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A COURSE IN MIRACLES Chapter 17 Forgiveness and the Holy Relationship

IV. The Two Pictures 11-16

11. The holy instant is a miniature of Heaven, sent you from Heaven. It is a picture, too, set in a frame. Yet if you accept this gift you will not see the frame at all, because the gift can only be accepted through your willingness to focus all your attention on the picture. The holy instant is a miniature of eternity. It is a picture of timelessness, set in a frame of time. If you focus on the picture, you will realize that it was only the frame that made you think it was a picture. Without the frame, the picture is seen as what it represents. For as the whole thought system of the ego lies in its gifts, so the whole of Heaven lies in this instant, borrowed from eternity, and set in time for you.

12. Two gifts are offered you. Each is complete and cannot be partially accepted. Each is a picture of all that you could have, seen very differently. You cannot compare their value by comparing a picture to a frame. It must be the pictures only that you compare, or the comparison is wholly without meaning. Remember that it is the picture that is the gift. And only on this basis are you really free to choose.  Look at the pictures. Both of them. One is a tiny picture, hard to see at all beneath the heavy shadows of its enormous and disproportionate enclosure. The other is lightly framed and hung in light, lovely to look upon for what it is.

13. You who have tried so hard, and are still trying, to fit the better picture into the wrong frame and so combine what cannot be combined, accept this and be glad. These pictures are each framed perfectly for what they represent. One is framed to be out of focus and not seen. The other is framed for perfect clarity. The picture of darkness and of death grows less convincing as you search it out amid its wrappings. As each senseless stone that seems to shine from the frame in darkness is exposed to light, it becomes dull and lifeless, and ceases to distract you from the picture. And finally you look upon the picture itself, seeing at last that, unprotected by the frame, it has no meaning.

14. The other picture is lightly framed, for time cannot contain eternity. There is no distraction here. The picture of Heaven and eternity grows more convincing as you look at it. And now, by real comparison, a transformation of both pictures can at last occur. And each is given its rightful place when both are seen in relation to each other.  The dark picture, brought to light, is not perceived as fearful, but the fact that it is just a picture is brought home at last.  And what you see there you will not recognize as what it is; a picture of what you thought was real, and nothing more. For beyond this picture you will see nothing.

15. The picture of light, in clear-cut and unmistakable contrast, is transformed into what lies beyond the picture. As you look on this, you realize that it is not a picture, but a reality. This is no figured representation of a thought system, but the Thought Itself. What it represents is there. The frame fades gently and God rises to your remembrance, offering you the whole of creation in exchange for your little picture, wholly without value and entirely deprived of meaning.

16. As God ascends into His rightful place and you to yours, you will experience again the meaning of relationship and know it to be true. Let us ascend in peace together to the Father, by giving Him ascendance in our minds. We will gain everything by giving Him the power and the glory and keeping no illusions of where they are. They are in us, through His ascendance. What He has given is His. It shines in every part of Him, as in the whole.  The whole reality of your relationship with Him lies in our relationship to one another. The holy instant shines alike on all relationships, for in it they are one. For here is only healing, already complete and perfect. For here is God, and where He is only the perfect and complete can be.[1]

Unlike the heavy ornate frame that obscures the pain and suffering and death involved in accepting gifts of the ego, the holy instant is set in a frame that can barely conceal the treasure within.  Unless we are willing to focus entirely on the picture instead of the frame, we do not receive the gift for the holy instant is a miniature of eternity.  It reacquaints us with eternity while we are still in time.  It gives us a picture of wakefulness while we are still dreaming.  In fact the more we practice the holy instant we realize that it is not a picture at all for that instant is what is represents for the whole of Heaven lies in each holy instant. 

In relation to the special relationship, this is especially poignant for what I share with you in the holy instant is the mechanism for transformation from specialness to holiness in our communion.  No longer am I labeling you for a special function in my life.  I have moved past specialness – its cloying demands, its dependency, its jealousy and possessiveness and have set you free.  And when I set you free, I am freed.  No longer do I see you through the framework of humanity but now I see you in the light of eternity. I see that I was mistaken in my limited perception of what you are and who you are to me.  I see that you are divine.  I see that you have had many human lives and that the one I have judged you on is no more real than the ones I have forgotten.  I thought you were my son, my daughter, my father, my mother, my friend or my foe, but now I see that you have no special role in my life but as Christ, my brother and friend.  You teach and learn with me that this world is not our home.  You teach and learn with me in holiness for in specialness we remain trapped in an ongoing fiction about what we are.  For that blessed instant I meet you in mutuality.

There are only two gifts.  The gift of special separateness which comes from ego is deceptively framed but has the same content and intent – to oppose the attributes of God, to deceive, mislead, and entrap us in ongoing cycles of birth and death, fear and sorrow.  The gift of holiness is God’s gift – plainly framed, holiness is the gift God wants us to focus on.  Compare only the pictures and not the frame for one is small and spiteful framed in deception and illusion and the other is so lovely and pure and true. 

We can choose only one of these gifts.  The picture of light does not fit in the gawdy frame of specialness.  We cannot make God accountable for specialness; nor can we credit the ego with love and peace and joy.  This has seemed a hardship for us, but Jesus asks us to be glad that they are not interchangeable, that we cannot accept both gifts, that eternity cannot be muddied by specialness of any kind.  Darkness and death may be obscured by the ornate framework of grand cathedrals, heart-wrenching art, solemn rites and sacred rituals but stripped of the golden cups and silver crucifixes, the velvet and the silk – darkness and death still lurk within the picture.  Look upon the pictures, Jesus tells us.  Go past the frame.  For the framework cannot give that which spells doom any meaning. 

