Miracles, Groceries and the Fear of Love

I like food and I like kitchens. A lot. I associate food and kitchens with safety and with love. When the going gets tough, the tough bake bread. If I am crabby and self-obsessed, baking something for somebody always help – cookies for the kids, bread for a friend, pasta with feta and sun-dried tomatoes and peas for Chrisoula.

When Chrisoula and I got married, the first time we went shopping together, I burst into tears. There we were surrounded by vegetables and I was sobbing tears of joy because I had found this amazing person and we had a little apartment with cats in it and we were going to move to Vermont someday and she made a big space for my writing and had an Emily Dickinson t-shirt and . . .

We laugh about it now, but it’s true. It was at that moment – buying food together – that I saw the blessing and responded to it from the heart.

The other day I went grocery shopping. In general, I love grocery shopping too because it is a necessary part of kitchens and food. As I was driving to the store, I was just reflecting on that – how happy shopping makes me, how much I was looking forward to cooking my youngest daughter’s birthday cake and dinner this weekend.

And then something came at me in two swoops. I could feel an insight coming on and I didn’t want it. I sort of pushed it away. The second time it came back – a second later, like a cat that has decided it is going to sit on your lap no matter how many times you brush it away – I just surrendered. Fine Jesus. What it is it today?

I saw with utter clarity that the love of food and cooking and shopping for groceries was simply another form of hatred, another form of fear. By relying on it so heavily and worshiping it so, I had made it into an idol which denied the Love of God. I called it the nearest thing to Heaven and now I was being told it was just the same old song and dance of separation. Nothing more and nothing less.

The Course teaches us that it is never ever the form of love that we want, but the love itself. When we choose the form, we limit the love and pay the price accordingly.

It is as if you said, “I have no need of everything. This little thing I want, and it will be as everything to me.” And this must fail to satisfy, because it is your will that everything be yours. Decide for idols and you ask for loss. Decide for truth and everything is yours (T-30.III.1:6-10).

This is true when the idol is cancer and it is true when the idol is a lovely loaf of bread. Idols limit God. There is no middle ground.

These insights hurt because at first blush it feels as if something is being taken from us. We feel as if by giving up these worldly ideals and circumstances and so forth that what we are is diminished. We think Jesus is here to crucify us by degrees. And it does hurt a little. Why deny that? I pulled into the parking lot and cried a little. I could see the truth of the lesson Jesus was offering and it made me sad.

But then I went shopping. And I came home and cooked dinner. We shared some chocolate-covered sunflower seeds for Valentine’s Day. And it was sweet and lovely because I could see that I didn’t want it to be a substitute for God. And once that was clear, then it wasn’t a symbol of hate and fear anymore but rather of Love itself.

This is all that Jesus asks of us: Look with me. Let me show you that you don’t want what you think you want and simultaneously reveal to you what you do want and in fact already have.

Our life is not stolen from us but its purpose and meaning is ever-so-gently shifted. That’s it. That’s all that happens.

Beyond all idols is the Thought God holds of you. Completely unaffected by the turmoil and the terror of the world, the dreams of birth and death that here are dreamed, the myriad of forms that fear can take; quite undisturbed, the Thought God holds of you remains exactly as it always was . . . Here is your one reality kept safe, completely unaware of all the world that worships idols, and that knows not God (T-30.III.10:1,4).

We don’t want the forms of love the world offers. We really don’t – no matter how alluring they are, they are just shabby substitutes for what is already ours. We want the Love that is God – what is beyond words and beyond form altogether. A Course in Miracles helps us remember that and little by little – sometimes with tears – to turn us in that direction.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Aleta February 15, 2013, 11:47 am

    I’m like this with quilting. I love to machine quilt, especially art quilts where I can be creative and express myself! My favorite place to be (besides a library or book store!) is a fabric shop, with the bolts and bolts of delicious colors and patterns! The addition to our home even included a quilting studio for me where I have plenty of room for my fabric and materials, stacks and stacks of quilting books, my brand new sewing machine table, cutting table . . . I attend quiltfests . . . I get caught up in the glory of it all and how satisfying it will be when I make that one perfect art quilt! Then Jesus has a talk with me and I recognize what an idol I have made of my quilting hobby. But strangely, or maybe not so, it is on the days that I block his voice that I am blocked in my quilting. When I (consciously or unconsciously) refuse to acknowledge that I have made an idol of my quilting stuff and I continue on that path to the perfect quilt, I’m not able to create the quilts that satisfy me. When I somewhat shamefully admit that I have been worshiping the quilting process and am willing to let the Holy Spirit take it from there, I then enter my studio with a renewed sense of purpose, one that goes beyond just creating the perfect art quilt. I feel more focused, more directed, not as jazzed-up about quilting, but simply doing it because I like to do it. And I give most of my quilts away!
    Just thought I’d share my experience with that idol worship thing. This blog entry really struck a chord with me.

