There is a lovely line in Leonard Cohen’s song A Thousand Kisses Deep:
I guess they won’t exchange the gifts
That you were meant to keep.
A Course in Miracles teaches its students that forgiveness – which is looking at our specialness with the Holy Spirit, which is to look with judgment or guilt or even reaction really – will manifest for us in a form that we can most readily accept and understand and extend.
Your special function is the special form in which the fact that God is not insane appears most sensible and meaningful to you. The content is the same. The form is suited to your special needs, and to the special time and place in which you think you find yourself, and where you can be free of place and time, and all that you believe must limit you (T-25.VII.7:1-3).
Often, this will show up in the form of a skill or talent that we have, in conjunction with a particular interest. You might, for example, be a gifted gardener with a desire to feed others, and so your special function – in which you learn love by extending, or offering, love – might be running a local CSA. Or perhaps you have a gift for nurturing, and a desire to serve where others can not, and so you work in a hospice.
Nobody can tell us what the special form of our special function is, just as nobody else can live it for us. There is no more important work in what we understand as our lives in the world than in discovering – and accepting whole-heartedly by bringing into application – our special function.
We know God’s gift to us in extension – only when we give it away without condition or qualification do we realize what it is and how it works.
This is not as easy as it seems! Often – perhaps more than often – we resist our special function. We ignore it, or we covet another one, or we deliberately misuse it. We can do this because our will is free but it will never bring us either peace or joy. As Cohen points out, you can’t return the gift that God gave you. It is inherent in what you are; you can only know yourself, and your reality, through it.
Part of my special function is writing. I simply assumed when I was taught to write and read that this was what one did. It was fun! It was simultaneously mysterious and somehow capable of solving its own mystery. I’ve been writing poems and stories and journal entries since I was about seven years old. I have never not written, never not had time to write, and never really been “blocked.”
Our gift – call it a craft or a talent or what-have-you – is natural and because of this it flows through us without effort on our part. We can practice and refine it and so forth, but its presence is beyond our capacity to destroy. Our choice is simply whether to extend it or not. When we let it be – when we give attention to its natural passage – it becomes us, in every sense of the word.
That is one part of the equation – the expression part.
The other part is extension – the sharing part. A gift is not a gift until it given away. Truly, we know God’s gift to us only in extension – only when we give it away without condition or qualification do we realize what it is and how it works.
This aspect of writing has been much harder for me. In many ways, despite the significant publishing I’ve done over the years with respect to journalism, poetry and short fiction – I have kept my writing largely a secret. I don’t want to share it. Indeed, when I think about sharing it, I think about all the things that can go wrong – nobody likes it, lots of people like it, somebody changes it, people get to peer into my life, and so on and so forth.
I’ve been looking and working with this for a long time, but over the past year it has acquired an urgency. The time for learning is over, as Tara Singh would say, and the time to extend is now.
Those concerns I mention are not invalid, but it is important to see that they reflect a lack of trust in God. Whenever I fear a particular outcome – and then behave in reaction to that fear (doing this or that in order to avoid or manipulate the outcome) – it is because I believe that my will is more reliable than God’s.
We have to see this: when we don’t want to share because we can’t control what will happen, we are assuming that God’s Plan for Salvation includes our personal sorrow, misery and sacrifice.
So part my practice of A Course in Miracles has been to slowly and hopefully responsibly extend my own learning through writing (and, somewhat more broadly, through video and audio – I’m wordy all ways). This is deeply selfish! I do it because I am convinced that it is the only way I can learn that God is Love and that I remain as God created me!
But it is also an expression of my willingness – however dim, however tentative – that my writing is part of God’s Plan for Salvation. If that is true, then I don’t need to worry about results – who reads me, who buys the books I offer, who argues with me, who pokes fun at me.
More and more, it is my experience with respect to form – which is what writing is – that I don’t need to attach to it or invest in it in any particular way. I give attention to the Love that infuses and inflects it, and I simply let the form do what it will. I don’t interfere; I stay out of the way.
In a sense, I do nothing.
There is genuine peace in this. When we allow God to express God through us, and when we don’t sweat the details of what happens to that expression as it moves, then we become lighter, happier, more peaceful and more free.
Thus, I continue to write here at this site, and to practice extending that writing to you, for whom I am ever grateful, and with whom I am bound for Heaven.