In The Immediacy of Salvation,” A Course in Miracles makes the reasonable point that all our plans for safety are forward-looking, and since we can’t actually know what the future holds, our “plans” as such are essentially useless.
Yet the course also recognizes that some fear exists in us that causes us to make those plans, however futile they might be. And it invites us to think about that fear not in terms of what might happen tomorrow but rather what is happening right now. That is, it asks to us to give attention to our fear now.
What might we learn when we do?
Future loss is not your fear. But present joining is your dread . . . And it is this that needs correction, not a future state (T-26.VIII.4:2-4, 8).
The Jesus we encounter in the New Testament makes a similar observation.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them . . . Why are you anxious about your clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them (Matthew 7:25-26, 28-29).
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says that the correction for a wrong emphasis on forward-thinking and planning is to “seek first the Kingdom of God.” In a similar way, A Course in Miracles suggests that we give attention to our present dread and take note of its here-and-nowness. Our fear is not of what will happen tomorrow but rather reflects a present lack of trust in our brothers and sisters. Thus we retain a sense of competition, and a corresponding sense that attack and defense remain viable.
Thus do you think it safer to remain a little careful and a little watchful of interests perceived as separate. From this perception you cannot conceive of gaining what forgiveness offers now . . . You see eventual salvation, not immediate results (T-26.VIII.2:4-5, 7).
This gap between you and I – which we insist upon because we do not fully trust one another (which is to say that we do not fully trust our own selves) – can only be perceived in the present moment. Where else could it possibly be? We fear it now because it is here now.
This is the insight the course urges us to accept. When we plan for the future we are correctly recognizing fear but are failing to see where and what that fear actually is. It’s not a problem in the future for which we must prepare. It’s a problem here and now to which we are responding here and now.
Thus, we might say that to “seek first the Kingdom” is to sit quietly and attentively with our fear. We might give attention to the way that planning distracts us from the present moment. And we might explore the course’s suggestion that our present fear reflects a lack of trust in our brothers and sisters and that it is this lack of trust which must be “solved,” not some hypothetical future circumstance.
Look not to time, but to the little space between you still, to be delivered from. And do not let it be disguised as time, and so preserved because its form is changed and what it is cannot be recognized (T-26.VIII.9:7-8).
It’s not tomorrow that vexes us. It’s the fault lines in our relationship today.
It is important to be clear that intellectually understanding the principles at work here is helpful (truly) but not dispositive. It’s like putting the yeast, salt, flour and water on the counter but not making the bread. We have to actually sit with our fear. We have to actually feel the lack of trust in ourselves and in the other. It’s scary. It’s not easy. But that way lies the Kingdom.
More likely than not, our initial response to all this will be grief. When I see how I fail you, despite my intelligence, my study, my practice, my sincerity . . . When I see how my lack of trust in us brings both of us pain . . . what else but sorrow can prevail?
Yet this grief testifies to the authenticity of our experience. And it is also the means by which the Holy Spirit – to use course parlance – or attention (to use Sean parlance) will undo our lack of trust and restore our awareness of love. It is when we perceive the utter depths of our personal failure that we can resign as our teacher and a new teacher with a new curriculum becomes possible.
The Holy Spirit’s purpose is now yours. Should not His happiness be yours as well? (T-26.VIII.9:9-10).
It is a good question! And in the answer – which we live through the gift of attention – fear is converted to hope and hope translated to love. Would you offer me anything else?