God’s gift is eternal and so it has no need to be obscured within a lavishly bizarre frame.  No distraction here, mate.  The more we look at God’s gift the more convinced we are of Heaven, of our eternal state of Being, of the Absolute power of Love, of our Brotherhood with Christ and our Sonship with God.  As we dare get past the framework and make a real comparison between the gifts, the pictures themselves make a beautiful transformation.  For the dark picture, brought to light, is no longer perceived as fearful, but just a picture brought to truth at last.  And what we see in that picture that was such a fright, which filled us with dread, which condemned us, and stole our glory is simply a picture with no reality.  In the light there is nothing there. 

The Gift of God is a picture of light.  And when compared truly with the tiny mean-spirited picture, the picture of light cannot be denied.  Nor can it be contained by a framework of any kind.  For as we look upon God’s Gift we realize it is not a picture, it is reality.  This is not a symbol of a thought system; this is not yet another religion or a twist on one that already exists but Thought Itself.  The light that the picture represents is Truth.  As the frame fades gently away, God arises in our memory.   For we chose His Gift in exchange for the spiteful one, and the meanness and ill will, the separateness and specialness are entirely deprived of meaning in the Light of His Love. 

As God ascends to His rightful place in our minds and hearts, so do we.  We remember the meaning of relationship; we get past our need for specialness, and we experience the wonder and joy and beauty of Creation as it was created.  When we give God ascendance in our minds, our own worth rises.  We no longer give power and the glory to the earthbound egos which would dominate us demanding sacrifices and enforcing allegiance, for now we know God and to know Him is to love Him.  And because we love Him all that He has is given us for we belong to Him.  

The reality of our relationship with God lies in our relationship with each other.  The holy instant shines alike on all relationships, making not one more special than another, for in holiness we are one.  This is where we are healed of all that would tear us apart, that would mislead and entrap us, which would keep us separated and alone. 

In your personal devotional practice today be drawn to the holy instant and let it inform you.  Do not let the go-nowhere demands of our daily rounds in the flesh take precedence.  To all that come to your door whether in the flesh or in the form of thought – offer holiness.  Quietly bring the Thought of them with you into the holy instant and smile upon them with the light and the love that you find there.  Go past their flesh.  Go past your need to preach and lecture and correct.  Go past language and gestures and a need to explain things.  Refuse to be taken in by your limited understanding of who and what they are in the flesh.  See God in your brother no matter how much your ego may shriek and protest, insisting on judgment, insisting on condemnation, insisting on separation and division. [2] God wills that we are one, and what God wills is perfect and complete. 


[1] A Course in Miracles. Chapter 17 Forgiveness and the holy relationship. IV The two gifts 11-16. Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition (1992).

[2] According to my current understanding: A Course in Miracles teaches us what we are on a spiritual level.  We practice holiness through transformative teaching, expanded consciousness and mind training.  Our endeavor is holy as is all genuine seeking for God, for reality, for truth.  We are not to judge ourselves or to allow the judgments of others to influence our devotion, to demand explanation, to get into arguments.  Practicing holiness does not mean we allow others to make selfish demands upon our time, effort, or resources.  Nor is anyone to devalue our efforts in a small-minded, inconsiderate attempt to keep us in the role they have assigned to us in their minds.  At the same time we are to meet our brothers, ignorant or otherwise, in the holy instant – we take necessary honest measures to protect our earthly assets from potential harm.  This is practicing good stewardship, which in this world is about as close to holiness as we can get! 

For daily 2021 Workbook lessons visit www.i-choose-love.com courtesy of Linda R.

Audio credit: www.eckiefriar.com

Filed under: ACIM, Teaching and Learning

About the Author

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Coming up on sixty, my love for God, home and hearth, my husband and family fueled my decision to devote the rest of my life only to pursuits which brought love, joy, peace, and purpose. I am a writer, seeker, student, and teacher with experience professional and otherwise from waitressing to teaching the English language in China, Taiwan, and Singapore. I hold a BA in Psychology from Bloomsburg University, which took nearly 30 years to attain while I squeezed courses in between raising my children, journaling, relationships, work, and an assortment of escapades, some of which I would rather forget! An ongoing passion for reading, writing, adventure, food, and fun, eventually led me to the love of my life, James, whom I met in 1996 and married in 1997. Our life together has been an exciting journey of work and travel, spiritual awakening, and domestic bliss ever since. Although we have experienced the tragic loss of family members and friends through death and estrangement, we have managed to turn our special relationship into a holy one by the grace of God and an acute and growing awareness of “there must be a better way!” In 2006, I published my first novel, Luella’s Calling, and am currently working on my second, Grover Good and the Stone Chateau. From 2013 through 2018, I worked as a Prevention Education Specialist for Transitions, a local domestic violence sexual abuse victim’s service agency. My work there, fueled by a lifelong enthusiasm for teaching, led me to obtain an MS in Education from Scranton University. In 2018, I resigned to accompany James on his work travels while focusing on my calling to study and teach A Course in Miracles. To that end, I dedicate the rest of my days to writing, sharing, and teaching the message of salvation found within the Course pages. Thank you for your interest in this blog. As I do not respond to comments on the posts, if you care to contact me, please email me at eckief@yahoo.com.

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