God did not create a meaningless world.
This lesson is a great chance for me to talk about my own resistance to A Course in Miracles. Even though this particular lesson might not be a stumbling block for you, sooner or later your ACIM practice is going to hit a wall – maybe several walls. And the way that we respond to those hindrances matters. How do we keep going when we feel that the Course is a sham? Or when it brings us too close to something terrifying?
When I first discovered the course and began reading and practicing the lessons, I loved it. It was a fascinating blend of Christianity and psychology. I threw myself into it whole-heartedly. There were rewards, too. I had some pretty intense “awakening” experiences in those days. Enlightenment, it seemed, was just a stone’s throw away. I was – as I had always suspected – a favored son of God.
Then, one morning I was out walking and my whole mind seemed to crumble. Abruptly – like falling into a cold lake – I realized that God as the course understood God was most definitely not the God with whom I was familiar. Words don’t do the moment justice. It was a little before 5 a.m. in winter and and I was standing in front of the house where I’d grown up, staring into a black sky in which a few snow flurries circled the sky and feeling as if somebody had just slammed me in the gut with a two by four.
The course was talking about a God that was wholly loving and present in a way that was incomprehensible to human understanding. The God I believed in was an intelligent actor who controlled my life the way I controlled chess boards. And he didn’t move pieces to win – he moved them because it pleased him. And sometimes pain and anguish was what pleased him. It was a god of punishment, a god of hate.
The difference between those ideas of God was so stark! And seeing it like that was horrible. I couldn’t believe that after all these years – therapy, meditation, Thomas Merton, steady churchgoing – that I was still beholden to a God that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It was as if the course had drawn back a veil to reveal the inner horror show that drove me. I hated the course that day.
And so here’s what Lesson 14 does for me: it reminds me clearly that I still have not give up completely on the God with whom I grew up. No rational person – given a choice between a cruel and indifferent God and a perfectly loving one would choose the former. But I am not rational – not really.
For some people, dredging up a catalog of personal horrors isn’t a big deal. For me – for one simple reason – it is. Because in that deep place we only rarely go – and where we are so scared to shine the light – I believe God did create those horrors. And they are lying in wait as punishment for my sins.
Can you say separation?
Each time I say God didn’t create this or that there’s a voice that responds, “oh yes he did. Don’t blaspheme. You know he made cancer and serial killers and random accidents that kill children. If you deny it, he’s going to get you.”
I know from an intellectual place how sad and pathetic that is. Please understand that. But I cannot deny its existence. Denying it means that it won’t be healed. And I really want to be healed. I really want what Paul talked about to the Philippians: “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.”
So what do we do? What do I do?
For starters, I own whatever it is that I want to stuff down or blame on you or the world or God. That means simply that I don’t hide it. I say, “here you go, Jesus. You said there’s no order of difficulty in miracles? Well, I’ve got a doozy for you.”
And then I do the lesson. I just do it. I say to God, “this one? I don’t buy it. But I’ll do it. I’m not going to get anything out of it, but I’ll do it.” I follow it to the T – no more, no less. Tomorrow’s another day.
And there is something in all of that – owning it, being honest with Jesus or whatever symbol of Love works for us – that is peaceful unto itself. That’s all I can say. You face your demons and it doesn’t seem like Jesus or God does anything for you in that moment, but when it’s over you feel . . . normal. You can go home and make popcorn for the kids and play games. You can make a healthy dinner for the family instead of blacking out with booze. One foot after another. One little prayer after another. Something is working.
In the years since that dark morning – when I faced the God of my childhood in fear and trembling, unsure of the alternative – I have come to realize that a lot of healing takes place without our knowing it. I have gotten better at accepting this and at just showing up, day after day. I often paraphrase Meister Eckhart: the mind with which I know God is the mind with which God knows me. There is peace and quiet – and even some gratitude – merely in our willingness to be in the process, however we define it. It is not our peace and quiet and thankfulness only. It is also God’s.