I am never upset for the reason I think.
It’s funny. As I work through these early ACIM lessons, I feel like I am on a train steaming towards lessons 79 and 80. Obviously that is a feature of having some familiarity with them. But I want to flip the pages, get there and get it! But waking up requires a turtle’s discipline. I am committed to slow and steady.
ACIM lesson 5 introduces us to several concepts that are going to remain paramount for the rest of our study. It is also a deeply practical lesson, rich in metaphysical insight without actually forcing us to confront any intellectually taxing complexity. It’s helpful.
First things first. I use this lesson often throughout my day – both when I am formally doing lesson 5 and when I’m not. It is a great way to defuse any troubling emotion. When I acknowledge that the source of upset is not out there in the world – not whatever external influence it appears to be – then I automatically, if subconsciously, open myself up to God and God’s healing. It is a way of stepping back, of disengaging and that allows for the possibility of a more productive engagement, namely, forgiveness.
Second, this lesson introduces the critical idea of form and content. That’s why it emphasizes repeatedly that we aren’t to focus on the “big” upsets to the exclusion of the small ones. A dropped cup of tea is not different than a loved one’s death. That can feel deeply – almost painfully – illogical, but it is true.
As our experience of the course deepens, we are going to find ourselves focused less and less on form – what we see with the physical eye, what we perceive – and more and more on the content. That is, we will begin to experience our lives in the world as being much more about love and fear, or the absence of love. That’s the whole game. It won’t matter if we are experiencing love through food or sex or meditation or long walks in the woods with our dog. It’s simply love. And it won’t matter if we experience fear as hunger or an empty house or a nagging boss or a thin bank account. It’s simply fear, which is a cry for love.
Thus, our behavior – our response to the world – will become increasingly detached from form (what things look like) in order to respond to abstract love or the call for love that is the world’s only reality.
This lesson is prepping us for that major work.
Our whole problem – guilt, fear, anger, jealousy, loneliness, greed, whatever – is the problem of our perceived separation from God. That is all that troubles us and it is all that we need to heal. That is the reason we are upset – and that is the reason why causes for upset appear in the world and in our lives.
For a while – because we believe that we are real and that we live in time – we work on fixing our misbelief in our relationship with God piecemeal. Whenever it shows up in the world – whatever form it takes – we practice forgiveness. I’m only angry and frustrated with this flat tire because I believe I’m separated from God. I’m only lamenting my flabby gut because I believe I’m separated from God.
When we ask for help with those specific problems, we will get specific help for them. We are never not without the guidance of Christ, but we do have to ask for it. We do have to be willing to receive it. This isn’t because Jesus likes to hold back, but because he already gave us the answer! Our job is to realize this – in time, bit by bit – and bring it into application.
In many ways, Lesson 5 is a wonderful tool, proof that any one lesson – done with joy, with faith, with zeal – can itself undo the seeming separation and remind us that we are always – and have always been – at home with God.