What is salvation? "Salvation is a promise made by God, that you would find your way to Him at last." (W.PII.Q2.1.1) It is a guaranteed promise. This is the end of all illusions and the time of our release from the ego thought system. As we experience our own release, we release others by bringing the light in us to the whole SonShip. In tomorrow's Lesson, Jesus tells us salvation and forgiveness are the same. It is moving from a state of conflict to a state of peace and happiness. In Lesson 101, he says the theme of all the Lessons on salvation is happiness. Happiness is a "key idea in understanding what salvation means." (W.101.1.2)
What is our part in God's plan? It is simply to do our healing through forgiveness. What do we forgive? In our day, we experience circumstances, people and events that may trigger something in us that needs healing. Everything in our day is for our learning. This world and our lives can therefore be considered as our classroom, when used for learning purposes. What we are learning is who we are in truth. This requires undoing all that is untrue. It is undoing how we see our special relationships, how we experience the events of this world, and how the circumstances of our lives affect us. It does not matter whether we judge them as good or bad because they are all helpful when used for our healing. This is how we come to peace through forgiveness.
As we work with the Holy Spirit by bringing our ego thought system to Him, He does all the heavy lifting. All that is required is our willingness to release to Him how we see everything now. Basically, we are putting our dark thoughts on the inner altar and leaving them there. We need not interfere. He will do the rest. Our part is to acknowledge we are wrong about all our interpretations. As we turn to Him, He will give us another way of seeing. To see independent of the Holy Spirit is to see wrongly. The Holy Spirit abides in our right minds. He is not separate from us. He is the Divine Wisdom within the mind Who shows us another way of seeing. We just need to be willing to ask and to surrender our own way. We must be willing to be humble by recognizing we don't know because we are using our senses to gather information, and they inform us incorrectly.
We make mistakes, but they are not sins. When we experience guilt, we are judging our mistakes as sins. Jesus gently encourages us to do this forgiveness work on behalf of our own happiness. "This course requires almost nothing of you. It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more." (T.20.VII.1.7-8)(ACIM OE T.20.VIII.58) We have chosen suffering and are not truly happy here, no matter how well we have adjusted to the world. We can't be happy here because the world is not our home, but a state of separation from Oneness. Yes, we have times of pleasure, but we know they do not last.
Our plans for salvation are by fulfilling our needs, as we define them. Our plans involve fulfilling our requirements for happiness, as we define them. In our terms, our specialness must be addressed, and yet this always brings more suffering. Why? It brings suffering because the pleasure we seek is always at someone else's expense, and therefore, it brings more guilt and ultimately more pain. While we seem to gain when we get our needs met, someone always pays the price, and all we really gain is more guilt in the end. Thus, the world was made to serve our specialness at the cost to us of more guilt and fear. With each goal we set for ourselves comes more disillusionment. "You have made a thousand losing bargains at the least." (W.98.5.4) With each bargain we make, we think this time it will be different. We think this time we will achieve happiness for all time, but we know it never lasts. All we have to do to see this is look honestly at our own lives.
We are asked to "dedicate ourselves fully to truth today," (W.98.1.5) so we can come to know who we are. When we become dedicated to truth, we willingly let go of our own insistence of where our happiness lies. Jesus says this can only come from undoing the guilt in our minds. Of course, we have other ideas of what we need in order to be happy. We think it is our specialness, but Jesus keeps assuring us again and again, we will never find happiness in our pursuits to serve and support the special, unique and individual self. Does that make our pursuits bad or wrong? Absolutely not! The idea is not to feel guilty when we pursue what we still think will make us happy, but only to recognize, more and more, that our pursuits are taking us down the road to nowhere. We can never meet our needs by looking for them outside ourselves. The beliefs we hold that our happiness is in finding the right job, making enough money, finding the perfect relationship, or perfect place to live, is not where we will ever feel perfect certainty, meaning, happiness, fulfillment, or completion. When we come to a point of disillusionment in the realization that our happiness is not ever found out there, we are ready to look for another answer. Then, we will become more motivated to seek for salvation where it really is, which is in our right minds.
"How happy to be certain!"