    • Sean Reagan February 15, 2013, 3:03 pm

      Yes!

      And a big thumb’s up for quilting – my wife has become a serious knitter in recent years and wants to move into quilting soon. I love it when she knits – it is so peaceful. And handmade quilts are so gorgeous. I bought her one for our first wedding anniversary. I love quilt shops – don’t know a thing about it really – but man, they just slow my breathing right down.

      Thank you, Aleta!

      Sean

      • Jeanne February 15, 2013, 4:05 pm

        So, to take this one step further, then our thoughts are also idols? It’s funny, since reading this blog, early this morning, I’ve been questioning many thoughts that I have had. I ask Jesus whether this (thought) is an idol. I think that I am hearing Him tell me, “Yes”. So anything that we have an attachment to, a stake in, a desire in (perhaps) is an idol?

        • Michael February 15, 2013, 4:46 pm

          Jeanne, for myself, I have come to the conclusion that being separate from God is painful. I want to feel His Love or I will be in some sort of pain. I will feel ultimately that something huge is missing. Now, if I allow myself to believe that God’s presence is an unrealistic or unattainable goal, my mind will ‘settle’ for something it tells me is more ‘realistic’. I then focus on having this proxy instead of God, because something appears to be infinitely better than the horrid vacuum of God’s seeming absence. I cling to my proxy as the one bit of peace or joy I’m actually capable of having, or controlling… I have now made my idol. I want to guard and protect it. It is my little treasure. But it ends up supplanting what I truly desire, which is God’s Love… I think expressions of Love that flow through us to bless the world are not idols, unless we forget that ‘there’s more where that came from’ and lock into that particular expression as who we are. Then once again we have isolated and tried to own a particular form rather than staying in the non-personal and universal flow of God through our lives.

          Michael

  • Jeanne February 15, 2013, 12:09 pm

    Sean,
    As I read today’s blog, I realized that I am further behind the eight-ball than I ever imagined. I think that I understand what you are saying. But if I apply it, I’m concerned that what I will end of doing is shutting off all emotions towards everything. In this way, it will seem like I don’t care about something. But I believe that I will only be fooling myself.

    So, I guess I don’t understand how to be, when it comes to things that I fear or think that I love. Does one simply ask Jesus or Holy Spirit to look on everything that has emotional charge to it?

    Today’s message was a big eye-opener for me.

    Thanks!

    • Michael Mark February 15, 2013, 12:48 pm

      Hi Jeanne,

      I had a similar reaction to this post. I have thought off and on about this issue and I think there is a fundamental question to be asked/answered: is an experience of joy ever inauthentic? Is it possible to feel joy and love, and to have simultaneously duped ourselves? Can the ego use joy against us? I went back and read Sean’s post a second time, and thought more about this, and received a different interpretation of this post, which was that joy is always Real and authentic, but if we ATTACH the joy to a specific form, we are making that idol… Maybe there is an experience, or hobby, or moment, or relationship in which for whatever reason we genuinely experience love and joy and freedom. I think that is Real. But I think that if I make the next step of believing I need that same set of circumstances to recreate that feeling, I am in effect saying the authentic source of the love and joy is outside of myself, and that is where the idol-making begins. As I’ve felt many times of late, Sean’s writing really brings up great questions for me! Thanks, Sean…

      • Sean Reagan February 15, 2013, 2:57 pm

        Thank you, Michael. I hear you. It is important to see that ultimately the Course is teaching us that world is not real – happy or unhappy, these circumstances or those doesn’t really matter except to the extent we can use it to learn the illusory nature of our lives and the world. Most of us can’t do that alone and so the Course comes along and introduces us to Jesus and the Holy Spirit – symbols of the healed mind – to help us learn. They enable us to see more clearly what we don’t want and by virtue of that, what we do want. The more clear we get on the true function of the world – something we made that can be used to undo our illusions – then the easier it gets to just sort of laugh along with it all and feel that “love and joy and freedom.” Easier said than done, but fortunately we are not alone.

    • Sean Reagan February 15, 2013, 1:11 pm

      It is a good point, Jeanne. If we shut down because “everything is an idol,” then I think that what we are really doing is playing the ego’s game. When we look at something with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, the insight that attends can be scary and intense and even life-altering. But it is fundamentally loving. You’ll know the difference. For me, if I can’t tell whether it’s Jesus or the ego talking, then I just sort of stand back. Jesus isn’t in any hurry and we are allowed to take our time and learn at the pace that makes the most sense to us.

