Back from Hell

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]

For a few months when James’s working conditions were getting more and more difficult and even when he eventually left his job, I stayed peaceful, loving, and supportive, encouraging him and helping keep him on track with the Course’s teachings and practices. Then a few days ago–on my birthday, actually–I derailed and went badly off track. I don’t know specifically what caused the derailment, but all of a sudden I noticed myself freefalling into fear, and then into resignation, hopelessness, and anger.

The lessons we were practicing over those few days should have been perfect to help me deal with the situation:

Where darkness was I look upon the light (302)
The holy Christ is born in me today. (303)
Let not my world obscure the sight of Christ. (304)

The words, however, seemed hollow to me. On one level, I knew that they were true, and that all I needed to do was get back to trusting the Holy Spirit, stop judging, and forgive so that Christ’s vision could show me the real world instead of the fearful world I was seeing, but I couldn’t seem to make any headway. As a matter of fact, I seemed to lose ground day by day, and sometimes even hour by hour. Even the tools in my problem-solving repertoire weren’t helping. I didn’t want to give in to thoughts of impending doom, but all I could see ahead was darkness and disaster, with not one glimmer of light anywhere. My world definitely was obscuring the sight of Christ! I kept calling for help, but nothing seemed to be helping.

I felt sick at heart, because here I was, a Course teacher, and I wasn’t able to apply any of these wonderful lessons to what was going on. They obviously were the answer and yet I couldn’t get the words off the paper and into my heart and mind. I also felt badly because I was harbouring unloving attack thoughts towards James, blaming him for our situation.

Yesterday afternoon, the dark clouds parted a little. A close friend and I got together and talked and she gave me a birthday card that said, “Let me remind you of your holy purpose”! By reminding me of who I was and how blessed my life had been up till now, she helped loosen, ever so slightly, the tight grip the ego had on me.

Then this morning a miracle happened. Normally, James and I do a lengthy meditation in the morning, but I felt so disheartened and discouraged that I didn’t even want to. My meditations in the past few days had been wipe-outs, and I had no reason to think that today’s would be any different, but I did agree to try anyway.

James had read the handout I had prepared for my students on today’s lesson (305, “There is a peace that Christ bestows on us.”), and commented, “This is good. Now, if you could only apply what you’ve written here.” (The irony was not lost on me!) As we read the lesson out loud to each other, I was swept with sadness and started to cry. I felt that I was betraying God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, James, and my self.

I longed for the peace that comes with Christ’s vision, but I was obviously judging it, believing that it was impossible for me to feel peaceful in the situation. I realized that I must think that I deserve to suffer and that I will be punished for some terrible nameless thing I have done. Even if things have always worked out well in my life, I was sure that the moment would come when my luck would run out, my past sins would catch up with me, and I would have to pay for whatever I had done. I felt sad that I believed such thoughts.

Something in that realization sparked a determination in me to let go of these crazy thoughts about myself, and I went into my quiet time with a strong desire to see the truth, to believe God’s will for me, to accept His peace, and to let Christ be born in me so that I could use His vision to see this situation differently.

I prayed the prayer again and then repeated the idea several times à la Robert’s “How to repeat the idea…” suggestions, focusing on self-talk; that is, talking to myself about the idea by adding related thoughts:

There is a peace that Christ bestows on me…. There is a peace that Christ bestows on me, and I do not want to judge against it. Help me accept it now, dear God…. I won’t insist any longer that I can’t be in peace with things the way they are…. I want to stop condemning myself…. I will withdraw my faith in disaster and place my faith in a reality that is safe and sure and wholly kind (T-16.II.8:6)…. “To the ego’s dark glass,” I say, “I will not look there, because I know these images are not true” (T-4.IV.9:2)…. I choose to believe Your Word, dear God, and not mine.

All of a sudden I realized that something had shifted. I felt lighter. It was as if the heavy cloud of darkness had lifted. I was feeling peaceful! For the rest of my practice period, I felt peace growing and growing in me, enveloping me, filling me with a sense of safety and trust.

When James called us out of meditation, I came out feeling full of peace, gratitude, and love. All the fear, anger, and despair had disappeared. James came out saying, “Part way through my meditation it was as if a switch had been thrown and all I felt was peace, a peace that nothing could disturb.”

We were amazed and excited that both of us had had the same experience, what we could only call the gift of grace. Christ had bestowed on us his peace, and all our judgments about ourselves and each other and our situation had disappeared! Where all had seemed dark and heavy, now there was light all around. Earlier I had been crying tears of sorrow and sadness, and now I was crying tears of joy and gratitude.

The day before, Amy (our CCC Amy) suggested that I write a blog, even as I was struggling to apply the Course to the situation. With some trepidation, I decided that I would, even if–as she said–“it might feel like walking down a street naked!” Then this happened this morning, and now I’m so glad that I’ve been able to write a blog with a happy ending, thanks to the Course–and it sure beats Amy’s alternative!