(W.98.2.1) When we recognize where our salvation truly lies, we will focus our energies more inward. While I still notice the beliefs I hold about things in the world can make me happy, I am more and more willing to stop and question what everything is for. I am more willing to notice my "I know" mind is the arrogance of the ego telling me what I need, when it truly does not know because it can't know who I am. We are called today to embrace a mighty purpose, which is to forgive by recognizing first how wrong we have been in our pursuits of nothing of value.
If you track the words "certain" and "certainty" in this Lesson, you will find they come up often reminding us that certainty is never of the ego. We can only be certain in God. We can feel, with confidence and faith, that we are guaranteed true happiness when we focus on our one purpose, which is to heal the guilt in the mind. When we live our lives with devotion to our purpose of waking up, everything that happens to us is happily invited because it can all serve this one purpose. Everything is then perfectly orchestrated for us and by us. We are called to be happy learners, which is to accept that everything plays out for our highest good.
We currently experience ourselves as two selves, where confusion reigns and we are never certain. Truth is only on one side. Nothing is on the other side. Today, we take a stand only on the side that is real and true. When we do, we have certainty, because it all boils down to purpose. We will always be in doubt if we hold onto two selves with differing functions. One believes its salvation lies in the things of this world, while the other is about accepting our part in God's plan for salvation.
Our part is to be happy. We are happy when we devote ourselves to forgiveness. Jesus reminds us, "You do not have to seek far for salvation. Every minute and every second gives you a change to save yourself. Do not lose these chances, not because they will not return, but because delay of joy is needless. " (T.9.VII.1.5-6)(ACIM OE T.9.VI.38) He goes on to say, we have two conflicting evaluations of ourselves in our minds, and they can't possibly both be true. "You do not yet realize how completely different these evaluations are, because you do not understand how lofty the Holy Spirits' perception of you really is. He is not deceived by anything you do, because He never forgets what you are." (T.9.VII.4.2-3)
(ACIM OE T.9.VI.41)
My work with the Course has certainly increased my sense of confidence and trust. I have doubts and I still set goals that I think will serve my special needs, but increasingly I am willing to turn these doubts over to Him and to ask for guidance in all of my busy doings. We just need that little willingness and He will do the rest, turning our doubt to faith. "Give Him the words, and He will do the rest." (W.98.9.1) He will open up the way for us. When we have evidence that we really can find peace and trust in the way appointed for us, we will become more and more convinced of the truth of this.
Our part is to choose forgiveness and not to worry about the effects. Our job is to let go of the ego thought system of guilt and fear, and when we do, the Holy Spirit's love can extend through us. Thus, "you will have conviction then of Him Who knows the function that you have on earth as well as Heaven." (W.98.9.5) Doubt will be gone, and we will have certainty of purpose. When we know more and more that we have been absolved of our errors, our innocence and our safety will become more apparent to us. We no longer fear punishment for our guilt. Now, we no longer need magic. The guiltless "do not appeal to magic, nor invent escapes from fancied threats without reality." (W.98.3.2) In other words, there is no need to seek for substitutes for God's love, which is what magic is. When we feel guilty, we expect punishment and need to protect ourselves by finding magic solutions for our problems.
Imagine, instead of inventing escapes from your fancied threats, you rest in serene certainty, knowing that you are perfectly capable of accepting your function and you have been given everything perfectly to achieve this function. We have the Course. We have our script for our lives. We have our Teacher and we have our classroom. We are the author of our script, not God. The Correction (the Holy Spirit), which is God's Answer to the separation, has been placed in our minds. Everything is there perfectly for our awakening. Everything unfolds perfectly in time and space, when used for healing purposes. Imagine undertaking your function with full commitment and certainty of success every step of the way.
In the practice periods, we are asked to suspend our doubts for a while. Jesus knows we have doubts, but when we take a few moments during the day to bring our uncertainty to the Holy Spirit for healing, and connect with the certainty of his assurances, guidance, and presence in our lives, we can experience how wonderful certainty can feel. There is a place in us where certainty abides. This is the place in us where we know the reality of who we are. This is the Self that has never left us. It is a place of total calm, peace and joy. We don't need to look for it, as we already have it. It is the awareness that watches the thinker of the thoughts. It has always been with us.
