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.