  As long as I am filling up space with old and used, there is no room for new and fresh.

In today’s lesson, Jesus tells us to do the same with the past.  Just let it go.  Get over it.  As long as we are looking at the past, we cannot see the real world.  As long as we are looking at the past, we are looking at something that is not there.  The past was actually made, Jesus says, to hide the present, for when we see the present, we see the real world.  A few weeks ago, I was in the pool at the hotel and my mind was suddenly free.  It was so beautiful.  The water was cool and felt so nice on my skin.  There was a pleasant smell in the air.  The music playing over the intercom was bouncy and invigorating.  I was keenly aware of how perfect everything was around me, no aches or pains, no jangled nerves or insistent demands.  Just peace, tranquility, and gratitude – the real world that Jesus mentions throughout the Course.  I realized that for those few moments my mind had been free of all past associations.  I was in the present moment, splashing about, not worried, not missing anybody or anything.  

This is what it means when we forgive and forget the past.  We just give it up.  We get over it.  I have always been scared to pieces to talk in front of anybody.  My legs would shake; my voice would tremble; my eyes would even tear up.  And then one day when I got up to speak, I forgot the past.  I forgot that it filled me with dread to talk in front of people.  While I could have let my former discomfort and unease keep me imprisoned in an idea about myself that was not true, on that day I simply got up and talked. It was so fun that afterwards I could not wait to do it again!

Several years ago a dear friend sent me a note which said, in so many words, that she no longer considered me a friend.  I had hurt her feelings and she was not prepared to give me another chance.  Recently Holy Spirit told me to forget about that note, to forgive it, and heal the relationship.  I could have insisted on remembering the note and saying, “No, she doesn’t want to be my friend,” but instead I chose to forget about the hurt it had caused, the self-doubt and hatred, the shame, loneliness, and despair.  She chose to forgive and forget the ways in which I had carelessly disregarded her feelings and made her feel unwelcome.  Now we celebrate a holy friendship which far surpasses the special relationship that we shared in the past.  We forgot about the past.  We celebrate the present which is untouched, free of sin and guilt. 

Jesus is not asking us to brainwash ourselves.  He is not telling us to pretend that we forgot something or that we forgave something.  He is asking us instead to consciously choose to forgive and “forget” it happened.  Holy Spirit will do the rest.  We let our brothers off the hook and no longer torture ourselves with ideas of their sin and guilt – and when we do that, we see the real world. 


[1] A Course In Miracles, Workbook for Students, 289.  The past is over…Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition, p. 442