The world offers us uncertainty and doubt, but when we enter this place of total quiet, it is like entering the eye of the storm where all is still. This is the place, in our quiet center, where the holy child resides and can breathe the holy air for a while. There is a very poignant passage in Lesson 182 that says, "It is this Child in you your Father knows as His Own Son. It is this Child Who knows His Father. He desires to go home so deeply, so unceasingly, His voice cries unto you to let Him rest a while. He does not ask for more than just a few instants of respite; just an interval in which He can return to breathe again the holy air that fills His Father's house." (W.182.1-4) This is a place where our restless minds can have respite.
That is the value of our communion with God in our meditation time. We just need to surrender our goals, plans and doubt thoughts, and sit in quiet, listening to His Voice. We just need to let go and let God. We are giving up our plans and saying yes to the part assigned to us. We are allowing. We are accepting.
For some of us, this can seem extremely hard to do. All of us have spent a lifetime building monuments to our independence. We live by the words of Frank Sinatra, "I did it my way." These are words that can be carved onto our headstones and worn with pride in our lifetime, but independence allows us only to fly with the tiny wings of the sparrow when the wings of the eagle are available to us. There is a hard way and an easy way. I am slowly learning that, with God, all things truly are possible, and if we release our struggle to His Answer, we move from dis-ease to ease. Yes, it takes practice. Yes, it takes discipline, but that is what time was made for. That is the only reason we are here. He who has the most toys at the end does not win anything, not even the toys. All we have done in acquiring our toys is to trade the eternal for nothingness. In each moment, we are making a choice for Heaven or hell.
If we will just take the time he asks of us to do the practice of affirming and taking a stand in accepting our part in God's plan for our salvation, all the wonderful rewards he speaks to us about are guaranteed. We are exchanging a little of our time in doing the five-minute practice for peace of mind, certainty of purpose, happiness, release from pain, and a promise of complete success. All that is asked of us is time, which is really nothing, since time is just illusory. In exchange for this, we get everything. Do you believe that? If we do believe it and truly want it, our practice time would be something we would do willingly, and in between practice periods we would hardly be able to wait for the next one. Because this is not generally the way we experience it now, he gives us so much encouragement and so many promises in these Lessons, assuring us of the wonderful benefits of staying focused in our practice. Jesus assures us, he is always with us, strengthening our weak commitment and dedication. He knows we falter and get discouraged and wonder if the benefits he talks about are really true. Realizing this, he offers us so many incentives. "In each five minutes that you spend with Him, He will accept your words and give them back to you all bright with faith and confidence so strong and steady they will light the world with hope and gladness." (W.98.8.1)
We are still attached to our pain and our stories, and resist full release because we wonder who we would be without our independence, beliefs and the fleeting joys of our specialness. We are addicted to these highs and lows. We recognize the world gives us pain, but we still have our own idea of happiness and we are not sure we want to release it. We still do think we know better and we still fear we will be asked to sacrifice in ways that will compromise our freedom as we have defined it. We still don't trust God, but when we see that the cost to us of following the ego is high and the results in our lives have not been very good, we become more motivated to listen to the Holy Spirit.
He is with us. We are not undertaking this practice alone. We approach this time with thankfulness that we can lay down all earthly tasks for a short time. Our practice periods should be a happy time and not a burden. It sometimes feels very demanding and I find he knows that, which is why he is really trying to encourage us with the benefits of this practice and the discipline of laying down "all little thoughts and limited ideas, and spend a happy time again with Him." (W.98.11.1) In that time, we happily agree to take our part in God's plan for salvation and listen to His guidance on how He can use our strengths, our talents and our encounters with those around us for His purposes rather than our own.
Finally, as a note of interest, we now have a Lesson written in iambic pentameter, which I always find so very amazing. This means it is written in ten syllables with five pairs each, and the accent is on the second syllable for each of the pairs. It has the sound of a heartbeat when read in a rhythmic way. Actually, in this Lesson, it does not start until line two of the first paragraph. The rest of the Lessons mostly follow this same rhythm. To me, this demonstrates the absolutely amazing mind that dictated the Lessons with such beauty and wisdom. It is another bit of evidence, for my mind, that the dictation did not come from any earthly intelligence.