[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
My husband, James, had a polo shirt made up with these words on it for one of the Hallowe’en parties we had at the Circle, and I kept remembering them as we were doing the lessons leading up to Review IV. These lessons had an increasingly significant impact on me as we went through them one by one.
It all started on the day we were practicing Lesson 138, “Heaven is the decision I must make.” I awoke early that day, and because our instructions were to practice the lesson for five minutes as soon as we woke up, I did just that. I was really connecting with this group of lessons, and went into my practice with my favourite practice approaches; that is, with confidence, desire, and determination, and with a sense of the importance and holiness of deciding for Heaven. It was an okay practice, but nothing significant happened. Then James woke up and I did the practice again, time with him as part of our longer morning quiet time.
This time my practice was completely different. Almost as soon as I started practicing, the thought came to me that if I really wanted to be healed, I just had to decide for Heaven; there was no way around it. At that, tears started streaming down my face and continued for the rest of the practice period. I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I did know that I was feeling a profound sense of sadness. Afterward, as I talked with James about it, I realized that I felt so sad because of how much I wanted to be healed, but how much I continued to choose hell. Feeling angry, impatient, discouraged and hopeless; judging, worrying; these were some of the more obvious ways I could see myself doing this. What a waste of time and energy!
I saw how split my mind is: I want the Holy Spirit to be in charge of my life and I want to be in charge of it myself–or at least a good part of it. When it really comes down to it, I still think that it’s mostly “all up to me.” I’m afraid to decide for Heaven, i.e., to decide for God–even if I say it’s all that I want. I’m afraid that it will be the end of me, in that I won’t have a say in my life any more. (Of course I know that deciding for Heaven will be the end of me; that is, it will be the end of the ego that I think I am, but that didn’t seem to help me.) I’m afraid that if I leave everything up to the Holy Spirit, I’ll end up with nothing. How ironic: On the intellectual level I no longer believe that the world offers me anything that I want, but I obviously still do believe it on the practical day-to-day bodily level. In reality, I have everything, but here in the world I actually have nothing. Yet, I’m afraid that giving up nothing will mean that I’ll lose everything!
I’m really alive only in Heaven, yet I think that living here means that I’m alive. Yet, living anywhere but in Heaven is living in hell. However, it appears that I prefer a hell of my own making to Heaven created by God for me as a place of infinite safety, purity, and love. I prefer to be dead in hell–which is a description of “life” in the world–than to be alive–eternally alive–in Heaven! Not only is it impossible to see two worlds (Lesson 130); it’s also impossible to be in two worlds. I can’t be both alive and dead, yet that’s the state in which the split in my mind has put me. The other irony about all this is that I think I have a choice, but I really don’t. If where I really am is in Heaven, what choice is there to make? This is a choice that I can’t not make, because the choice for Heaven has already been made. It’s a done deal. This is really ridiculous–so ridiculous that it’s laughable.
My musings continued through the day and into the next with “I will accept Atonement for myself” (Lesson 139), which talked about the doubts we have about what we are, and how the question, “What am I?” is the source of all our conflict. The lesson follows directly from the Heaven lesson. If Heaven is the only thing I really want and I must make the decision for it, I must also make the decision to accept Atonement for myself, because accepting it is accepting the truth of what I am. What else would I want? What else can I be? I can’t have Heaven if I don’t accept the truth of what I am, for Heaven is a statement of what I am, as well as where I am.
Just as Heaven is not a real choice, Atonement is not a real choice, for what else can I choose but the truth of what I am?! So here again, I have to choose between nothing (what I am not) and everything (what I am)! What a choice! Yet, most of the time I’m choosing what I am not. Every time I have any doubts or worries or feel conflicted, I am doing this. If I chose what I really am–God’s guiltless Son–doubt and worry and conflict wouldn’t even be an issue in my life. They would be impossible.
So, if I choose nothing as what I am and nowhere as where I am, it must be because I value them more than everything and everywhere. If I truly valued everything and everywhere, I would really want them, and wanting them, they would be mine (Lesson 20.3:2).
By now, you’re probably thinking, “But this is completely insane,” and of course you’re right! We talked about this in our Workbook class, and I ended up laughing at how absolutely ludicrous this whole thing is. It was really helpful for me to see this so clearly. Knowing how crazy it all was helped me realize that I really didn’t want to continue doing this to myself. In my practice periods during the day, I asked the Holy Spirit to show me what it would be like if I did decide for Heaven and did accept Atonement for myself. I didn’t have any major revelations, but I did have a deep sense of peace and calm. I know that I need to make these decisions every day, and I trust that one day, “perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow” (Lesson 124.10:1; 11:1,3) they will lead me to the actual experience of Heaven and my true Self. After all, “No one can fail who seeks to reach the truth” (Lesson 131); “no one can fail to want this goal [Heaven] and reach it in the end” (4:3).
Postscript: As we now revisit these lessons in Review IV, I have been amazed at the consistency and clarity of the message that Jesus wants us to get. The decision for truth has already been made; it’s done and over. I am a Holy Son of God and I am in Heaven. Day by day it’s sinking in that I don’t need to do this any longer, and moreover, that I don’t want to. “Why wait for Heaven? It is here today” (Lesson 131.6:1-2). Why would I not make the choice that has already been made? It’s inevitable that I be brought “to the place where there is but one choice that must be made” (Lesson 133.4:3). Every day, every lesson, as I realize this more and more, I feel myself filled with hope and with a sense of uncontainable joy.