Part 1 Undoing the Way We See Things Now
Lesson 104 Seek But What Belongs to Me in Truth.
- Today’s idea continues with the thought that joy and peace are not but idle dreams. They are your right, because of what you are. They come to you from God, Who cannot fail to give you what He Wills. Yet must there be a place made ready to receive His gifts. They are not welcomed gladly by a mind that has instead received the gifts it made where His belong, as substitutes for them.
- Today we would remove all meaningless and self-made gifts which we have placed upon the holy altar where God’s gifts belong. His are the gifts that are our own in truth. His are the gifts that we inherited before time was, and that will still be ours when time has passed into eternity. His are the gifts that are within us now, for they are timeless. And we need not wait to have them. They belong to us today.
- Therefore, we choose to have them now, and know, in choosing them in place of what we made, we but unite our will with what God wills, and recognize the same as being one. Our longer practice periods today, the hourly five minutes given truth for your Salvation, should begin with this: I see but what belongs to me in truth, and joy and peace are my inheritance. Then lay aside the conflicts of the world that offer other gifts and other goals made of illusions, witnessed to by them, and sought for only in a world of dreams.
- All this we lay aside, and seek instead that which is truly ours, as we ask to recognize what God has given us. We clear a holy place within our minds before His altar, where His gifts of peace and joy are welcome, and to which we come to find what has been given us by Him. We come in confidence today, aware that what belongs to us in truth is what He gives. And we would wish for nothing else, for nothing else belongs to us in truth.
- So do we clear the way for Him today by simply recognizing that His Will is done already, and that joy and peace belong to us as His eternal gifts. We will not let ourselves lose sight of them between the times we come to seek for them where He has laid them. This reminder will we bring to mind as often as we can: I seek but what belongs to me and truth. God’s gifts of joy and peace are all I want.
Notes and Personal Application: God’s gifts of joy and peace are all I should want, but it would seem otherwise, because if anything A Course in Miracles has taught me about myself, it is that here, in the flesh, I am enchanted by a mind that chooses to go with the ego over the spirit on any given day, no matter what my good intentions!
Today Jesus is asking us to take a good, long look at these gifts we made to and for ourselves. Do they bring us joy? Do they bring us peace? I asked Holy Spirit to illuminate my mind and show me the gifts that I made to substitute for the joy and peace of God. Show me a picture, I prayed. Let me know what I am doing wrong so that I can experience the gifts of God on a more consistent basis. Throughout the day I was aware of grudging, even hateful thoughts towards others – those who took more than they gave, the ones who did not respect my need for sleep, privacy, or my creative pursuits, the ones who used me as a sounding board for all their negativity and then discarded my friendship when it no longer served their purpose, the ones who expected me to forgive and overlook all their wrongdoing but take full accountability for my own. The thing about indulging in grudges – the more one indulges the more that comes to join in.
The whole day went by. When I would take a few minutes to sit down to write this blog, I was empty. How could I write and share about God’s gifts of joy and peace when I was experiencing anything but? Why, on this beautiful, windy, sunny spring day in central Pennsylvania when everything seemed to be going my way, were my thoughts not only troubled by animosity and skepticism, but seeking what belongs to me in truth seemed to be too much work, too much to ask of me, too ethereal for my flesh and blood resistance. I am just not good enough for this, Jesus, I said at one point. I despise people. I cannot stand their egos and I cannot tolerate my own. I want to love humanity, but I don’t. I don’t wish anybody ill will, I wish them all love and peace and joy, but all I want to do is come home and be with You.
Thoughts of my darling husband, the grown children, the grandchildren, the Australorp chicks, the duck eggs in the incubator, all the little seedlings growing tall in the greenhouse, the T-bone steak my husband grilled for us tonight, the new yellow and black MDV to help with outside work (not to mention tearing around the countryside), nothing could compel me to want to seek what belongs to me in truth or otherwise. Life in the body seemed like a meaningless, joyless chore.
This is not a new feeling for me. I have struggled with this oppressive view of life from childhood. I could never understand why people are so enamored with what can only end in death. God seemed a juvenile, capricious maker to style us so vulnerable, easily manipulated by unholy drives, bloated on our own self-importance, trapped in a hellish realm where one is expected to scramble for limited resources before someone else can get to it.
I seldom confess to the dark state of mind. I have learned to wear a happy face, to smile and laugh at all the right moments. To express love and joy no matter how it drains me, to put on an act. I have learned this about people: Nobody loves me when I am honest. They love the act but not the actor. When I drop the act, who is there? I even try to do this with God, but through our practice I have learned that God wants my real Self. He wants my honesty. He wants me to be unhappy with separation – He wants me to be unhappy with my ego and the flesh and blood body. If I were happy with it, if all things here were fine and dandy why would I seek but what belongs to me in truth? Why would I let go of the gifts of the ego and make a place for the gifts of God?
