[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
Lately, my practice theme has been accepting my part in God’s plan for salvation. I know that I have already accepted it to a degree, but I also know that my acceptance is far from total, and my lack of total commitment means I’m not as happy as I could be. So, I’ve been working each day with Lesson 317, “I follow in the way appointed me.” Here is the lesson in full:
“I have a special place to fill; a role for me alone. Salvation waits until I take this part as what I choose to do. Until I make this choice, I am the slave of time and human destiny. But when I willingly and gladly go the way my Father’s plan appointed me to go, then will I recognize salvation is already here, already given all my brothers and already mine as well.
“Father, Your way is what I choose today. Where it would lead me do I choose to go; what it would have me do I choose to do. Your way is certain, and the end secure. The memory of You awaits me there. And all my sorrows end in Your embrace, which You have promised to Your Son, who thought mistakenly that he had wandered from the sure protection of Your loving Arms.” (W-pII.317.1:1-2:5)
I find the two alternatives presented here very powerful and thought provoking. The first alternative: If I don’t take the role in salvation that only I can fill, salvation is delayed, and “I am the slave of time and human destiny.” What a poignant line! I can sense the truth of it. If I just muddle through life the way we usually do and live for nothing more than the care and feeding of little old me, I am doomed to the inevitable sorrow of the human condition.
Perhaps my life will go relatively well by human standards; perhaps it will go poorly. But even if it goes well, I will experience countless pains and disappointments along the way. And in the end (unless I go suddenly), I will inevitably suffer the same fate as every human being who lives long enough: I will gradually decline, feel the ravages of sickness and incapacitation close in on me, and will finally sink into the grave. I’ve seen the end stages of this firsthand as I’ve worked with hospice patients. No matter how we have lived, we are all indeed the slaves of time and human destiny.
That is, unless we choose God’s alternative: taking our part in His plan for salvation. If “I willingly and gladly go the way my Father’s plan appointed me to go,” I will come to recognize the truth that “all my sorrows end in Your embrace.” Again, what a poignant line! Instead of being the slave of time and human destiny, I will recognize that salvation from that tragic fate is already here, not only for myself but for everyone. Our remembrance of God is inevitable, for in fact we have never really left His embrace.
Yes, to the degree that I am still attached to the ego, I will still experience human sorrows. And yes, my body will still die. But to the degree that I can devote myself to the function God gave me, I will experience a sense of holy purpose that puts all of those human sorrows in perspective, a purpose that will reveal to me the glorious truth that lies beyond them. And perhaps, if my dedication leads to real healing, death itself will not come “in forms that seem to be thrust down in pain upon unwilling flesh” (S-3.II.3:2), but will be as the Song of Prayer says it could be: “a quiet choice, made joyfully and with a sense of peace, because the body has been kindly used to help the Son of God along the way he goes to God” (S-3.II.2:1).
As obstinate and unwilling as I can be, something deep inside me really yearns for that second alternative. I know deep down that following God’s plan for salvation is the only alternative that has any possibility of giving me lasting happiness. My hope is that by continuing to pray that Lesson 317 prayer (and others like it), by recommitting myself moment by moment to going where God would lead me and doing what He would have me do, I can weed out that shabby self-image that keeps me from taking the full plunge into God. I look forward to the day when my sorrows will melt in the loving embrace of the Father Who has never ceased to care for me.