“It’s not working.”
How often have you felt this in your spiritual journey?
I know I’ve felt it A LOT. I’ve felt angry at God, angry at A Course in Miracles, angry at teachers, angry at my ministerial curriculum, angry at Jesus. I’ve gathered all my copies of A Course in Miracles, put them in a box, and hid them away. I’ve called myself the worst student of ACIM. In a recent exercise with my teacher, I told her I just want this shit to fucking work.
What does that mean? It means I want my spirituality to accomplish the goal that was the whole reason for me to develop it in the first place—to stop feeling like shit. Stop feeling confused, scared, lost. Stop feeling like I am not connected to my purpose. Stop feeling like life has no meaning.
It means I want to check “happiness,” “connected with God,” “enlightenment” off my list. It means I want to have the principles and the practices of the Course down pat. It means I don’t want to experience any pain or suffering.
It means I don’t want to heal, I want to fix. It means the Course is less of a tool and more of a BandAid.
It means I told myself that I was setting out on a journey to get to know myself and to start a relationship with God, but in reality I was just using the Course to make myself feel better.
And really, there’s nothing wrong with that. Jesus KNOWS that we experience pain and suffering in this world (no matter your level of privilege, every human being experiences suffering). He knows that our lives are a maniacal search for what will stop the suffering. He knows that one way to get us on board with the Course is to tell us it will make us feel better. He knows we will start our journey thinking, “THIS will make me feel better, THIS is the answer I’ve been searching for.”
Deep down, in my bones, in my soul, I believe that the Course is the answer for me.
But when I use the Course to try to achieve a goal, to check “happiness” off my list, I am missing out on the real nutrients of study and practice. I am limiting the Course to a simple tool to make me feel better. I am putting on blinders and looking in only one direction—IS IT WORKING? Am I happy all the time? Are the forms in my life showing up the way I want them to?
Inherent in my goal to use the Course to achieve happiness is the need for my life to be the way I want it to be. I think, “I’m forgiving, I’m letting Holy Spirit guide me so why the hell aren’t things on the outside looking better? Where’s my happy dream?”
I am JUDGING the Course. I am JUDGING myself. I am JUDGING God/Holy Spirit/Jesus. I have decided for myself what forgiveness looks like, what my happy dream looks like. I am NOT letting myself be guided. I am not giving myself time to learn, to process, to practice.
The Course says that one of our discouragements is the idea that this work takes time, and then it says “This is not so” (T-15.I.2:1-2). This statement launched me into excitement—I could be better now, enlightened now, free from suffering now! But then when I inevitably experienced suffering, anger, sadness, doubt, I kicked myself. Jesus says this doesn’t take time. You should be further along by now. You should be able to handle this by now.
The Course, and any spirituality, really, is not supposed to be completed in a day. It’s not supposed to be “checked off the list.”
In volume one of Journey Through the Text of A Course in Miracles, Kenneth Wapnick writes that we must approach the Course with humility in order to truly “plumb its depths” (8).
I can’t approach the Course and try to force it into an easy, linear, five-simple-steps-to-enlightenment-that-you-can-complete-in-a-weekend format.
“What enables us to get in touch with [A Course in Miracles’] magnitude is the humility that says there is something here, far, far greater than I. And I want to grow into it” (9).
I’ve been guided to the Course not so that I can ace it, get happy, and ride off into the sunset. I’ve been guided to the Course because it is my LIFE PATH. It is not disposable. It is not the “five simple steps” article I read and then throw away. Marianne Williamson said the ego is insatiable. It is hungry, and it points to happiness in many different directions. I find the object, the person, the practice that is supposed to make me happy, and the ego sinks its teeth into it and it deflates, like a balloon, and I am left to pursue the next object, person, or practice. The ego will do this with the Course, but it has been designed not to deflate. The ego bites it, tries to rip it up, slobbers all it, but it doesn’t change. My perception of it changes—today it’s working, tomorrow it’s not—but the Course doesn’t.
The Course represents something far greater than my ego, far greater than me. It is something I grow into. It is not a linear journey. As Ken says in his Glossary-Index, “The process resembles the ascent up a spiral staircase. The reader is led in a circular pattern, each revolution leading higher until the top of the spiral is reached, which opens unto God. Thus, the same material consistently recurs, both within the Course as a thought system as well as in learning opportunities in our personal lives. Each revolution, as it were, leads us closer to our spiritual goal” (1, my emphasis).
That recognition—that the Course is not a sprint but a marathon, that the lessons I am here to learn aren’t dealt with and then gone away forever—is so freeing. It helps me take off the blinders that say “IT SHOULD BE THIS WAY,” and let my journey be as it is. It leads me into acceptance of all that is appearing before me in this crazy dream. It allows me to stop fighting and resisting. It brings me comfort that I now have a lifelong tool, a new thought system, that will always be with me. It brings a sense of purpose.