He does not require me to love the egos of others. He does not ask me to cater to them or spend my time sorting through their dramas. He asks me to love my brothers, who like me have been caught up in a false identity, who have forgotten who and what they really are. Life here is but a dream, an illusion, it is separation from God and from timelessness. Time’s only purpose, according to our Course, is to wake us up, to show us our need to return to God. While I believe this is true, the practice is not easy.
In paragraph two of our lesson, Jesus tells us to remove all the meaningless and self-made gifts which we have placed upon the holy altar where God’s gifts belong. What are these meaningless and self-made gifts, Holy Spirit? I want to know. I don’t feel like I can do anything about it. I feel like ego is gaining ground. The anger, grievances, and hatred are back, and I am weary of taking the stand. Please let me know, give me a picture, spell it out to me so I know what I have made, when I made it, and how to let it go so that I can experience Your joy and peace again.
The day passed. We enjoyed firing up the grill. I baked a key-lime pie for James. We tucked the chicks in the henhouse for the night. We sat on the recliners and watched a few episodes of The Chef’s Table and had a good laugh at some of the more imaginative, inedible looking dishes. We discussed our projects, later we fell asleep snuggled in our warm nest. And yet my mind was not a place of rest.
In the night, awake and troubled, I went downstairs and prayed again. Please show me. I want to know about these gifts that I made which sit on the holy altar where God’s gifts belong. I feel so weary. So full of all that old stuff again. I don’t know if I can keep doing this – gain a little ground and then lose it again. It seems as if this is the story of my spiritual journey. I poured out my thoughts to God. I didn’t put a happy face on them. I gave Him my grief. I bared my soul. I gave Him my sorrow, my deep sense of loneliness and despair. I cried, as I am now – writing about it. It felt like when my daughter died, that kind of anguish, that tearing of muscle from tissue, of fat from meat. It could have been a fright, but I felt protected, warm, and cherished in spite of the pain.
Holy Spirit showed me two of my self-made gifts. He showed me through explicit memories when I made the gifts and why. I was a little girl who begged her mom to go to the farm and play with Amy. Amy played one trick after the other on me, but I could never get enough of her. She was my best friend, my dearly beloved cousin, an instigator of adventure, fun, and frolic. Without Amy, my early childhood would have been dull and without luster perhaps; with Amy it was high adventure, dangerous, and chancy. Without details, Amy, beloved cousin, beloved friend, was troubled, disturbed. And I loved her, and I forgave her, and I held no ill will toward her – for the longest time.
And there was my mother. The same, though a seeker and teacher of God, a Holy Ghost filled tongue speaker, a faith healer, a teacher of God’s everlasting love and His everlasting torment. A fun-lover, a gentle, generous soul, a fiery, abusive one. She was two selves and one did not cancel out the other. I forgave her everything without even knowing it was pardon; it did not register in me to bear ill will, to hold a grudge. She was my beloved, my darling mother, the succor of my childhood. I saw my mother and Amy as one. I touched them in my mind, I could feel the intensity of my love and devotion to them, the gratitude for what they brought into my life. I saw the others, too, my father and my brothers, my sister, my first sister-in-law, the niece and the nephew, the aunts and uncles and cousins and neighbors. I was there.
And all was forgiven. The hurts, the pain, the sense of utter disappointment, the feelings of wishing I were dead when they withheld their love or toyed with mine. The family dinners – my mom’s fried chicken, my brothers getting packed up to go to Carr cabin, the excitement generated by my sister’s boyfriends, seeing her off to Miracle Valley for Bible College, seeing dad cry when she got on the Greyhound bus. The love, the warmth, the sense of safety and bliss of home, the Christmas and Easter feasts, the Thanksgiving turkeys. Getting punched in the nose by my oldest brother; getting slapped across the face for taking someone’s part, spying on my sister when she had friends over, sneaking in my brother’s room and reading his pornography – it was all there. The phone ringing and answering it with “Steckley’s TV Service, how can I help you?” Pencil poised to take a note in case it was a business call for Dad, or a prayer request for my mother to pray over. There were no hard feelings; I took it all in stride: The drunken uncle who visited mom and asked to hold her hand and steal a kiss; running to the farm to get a gallon of milk for fifty cents; hiding from the uncle who rubbed his whiskers on my cheek and had a reputation for being fresh with kids. There was Mom making homemade play dough and me, shaping it out for hours on the kitchen table while we sang songs about Jesus. There we were picking peas and green beans at Furmans after the pickers went through with Lois Flick, bringing them home to put them up in jars for over winter. Taking it as it came, loving, forgiving, not bearing ill will, no condemnation. It was life. Crying and laughing and not complaining. I was that girl, that little girl.