      When Jesus reminds us that something is an idol, he won’t take it away. I think that it is an important distinction. The ego’s version is to threaten to take it away, or drain it of joy, or make it loveless altogether. Jesus just wants us to see it for what it is – something that we are using to obstruct God’s love. Once we see it that way, there is no problem. Then we can enjoy it but in a much happier way because we are no longer pretending it’s God or a substitute for God. It’s just part of our experience in the world of separation which we are slowly and gently allowing Jesus to undo.

      We are resistant to that which is why it is painful, but that is the only reason why it is painful. Jesus is not ripping anything from our hands or hearts. He is simply reminding us that we are confused about our reality and helping us undo that confusion.

      In an important way, when I no longer view food and cooking and grocery shopping as God or love, then there is more space in my life for Jesus to move and teach. Thus, I am actually closer to the real Love of God, which is what I wanted all along.

      The Course comes back to this theme often. “Until you realize you give up nothing, until you understand there is no loss, you will have some regrets about the way that you have chosen (T-29.II.1:5).”

      So yes, I hear you. What am I supposed to do, emotionally check out of my life because it’s all a big facade? A series of idols obscuring Christ?

      I think mostly we need to be attentive and willing. We have to patient and gentle with ourselves. Be kind to your illusions! Jesus is always there, always ready to gently guide us to real peace and real joy. It is already happening even though we aren’t sure of it, or can’t feel it, or don’t trust it.

      Does that help? You aren’t behind the eight ball! We’re both right where we’re supposed to be, walking together – with Jesus – home!

  • Jeanne February 15, 2013, 1:37 pm

    Thanks so much, Michael and Sean! Very keen insights.

    So, do you think that our addictions are our idols? And I don’t mean only the addictions, such as mine to chocolate, or someone’s addiction to porn, drugs, etc. I’m also referring to my longing for my husband to return from a trip or the anticipation of Christmas for a child or the vacations that I so love to take. Of course, there are the addictions that we fear, such as the hypochondriac’s fear of disease or “OMG! What is that lump on my body?”

    What do you think? Is there something to this? Earlier, as I was contemplating today’s initial post, I began thinking about our addiction to staying alive or what we perceive as being alive.

    I’m kind of rambling here, but would enjoy your opinions.

    • Sean Reagan February 15, 2013, 2:51 pm

      Hi Jeanne,

      An idol is anything – anything – that substitutes for our reality (T-29.VIII.2:2). As such, they can take any form at all in the world – “a body or a thing, a place, a situation or a circumstance, an object owned or wanted, or a right demanded or achieved . . . (T-29.VIII.1:9).”

      The idol always represents the separation, our idle belief that we have parted ways with God. It can be shopping or chocolate, a specific job or partner, a vacation place, a photograph our grandmother left us, whatever. It’s not the thing itself but the belief behind it that is the problem. We want idols to take the place of God. Jesus, through the Course, teaches us that we’re looking at it wrong and helps us adjust our seeing. Once we see the idol for what it is, we can withdraw our belief in them. We can remember that we don’t want playthings in a world of dreams, but the Love of God.

  • Sally February 15, 2013, 11:54 pm

    Long ago when my Transcendental Meditation brought on tears of joy and inner
    knowing that there will NEVER be anything OR anyone who can even come close to duplicating this Ecstacy of Oneness with Him, I find that this awareness is now also for my early morning times alone with him with ACIM Jesus. This awareness has, for me, also resulted, as some of you have said, in momentary interruptions with Thoughts breaking in to gently remind me, “You know you are hungering for this ______, (choclate, someone to talk to, a cold Soda pop etc.) only because you are lonely for our early morning times of Silent Dialog communicating, that remnids you of the Original ONENESS that you do deeply remember and really long for .” So I thank Him for reminding me, and for remembering how wonderful it will be when I wake up and realize none of this life ever even happened at all, and arriving Home I’ll never feel any kind of longing again, because of the LOVE that ‘GOD IS’ and if I understand ACIM correctly, none of us actually ever left our Father. So I go on with my day feeling peaceful and and grateful to Jesus for Teaching me with his loving, gentle patience, the Truth of our Father.

    • Jeanne February 16, 2013, 1:46 am

      Sally, thank you for the gentle reminder. I’m sure that I’m speaking for everyone here when I say that I appreciate everyone’s input. I have felt so alone with the course material up until now. I am very happy that I have found this blog. It is allowing me to stay more connected with the course and with God.

  • Claudia February 16, 2013, 6:07 am

    Amen Jean. And I am amused how this blog has perfect timing. 😉 This morning I needed the reminder that it’s the love, not the form. And that I don’t have to be afraid of losing anything, because Jesus is not interested in taking away any little thing I have, but simply by being willing to look at it with Jesus, I can watch it tranform into something more loving and incredibly useful. What comfort that brings.

  • Anil February 16, 2013, 11:32 pm

    What a transcendent post, And the lovely 13 comments that followed. My deep gratitude to Sean And everyone here !

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