One of the big themes of A Course in Miracles is that we don’t need to do anything to establish Truth or Reality. It’s not our construct; it’s God’s (T-14.II.2:1). Our job is to be willing to be shown what is True and what is Real. It can feel like a mandate to be passive: Jesus and the Holy Spirit do the heavy lifting while we loll around awaiting enlightenment. In truth, forgiveness is active – though not always in the way we traditionally think of activity. But it is also true that there are times in our practice when all Jesus can say to us is “breathe.”
I’ve been navigating some challenging fiscal straits lately. A lot of my income is tied to freelance writing and part-time teaching at the college level. I’ve been doing both long enough that there is relative security, but there are times when the well seems to go dry. Or I can’t find the right well. I’d like to tell you I’m cooler than a cucumber smoothie in those situations, but I worry. It’s a low level stress, but it’s there. Why lie about it?
Anyway, I’ve been praying on that and giving it over to be healed, such as I can. The other morning I was praying and giving it over with real gusto – prayer that has as its subtext, “you see how hard I’m working here right, Jesus? You see how hard I’m letting go? So how about you pull some weight on your end, too?”
And I had one of those moments where I could hear Jesus say, very patiently – maybe even a tad amused – “breathe, Sean. Just breathe.”
One of my favorite passages from the New Testament is the “do not be anxious” passage beginning at MT 6:25. It is both a solace and a challenge, inviting us to what seems a risk-filled faith in order to experience a deep-rooted, unshakeable peace.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?g And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
The thing is, I’m always making faith that passage envisions conditional. I’ll do this God, but you do that. Okay, Jesus I’ll consider the lilies and the cardinals, if you’ll consider me and my family. Often this conditioning is quite subtle. I’m not stupid. But it’s there. Yesterday, while walking the dog in the woods, it occurred to me that creating those contingencies is part of what obstructs the beneficent action of Jesus. The contingencies are the ego’s way of keeping both itself and the world in the mix. And where the ego is, God is not.
But that’s a choice. And because it’s a choice, I can undo it – I can make another. Choosing against the ego isn’t like doing battle with it. It’s just a gentle shift in perception. It’s the essence of forgiveness. “Oh look, here I am being insane again. That crazy old ego just won’t quit. Jesus, could you help me see this differently?”
And that’s it. Our focus moves off our physical survival in the world and back to salvation, to awakening. When we remember that God is the objective, then everything else – money worries, relationship worries, parenting worries – tend to lose their intensity. They become solvable.
The means are easier to understand after the value of the goal is firmly established. It is a question of what it is for. Everyone defends his treasure, and will do so automatically. The real questions are, what do you treasure and how much do you treasure it? Once you have learned to consider these questions and to bring them into all your actions, you will have little difficult in clarifying the means. The means are available whenever you ask (T-2.II.3:2-7).
We don’t have a lot of problems – we have one problem that assumes many forms in order to appear all but impossible to fix. We believe we are separated from God. Heal that and the rest of the problems go away. And we heal that simply by allowing the Holy Spirit and Jesus to teach us that we are not actually separated from God. Forgiveness is the willingness to see rightly – to be guided in our seeing – and on the basis of that new seeing, to choose again for God.
“Breathe,” says Jesus. And so rather than fuss about money, I do what I can along the lines of networking and outreach. And then I get on with life. I help plant the garden. I help a neighbor clean her pond. I bake rhubarb pie. I make red beans and rice for dinner. I play D&D with my son.
Sometimes, being in a worried state is simply a call to reach out to others and see what they need. It is almost always helpful to make “our” lives about somebody else. Then we are being loving, even we had to get dragged there.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Alright then. So we breathe. We choose forgiveness. We trust that it’s going to be okay.