And then I was taken to the other place where I made the gifts that took the place of joy and peace. I was sitting on an overturned boat in the yard of the boat shack where we lived in Crystal Beach after dad died. I was 10, almost 11. This was a daily occurrence: Mom and Beckie were out having fun all day – going to Tarpon Springs, out on the water deep sea fishing, collecting shells, eating picnics on the sand, rummaging through open markets while I went to school. I had no key to get in the house. My head was thumping, almost nonstop. It started when Dad died and seldom let up. It was hard to think, it was hard to make sense of anything. Nothing seemed real anymore. At the bus stop and at recess the kids surrounded me as a curiosity – I wasn’t the usual northern snowbird coming to Florida for the winter and living in the second home. They would fire scathing questions with rolling eyes and snide looks: How do three people live in that little shack? What do you eat? Where did you get your clothes? Where are you from? Where does your mom work? How do you survive? What do they do all day? What do you do without a television? Why do you always wear dresses? It’s so hot – why do you have that long heavy skirt on? Are you poor? Why are you here? How long are you going to stay?
I sat on the overturned boat and my helplessness started to overwhelm me. Unhappiness, shame, a sense of injustice, the accumulated meanness in which my younger, stupider self had not noticed earlier – the insanity of the nightly church services which lasted past midnight, my mom’s blatant favoritism for my sister, the terrible idea she espoused that God would remove my father so she could save the youth of America and overseas. They had mocked my tears when they took my three beloved cats for a ride and dropped them off at an abandoned farm before we moved to Crystal Beach. I remembered how they made fun of my headaches, imitating me holding my head, moping in pain, and begging to stay home from school. It all began to take form and become more real than the glorious songs we sang on the way to church services and back, the good meals we made, the sense of adventure we shared in the old boat shack, getting a taste of what we could only otherwise experience vicariously. All I could think about was the metallic migraine on my tongue; their mockery and conspiratorial, sneaky fun, being locked out of my own house, being shamed by the wealthy kids in the neighborhood, having to wear those long, heavy dresses my mother called holy because they covered up my chubby knees. I had nothing to cancel out my anguish and defenselessness.
That was the day I stopped loving them. I vowed that I would love them no more. They would not bully me and get away with it! I would only seem to play nice, but once I could get away, I would never speak to either one of them again. I made gifts to myself of spite and vengeance, and how I loved my gifts. They made me feel powerful and in control of one tiny little section of my otherwise dicey existence. My gifts helped me survive the chaos of neglect, abuse, ignorance, and stupidity that otherwise governed my life.
I was no longer a sappy lover or a natural forgiver. I began to collect my grudges like other people collect stamps or glass Coke bottles. I savored them. I made lists of them. I plotted my escape and came up with sneak attacks and maneuvers. I was no longer afraid. I lost my baby fat and learned how to exercise. I refused to wear what she wanted me to wear. I told lies and learned how to pretend. I demanded. I fought. I bullied. Even my passion for boys was motivated in large part to drive my mother mad with worry. In other words, I made her pay.
Holy Spirit showed me how I cherished the gifts I made, worshipped and made much of them, but kept them hidden, even from myself, beneath my round, baby face and a beatific smile. He showed me how my gifts, made by fear and hurt and pain, had distanced me from all that was real and had meaning. These gifts had become my identity in the world and everybody who thought they knew me, who hated, loved, or was indifferent to me was affected by my self-made gifts, the mistrust and spite and lies disguised as me. The reveal was personal, specific, and visceral – Holy Spirit showed me plainly, clearly how deeply ingrained my belief in my own gifts, how I continue to seek protection and salvation from them, even now as I seek a return to God. Of course I cannot have it both ways. I give up the gifts I made in place of God’s gift or I keep them in place of healing and salvation.
I could not write about this until today. Yesterday I shared the reveal with James, then later with our study group. (In the night I shared the story with my online teacher, Laurie.) Instead of recoiling from me in horror, my dear brothers embraced me and shrugged it off as we are told to do, laughing and giving me joy and peace. Today I feel free to share it with you in faith that we walk together in truth, seeking only the joy and peace of God.
 A Course in Miracles. Workbook for Students. Lesson 104 I seek but what…Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition, (1992). pp. 186-187.