Last night my mother called to deliver the sad news that one of my cousins had died. While he and I were no longer close – mostly seeing one another at weddings and funerals every few years – I have very fond memories of playing with him when we were children. I knew that other members of my family – with whom I am close – were going to be grief-stricken.
I felt a wild emptiness inside. And right with that hollow feeling was anger. This wasn’t fair – to my cousin, to those who loved him, to me. When I hung up the phone I looked in the mirror and said firmly and without rancor, “screw A Course in Miracles.”
Why? I don’t know. I could just hear some goody two shoes Course student (me on a different day maybe) saying that there is no death, that nobody dies without their consent, that my cousin was just a symbol anyway, that my grief was really guilt at having separated from God.
And you know what? I didn’t want that.
Later, after the kids were in bed, I turned out the lights and sat on the living room floor. I laid it all out for Jesus. I prayed for my cousin and his family. I told Jesus that I was tired of the course. I was tired of mentally understanding the text but being entirely unable to live it. It was the same with the Bible, Joel Goldsmith, all of it. No more facing doubt day after day, no more putting on the best face while my heart was heavy and broken and distressed.
If Jesus wanted me – if the relationship mattered to him – then he was going to have to come and get me.
I listened for Jesus’s voice. I wasn’t angry. It wasn’t a passionate prayer – I’ve had those before. Pounding the steering wheel or the table, begging Jesus for just a little relief, the tiniest of signs . . . No, this was different. It was unadorned, matter-of-fact.
I prayed for an hour, then went to bed. And I had the strangest dream.
I dreamed I was driving a bus through an unfamiliar city. It wasn’t easy. The bus was bulky and old and it didn’t handle well. It took all my strength to keep it on the road, which was wet and slippery. The wheels kept jumping the curb. Every time I took a turn the bus leaned precariously. I couldn’t read the street signs that might have shown me the way home. I went the wrong way down one way streets, dodging traffic, terrified I was going to hurt someone. I careened into guard rails, bounced off toll booths. It was exhausting and scary.
Then I saw a large theater and pulled into the parking lot. I walked inside. The lights glowed like candles on teak. It was crowded and everyone was happy, talking and hugging and eating. It was warm and safe.
And as I gratefully savored this peaceful environment, I suddenly realized that I didn’t ever have to get on that bus again. I could leave it right where it was in the parking lot and it would be okay. It wasn’t my bus and it wasn’t my problem. I’d been mistaken in thinking it was my job to drive it. It wasn’t.
I walked to a waste basket and dropped the keys inside it. And as I did, a weight like I had never known was lifted. It was like letting go of a thousand boulders I hadn’t known I was holding. The relief was indescribable. Even now, writing it, there are tears in my eyes. I was free. I had let go of something that had been weighing me down all my life.
In some of the church basements I’ve visited through the years, there is a saying: I’m just another bozo on the bus. I’m not the driver.
I’m not even on the bus anymore. There’s nowhere to go. Wherever I am, I’m home.
I woke up from that dream, 3:30 am., made a cup of cowboy coffee and went for a walk. I returned to my prayer: where are you Jesus? Where are you?
And then – near the top of a low hill, the moon slipping through thin clouds to the west, the dog knocking through the nearby underbrush, I started to cry. Because I understood what St. Theresa of Avila wrote so many years ago:
Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.
He is here. He is always here.
We are not separated by time, we are not separated by ability, we are not separated by the appearance of magnitude and littleness. The inclination to compare, to judge – the whole lovelessness of “I know and you don’t” – is evaporated. It never was. We are Christ. We have forgotten that, but we can remember. It’s simple.
He is here. He is always here.
The prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:13) writes that “you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
I am telling you there is a place where even the course fades. There’s nothing to read, nothing to say, nothing to do. I am telling you that when you feel so empty a light wind might blow you into the forest, so hopeless that taking even one more step is more than you can manage, that you can still be lifted.
Let go of the steering wheel, brother. Throw away the keys. We’re home now.