Through the mottled glass of the window on the office door I could see Jesus bent over his desk, grading papers, no doubt. You’d think he would keep the door open, being Jesus and all, I thought, before remembering that someone might have accidentally slammed it on her way out the other day. I drew a ragged breath cut short by this damn choking cough that wouldn’t quit despite my pleas to you know who to see things differently.
“Come in,” Jesus called, before I even lifted my fist to knock. He was always doing things like that.
I carried my notebook over to the chair beside his desk and sat down. He wasn’t grading papers after all, even though I had given him a stash of new red pencils all sharpened and ready to go on more than one occasion. No, he was playing with those finger puppets he had fancied and apparently pinched from my collection several weeks ago—George Bush and Mother Goose appeared to be engaging in a kind of mimed conversation to which I was not privy. Jesus looked on, seemingly amused.
I took out my pen, opened my notebook, scribbled out the situation I found myself in, and pushed it toward him.
“You mean you can’t speak?” He had raised his voice–as if he suspected I had lost my sense of hearing, as well—and seemed annoyingly on the verge of bursting into song from sheer delight.
I shook my head.
“Tell me more,” he said.
I grabbed back the notebook and picked up my pen. The sickness had commenced ironically enough after a hike I took with my daughter and husband Mother’s Day, a sentimental journey to an Open Space park in the foothills we used to frequent all the time when our child was little. Swinging her between us on a wide footpath that climbed after a while toward the ruins of a castle constructed in the early 20th century by a millionaire with big dreams for a wife he adored.
An unseasonably warm, gusting wind coated us with dust and pollen as we re-read the ruins’ story before moving on to retrace our steps along the rest of the winding trails, our little dog’s feet turning green and rusty brown from pine pollen and parched earth. As we recounted the various times we had come here together, Kara tried her best to humor our memories although they had clearly long faded for her, as early happy childhood memories will. By the time we returned to the car I was wheezing. My eyes burned, my head and muscles ached, and my plan to spend the remaining afternoon cooking a fabulous and instructive meal with my college-bound daughter as obedient sous chef had pretty much bitten the dust.
By Monday morning, although barely able to swallow, I steeled myself to complete my writing assignments, work out, and show up to lead an A Course in Miracles class I had committed to that evening, but by the following day a full-blown case of laryngitis had set in. Still, even though swallowing brought tears to my eyes, I continued working, prepped for my regular Thursday ACIM class, and kept a lunch engagement I’d been looking forward to.
That afternoon, the last of my voice spent, I cursed my fate and called my acupuncturist for Chinese herbal remedies to treat an infection that had spread to my sinuses and lungs. I had so much to complete this week before the festivities around my daughter’s graduation commenced next week and out-of-town family descended for the celebrations. I had no time for sickness, no time for these nagging feelings of inadequacy. Let’s face it; I could barely keep up with my current schedule while well. I had so wanted everything to be magical next week, perhaps hoping that an idyllic ending might somehow mitigate our less than exemplary, all-too-complicated, eighteen-year journey together. I put down my pen, drew another ragged breath, and again pressed my index fingers to those all-too-leaky-lately tear ducts.
Jesus pushed the box of tissues toward me with his palms. George Bush and Mother Goose stood at attention.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I wrote.
George and Mother Goose nodded from their perch on Jesus’ fingers.
I had just been re-reading A Course in Miracles Chapter 18, IV. The Little Willingness, paragraph 4, wherein Jesus explains just how small our contribution to the Course’s mind-healing forgiveness really is:
The holy instant does not come from your little willingness alone. It is always the result of your small willingness combined with the unlimited power of God’s Will. You have been wrong in thinking that it is needful to prepare yourself for Him. It is impossible to make arrogant preparations for holiness, and not believe that it is up to you to establish the conditions for peace. God has established them. They do not wait upon your willingness for what they are. Your willingness is needed only to make it possible to teach you what they are. If you maintain you are unworthy of learning this, you are interfering with the lesson by believing that you must make the learner different. You did not make the learner, nor can you make him different. Would you first make a miracle yourself, and then expect one to be made for you?
I sighed. All my life I had been trying to make the learner different. Struggling to prepare myself for wholeness, believing that if I could just complete my To-Do list, meet all my obligations, still my thoughts, clear my desk and mind, I could somehow perfect myself enough to receive the light of our creator’s forgiveness. If I just worked a few more hours, learned a little more, shed a few more layers, concentrated a little harder, I would be ready to receive the love that has seemed so elusive here in the dream, a love I keep trying to resurrect in an imaginary past or seek in a future that never comes. But love is right here, right now, always has been, always will be, completely unaffected by the constantly morphing conditions of the dream and dream figures I think I need to personally purify and steady to enable peace to arrive.
In a welcome flash I realized my efforts to create the perfect day in which to engage with my daughter, the perfect week in which to celebrate her coming of age, the perfect health in which to enjoy the perfect festivities, were no different than my efforts to become the perfect A Course in Miracles student. As if my contribution as a body created like all bodies from a faulty belief that we could (or would want to) exist separately from our eternally loving source had anything at all to offer truth.
“Damn,” I wrote, smacking myself upside the head.
Jesus nodded. George Bush and Mother Goose did a happy little dance.
I blew my nose and coughed and did my best to swallow. A lot of things might not get done and I still might be sick when graduation came but love was still here. Imagine that.
“This Course is getting really redundant,” I wrote, and pushed my notebook toward Jesus.
Downright gleeful, he grabbed one of those perfectly sharpened red pencils and—as God is my witness—gave me a big, fat A+!
Susan Dugan’s books Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, and Forgiveness: The Key to Happiness are available at RMMC and on Amazon. She writes about ACIM based on Ken Wapnick’s teachings at ForaysInForgiveness.com and teaches Tuesday nights at RMMC.