What Else You Got, Jesus?

One of the more beautiful phrases that Jesus uttered some two thousand years ago was “knock and the door shall be opened.” How much clearer can he be? All we have to do is ask. He says something similar in A Course in Miracles.

Try to pass the clouds by whatever means appeals to you. If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy (W-pI.70.9:2-4).

But what happens when we knock, Jesus answers and we – not liking the answer, or being scared of the answer, or just in the habit of knocking aimlessly – just keep on going. It’s like Jesus answers and we say, “what else have you got?”

In my life, this problem stems from not making space in which to actually hear Jesus and then accept Jesus. I am often moving so fast, heeding the ego’s directives, that the still voice within is all but drowned out. In order to hear Jesus, I have to consciously slow down. I have to clear my mind as best I can. I have to remind myself to stop knocking, stop judging the answer (or seeming absence of an answer) and listen.

I’ll give a couple of examples from my own life – one of listening and one of not listening at all.

I have always been drawn to radical Christians, particularly those who put a real emphasis on social justice and peace. Could be the Catholic Worker, could be the so-called peace churches, could just be a particular activist. I like the intensity and the passion.

So for the past couple of years I’ve been reading Jesus Radicals. There is some well-informed and passionate debate over there about everything from the resurrection to the validity of intentional communities to veganism. But lately, I have been having a harder time appreciating it. I don’t feel edified or inspired by the site so much as angered. I want to argue. I’ve been drafting some responses to people’s posts and comments but not posting them myself. I am taking sides. And I get quite worked up about it.

The other morning I asked in prayer for some guidance around simplification. My life feels full and busy and intense. There was no real answer, but a few hours later when I clicked on Jesus Radicals to see the latest on the debate I was following I heard clear as a bell: You are using this site to maintain a sense of conflict in your life. You are not using it to be close to me.

And so I didn’t read the site. I just sat quietly, grateful for the clear guidance. And I haven’t been back. I’m not knocking that site, by the way. I think the men and women there are sincere and devout and I admire them. But I want to be done with conflict and that was one of the forms.

I’m glad to move on. It leaves more space to just be present to Jesus.

The other example is not so inspiring! Recently – still in that space of wanting to simplify – I woke up very early and immediately began to think of everything I had to do. I’m not as dense as I used to be so I hopped out of bed, got down on my knees and literally asked Jesus for a little guidance. In all this craziness, what do I need?

The answer was pretty immediate and clear: let’s go for a long walk. Then let’s sit together. Then let’s read A Course in Miracles.

And my response was immediate too: yeah okay that sounds nice but what about that syllabus I have to draft? And those papers I have to grade? And that class I need to outline? And those responses to students I need to finish? And this and that? Did you forget about all that Jesus? I’m not working with a trust fund here.

Do you know how this goes? I got up off my knees and walked the dog. I prayed while I walked. But when I got back, rather than settle into prayer and study, I started to work. I told myself it was just one thing – I’ll just check my emails. Then I’ll sit with Jesus. But then I decided to just work on that syllabus a little. After all, all I’m doing is clearing the slate so I can really focus on the spiritual. What’s Jesus got against me focusing?

And then before I know it the morning is gone and I haven’t prayed and I haven’t studied and I haven’t written. I’ve just buzzed like a bee trying to get honey out of a rock.

Jesus doesn’t get angry about that. If you laugh at yourself, he’ll laugh with you. I promise. Just tell yourself, “Here I go again, asking for guidance, being given the guidance, and doing my thing anyway.” It’s okay. It’s part of the process. We all do it.

And you know, coming out of that space can be very helpful – especially if you don’t beat yourself up. I look at that morning and think, what would have happened if I had trusted Jesus and just sat with him? Because that’s what happened. I didn’t trust that the work would get done. I didn’t trust that a relationship with Jesus trumps a relationship with the world. I did my own thing. And that just keeps the unhappiness and the pain going a little while longer.

When I get clear about that – see it as plain as day – then I can bring that to Jesus. We are always knocking. And he is always answering. And one day soon, we’re going to get to that place where we don’t forget it.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Sean Reagan February 21, 2013, 10:02 am

    I’d like to add one thing. When I talk about hearing Jesus, I am talking about an internal insight. Nobody walks into the room, lights don’t start flashing, violins don’t play. I don’t hear voices. It is just like for a moment my mind clears and the truth is there and I see it. Like a flash of lightening illuminating the landscape. Then the clouds come back. Some people say to me “well, that’s just a psychological insight. Jesus has nothing to do with it.” That’s fine with me. Calling it Jesus is really just a symbolic way of saying that I have temporarily gained access to the right mind that we all share. We have to use language and that particular language works for me. When we reach the state of perfect union, the word “Jesus” won’t mean a thing.

    Also, I recognize – and honor – the fact that you have your own relationship with Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) and it manifests in a way that works for you. We aren’t talking about right and wrong here; just what works and what doesn’t. And our focus needs to be on what works. That really is the essence of the above-referenced quote from lesson 70: “Try to pass the clouds by whatever means appeal to you.” If you need the Hallelujah chorus and lightening bolts, then you’ll get them. Don’t get hung up on the form of your relationship with the divine – or on anybody else’s form either. Find what works and stay with it.

  • Bubba February 21, 2013, 12:12 pm

    Sean,
    Somehow i stumbled onto your blog a couple of days ago and love it! I have been a Course Student for awhile and am currently on lesson 98. You seem to have great insight into what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us and it has helped me these last few days. I’ll be reading you everyday now, so the pressure is on!! Hahahah

    • Sean Reagan February 21, 2013, 8:10 pm

      Ah, no pressure. You’ll forgive me when I screw it up!

