Our Love awaits us as we go to Him, and walks beside us showing us the way. He fails in nothing. He the End we seek, and he the Means by which we go to Him.” (A Course in Miracles workbook lesson 302, from paragraph 2)
When I was a kid, our road-trip vacations inevitably began with my mother–staring straight ahead, shoulders hugging her ears–saying something like this, in a flat voice, about ten minutes into the drive: “Do you know if I left the iron on?”
Followed by my father, replying with something like this: “Jesus Christ!” in a voice, not so flat, before peeling off in the other direction with a squeal and jerk that left my brother and I gripping the backseat door handles for balance on our opposite sides of an imaginary, yet heartily defended, demilitarized zone. Wise enough to zip our ever-flapping lips as my parents returned to the scene of the possible crime to ensure one or the other’s carelessness did not inadvertently seal our family’s ever-wobbly fate.
“Did you lock the door? Did you put the cat in? Did I turn off the stove, close the windows–take the God-damn laundry off the line?” By the time I made it to junior high, I no longer so much as glanced up from whatever book I was deep into as my parents dutifully repeated the lines of their script, responding to the magnetic pull of a distracted lifestyle here in the dream by performing this little obsessive-compulsive ritual I now considered normal, along with all the other neurotic behaviors I’d observed over the years in others and myself.
I bring this up because I’ve been once more noticing these sorts of rituals in myself and—with help from our new inner teacher—at least seeing them as they are, as the Course puts it, and not the way I set them up. As detours back into the dream of separate selves vying for survival in a harsh environment designed to keep me away from the decision-making mind and the outstretched hand of said inner teacher ever willing, ready, and able to lead me back to the only home I really want to return to. As mindless wanderings back onto the battlefield in a futile attempt to right wrongs that can never be righted. Attend to ever-morphing, nonsensical situations that appear to demand my full attention to defend against eternal, all-inclusive abstract love. A love I crave, but am not yet certain I trust not to turn on me for the defection from its metaphorical arms I secretly accuse myself of, and therefore feel obsessively compelled to flee again and again.
Ironically, the more I work with this Course, the more aware I become of my compulsion to trade the realm of the decision-making mind where the choice for true comfort abides for the body’s bogus refuge. The more committed I become to healing my mind through the process of catching myself attributing my unsettled inner state to external circumstances, the more I witness this seemingly involuntary urge to bolt. The more I recognize I have chosen the ego as my teacher and choose again to look through the lens of the part of my mind that truly sees only the oneness joined as one of our true nature, the more aware I conversely become of the many excuses I cook up to justify dropping the hand of the only teacher I really want. Jesus Christ!
And yet, the more I work with this Course, the more vital the character of a non-dualistic Jesus as my guide home becomes. Maybe it’s my reaction to my Catholic upbringing that is being healed through practicing forgiveness, along with all the other outside forces I believe have bullied or thwarted this personal me over the years. Honestly, I didn’t realize the extent to which I had turned my back on the figure of Jesus long before I left the church as a teenager until I started confronting my resistance to the Course’s use of this character to symbolize our inner teacher. But fairly early on in my study, and much to my surprise, I experienced a kind of inner vision of Jesus standing at the base of a trail on a bald, rocky hill; hand extended, and somehow knew this was not my grandmother’s savior. No trace of the biblical story of sin, guilt, fear and specialness clung to his robes. Somehow I knew I could trust him completely to help me find the unwavering love that seemed to have gone so horribly missing within.
And so I took his hand, gazed into those completely accepting eyes, and burst into tears. I leaned my head on his shoulder. I started to walk up that hill with him but then, you know, there were so many things I needed to take care of “down here” first. And so I ran away again. I continue to meet him on that trail, take his hand, walk a few right-minded steps with him, suddenly wonder aloud if I left the oven on, and charge back into the dream.
Unlike my bodily father, though, he only smiles and waits as I race back down the hill, promising to come right back. Smiles and waits as I exhaust another possibility that solutions to a seemingly inexhaustible set of personal problems can ever be found where the problems never existed. Until I once more return to this trail back in the mind, again willing to take a few more steps with him, hand in hand.
I see him standing there more and more these days in my mind’s eye, patiently waiting for me on that trail home, and am just beginning to forgive myself for this constant racing back and forth from mind to body, body to mind. Somehow I know that one day I will have exhausted all the nothings back down in that dreaded valley of separate interests and, fear finally worn away, be ready to take his hand once and for all and steadily climb.
Until then, he gently reminds me salvation is inevitable by saying something like this:
“I am so close to you we cannot fail.” (A Course in Miracles workbook, Part II, Introduction, from paragraph 6)
And I reply with something like this: “Are you freaking kidding me?”
“We cannot fail,” he repeats.
But he must be mumbling again. “Speak up,” I say.
He shakes his head, and smiles more broadly. “We cannot fail. The end is sure.”
Jesus Christ! I think, sighing, and reply with something like this: “Just wait here one more minute, OK? I think I might have left the front door unlocked.”
And he responds; bless his ever-beating heart, with something like this:
… The Holy Spirit has one direction for all minds, and the one He taught me is yours. Let us not lose sight of His direction through illusions, for only illusions of another direction can obscure the one for which God’s Voice speaks in all of us. Never accord the ego the power to interfere with the journey. It has none, because the journey is the way to what is true. Leave all illusions behind, and reach beyond all attempts of the ego to hold you back. I go before you because I am beyond the ego. Reach, therefore, for my hand because you want to transcend the ego. My strength will never be wanting, and if you choose to share it you will do so. I give it willingly and gladly, because I need you as much as you need me.” (A Course in Miracles, chapter 8, V. paragraph 6)