1. The surface traits of God’s teachers are not at all alike. They do not look alike to the body’s eyes, they come from vastly different backgrounds, their experiences of the world vary greatly, and their superficial “personalities” are quite distinct. Nor, at the beginning stages of their functioning as teachers of God, have they yet acquired the deeper characteristics that will establish them as what they are. God gives special gifts to His teachers because they have a special role in His plan for Atonement. Their specialness is, of course, only temporary; set in time as a means of leading out of time. These special gifts, born in the holy relationship toward which the teaching-learning situation is geared, become characteristic of all teachers of God who have advanced in their own learning. In this respect they are all alike.
2. All differences among the Sons of God are temporary. Nevertheless, in time it can be said that the advanced teachers of God have the following characteristics:
1. This is the foundation on which their ability to fulfill their function rests. Perception is the result of learning. In fact, perception is learning, because cause and effect are never separated. The teachers of God have trust in the world because they have learned it is not governed by the laws the world made up. It is governed by a power that is in them but not of them. It is this power that keeps all things safe. It is through this power that the teachers of God look on a forgiven world.
2. When the power has been once experienced, it is impossible to trust one’s own petty strength again. Who would attempt to fly with the tiny wings of a sparrow when the mighty power of an eagle has been given him? And who would place his faith in the shabby offerings of the ego when the gifts of God are laid before him? What is it that induces them to make the shift?
A. Development of Trust
3. First, they must go through what might be called “a period of undoing.” This need not be painful, but it usually is so experienced. It seems as if things are being taken away, and it is rarely understood initially that their lack of value is merely being recognized. How can lack of value be perceived unless the perceiver is in a position where he must see things in a different light? He is not yet at a point at which he can make the shift entirely internally. And so the plan will sometimes call for changes in what seem to be external circumstances. These changes are always helpful. When the teacher of God has learned that much, he goes on to the second stage.
4. Next, the teacher of God must go through “a period of sorting out.” This is always somewhat difficult because, having learned that the changes in his life are always helpful, he must now decide all things on the basis of whether they increase the helpfulness or hamper it. He will find that many, if not most of the things he valued before will merely hinder his ability to transfer what he has learned to new situations as they arise. Because he has valued what is really valueless, he will not generalize the lesson for fear of loss and sacrifice. It takes great learning to understand that all things, events, encounters, and circumstances are helpful. It is only to the extent to which they are helpful that any degree of reality should be accorded them in this world of illusion. The word “value” can apply to nothing else.
5. The third stage through which the teacher of God must go can be called “a period of relinquishment.” If this is interpreted as giving up the desirable, it will engender enormous conflict. Few teachers of God escape this distress entirely. There is, however, no point in sorting out the valuable from the valueless unless the next obvious step is taken. Therefore, the period of overlap is apt to be one in which the teacher of God feels called upon to sacrifice his own best interests on behalf of truth. He has not realized as yet how wholly impossible such a demand would be. He can learn this only as he actually does give up the valueless. Through this, he learns that where he anticipated grief, he finds a happy lightheartedness instead; where he thought something was asked of him, he finds a gift bestowed on him.
6. Now comes “a period of settling down.” This is a quiet time, in which the teacher of God rests awhile in reasonable peace. Now he consolidates his learning. Now he begins to see the transfer value of what he has learned. Its potential is literally staggering, and the teacher of God is now at the point in his progress at which he sees in it his whole way out. “Give up what you do not want and keep what you do.” How simple is the obvious! And how easy to do! The teacher of God needs this period of respite. He has not yet come as far as he thinks. Yet when he is ready to go on, he goes with mighty companions beside him. Now he rests awhile and gathers them before going on. He will not go on from here alone.
7. The next stage is indeed “a period of unsettling.” Now must the teacher of God understand that he did not really know what was valuable and what was valueless. All that he really learned so far was that he did not want the valueless. And that he did want the valuable. Yet his own sorting out was meaningless in teaching him the difference. The idea of sacrifice, so central to his own thought system, had made it impossible for him to judge. He thought he learned willingness, but now he sees that he does not know what the willingness is for. And now he must attain a state that may remain impossible to reach for a long, long time. He must learn to lay all judgment aside and ask only what he really wants in every circumstance. Were not each step in this direction so heavily reinforced, it would be hard indeed!
8. And finally, there is a period of achievement. It is here that learning is consolidated. Now what was seen as merely shadows before becomes solid gains, to be counted on in all “emergencies” as well as tranquil times. Indeed, the tranquility is their result, the outcome of honest learning, consistency of thought, and full transfer. This is a stage of real peace, for here is Heaven’s state fully reflected. From here, the way to Heaven is open and easy. In fact, it is here. Who would “go” anywhere if peace of mind is already complete? And who would seek to change tranquility for something more desirable? What could be more desirable than this?
Today we begin the study of the ten characteristics of God’s teachers. The characteristics are gifts that are given to those of us who commit ourselves to living for God and therefore to teach God. In no way should we judge ourselves against these characteristics – these attributes are God’s Attributes and God gives us His attributes as we learn, through trial and error throughout our lifetimes in separation, to turn to Him for our Help, guidance, and awakening. They are special gifts only in the sense that the world can only give us substitutes and alternatives to the characteristics of God. In fact it is the substitutes and alternatives that replace the attributes of God in our flesh lives that maintain and sustain the ego. So special gifts are only special in the sense of the world. There is nothing special about these gifts in the Kingdom of God, for they are for all and are held equally by all.
Trust is the first characteristic that we will study because without trust we cannot hope to develop any of the other attributes which characterize solid teachers of God. If you are like me, you have become a teacher of God because you did not want to teach anything else that would distract from or obstruct the real call of God in your heart and mind. When we choose to devote our life to God, we are really choosing to devote our life to attributes that we denote as God: Goodness, truth, mercy, grace, love, peace, and joy, each attribute expanding into more of itself. In the world of perception, this is as close to God as we can get! Just as we are drawn to that which makes us feel joy, those who cherish us, those who share in our happiness so are we drawn into webs of deceit, attack and defense cycles, identifying with those who are only too happy to pervert us and make us pay for their “love,” “friendship,” and “nurturance.” In a world of opposites, every truth has an alternate lie, every attribute of God has an opposite that poses as equal in strength and attractiveness. This is our lot in the world, and it is bewildering and maddening at best.
In such a world, we must develop trust in God and come to know with certainty that there is no other recourse. We develop trust in stages that are outlined here in our text. Today in your personal devotional practice, read and listen closely to the words of our Teacher. Ask Holy Spirit to show you in which developmental stage you fit and continue with patience and trust to apply yourself to this process. As we use trust, we build trust; the more we call upon Holy Spirit to help us, the more we learn to rely upon the only source of Help that is truly helpful!
We will take the next few days to study the characteristics of God, but for today our focus is on trust. As we devote ourselves to developing trust, we will be given many opportunities which will look like trials and errors. We are to practice perceiving every encounter, relationship, circumstance, and event in our daily lives as a means to develop trust. We will make mistakes, but these are not sins or failures, only an indication that we did not choose what we really want in any given situation and therefore relied on our fretfulness, fear, anger, and lack of self-control rather than practicing trust in God.
Practicing trust in God puts our minds at ease. We are no longer troubled by the world or the legions of worries and cares that besiege us on a daily basis. Today stay with trust until you have a deepened understanding of why Jesus emphasizes this attribute first and foremost for without trust we cannot achieve the peace and tranquility required to get past the upheavals, twists, and turns that would otherwise characterize our egos and special relationships.