      Thanks, Bubba – good to hear from you.

  • Jeanne February 21, 2013, 4:03 pm

    Sean, I had to laugh as I read today’s blog, particularly the part where you will “just check your emails and then get busy with Jesus.” That is so me! And then I kick myself and vow to do better tomorrow. Usually I sit down with the course just before bedtime. Then I’m too sleepy to really get into it.

    I think that we should treat it like we should treat our finances, pay ourselves first. In other words, we should pay attention to the course and Jesus first because the ego knows, quite well, how to distract us. It’s goal is for us not to commune with Jesus. Our egos think that they are protecting us by making us fear that something terrible will happen if we don’t get our “worldly” obligations done first. Our egos are sly and not looking out for our best interest.

    Thanks again for the words of wisdom!

    • Sean Reagan February 21, 2013, 8:10 pm

      It is true that the ego is always looking out for its best interests – yes, it’s good to remember that!

      Thanks, Jeanne – glad it resonated.

  • Michael February 21, 2013, 9:53 pm

    Sean, your first story in particular rang familiar. I picked up a copy of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion a year or so ago, just to see how he had approached the topic, being largely unfamiliar with his related work. I then sat down and got about ten pages and ten days and many self-induced adrenaline charges into a very sophisticated rebuttal when I had a similar moment… It was like, really? You’re going to commit what will be a year of your life if its a day, into conflict, however well-intentioned it may seem? I think this ties in to your post recently about idols also. These discussions get us rev’d up, which gives purpose, and that purpose we choose for ourselves is ultimately a mission to prove we’re right… Thanks for writing, Michael

    • Michael February 21, 2013, 9:55 pm

      Ha… Thanks for writing, Sean!

    • Sean Reagan February 22, 2013, 5:27 pm

      Yeah, I hear you. It’s funny you mention Dawkins actually – somebody recently recommended one of his video debates. I watched it for about fifteen minutes and then just felt like, you know what? I don’t need this right now.

      For me it’s a question of trust – as Claudia and Sally and others have pointed out. Trust in the guidance of Jesus or the Holy Spirit – that contact with the healed mind – tends to foster sounder decision-making. I am teaching Karen Armstrong’s “The Case for God” in an advanced writing class that starts next week. And in another class, I teach a number of essays about non-violence from various religious and spiritual traditions and neither seems to create much conflict. Perhaps because I am bringing into a learning environment and get the chance to have so many people interact with the material with me – right there in the moment. I don’t know. But asking – and being willing to hear the answer – seems to make a difference.

      Nice insight about the idols by the way. I think you are right. I didn’t see that when I was writing. Thank you!

      • Michael February 22, 2013, 6:52 pm

        Sean, you make me wish I could be a student in your class… I am sure you are having a far-reaching impact on many people. 🙂

        Michael

  • Claudia February 22, 2013, 5:55 am

    Sean, one thing I have enjoyed most as a new ACIM student is allowing myself to trust this process. I’ve been so tickled and awe-struck each time I decide, as Jeanne says, to pay myself first, yet thinking, there is no way I’m going to get XYZ done if I I take an hour to study this lesson, or make priority my 5 minutes at the top of the hour, or 15 minutes twice a day to close my eyes and remember what I’m really doing here. But when I do it, miracles happen! Uncharacteristically, the boss who always wants a 18 page missive, asks for a paragraph instead this time. Or the client calls wanting to know if a 300 page contract covers some minute detail and I open right to the page with the answer in an obscure footnote, saving 2 hrs of time. I laugh out loud each time. So, maybe your syllabus would have simply flowed from your mind in perfect form, had you taken the time to sit with Jesus, or some student would have emailed you with it completed, having designed his own perfect syllabus for your consideration. Who knows. But that’s the stuff that seems to happen to me every time I’m obedient. Let’s trust Jesus together. It’s pretty awesome stuff.

    • Sean Reagan February 22, 2013, 5:28 pm

      Thank you Claudia!

  • Sally February 22, 2013, 11:39 am

    I can say Ditto to all that you said, Sean. My repeated, stumbling and getting back up has finaly come to the place, where one tiny bit at a time, I’m becoming so comfortable with Jesus/Holy Spirit, that Awareness is showing me , that Guilt is actually slipping away , and being replaced with the experience of Contentment, Inner undescribeable happiness and peace for Intense…… Brief AND very satisfying moments. AND due to this great pleasuer, I’m finding it becoming easier to tell my wrong mind, “you can wait, so go take a break for now”. (PS –I’m also recognizing that the Holy Spirit Causing me to Remember the TRUTH that my Real self is already been taken care of and I will have a great new life of REAL-Oneness eventually. What more could a human ask for? 🙂

    • Sean Reagan February 22, 2013, 5:31 pm

      I was talking to someone the other day and saying how the stumbling and all of that isn’t as problematic as it used to be. I’m beginning to see – dimly! – that it’s not connected to my reality. So fall, get up, keep going – and the whole time I am in the arms of Jesus, safe and whole and in the space of peace that surpasses understanding.

      Thank you as always Sally – I am always so grateful for your sharing.

  • Eric G. February 23, 2013, 11:15 am

    Well I can totally relate to this :-). The title reminds me of the story about the guy overthe cliff asking God for help.

    “There’s a story about a man who falls over a cliff, and on the way down he grabs hold of a root. He’s hanging there by this root, and he’s hollering to high heaven, ‘Help me, God! Please, help me!’ 

    And God says: ‘Sure, I’ll help. What do you want me to do?’ 

    The guy says: ‘Save me. Get me down from here.’ 

    God says: ‘OK, trust me, and let go of the root.’

    After a pause the guy says: ‘Is there anybody else up there?’”

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