[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
(An update on my Lenten blog of February 26th)
When I asked our Sunday gathering companions to identify what they wanted to give up for Lent, I also asked them to ask the Holy Spirit what He wanted them to give up. I came up with quite a list myself, yet when I asked the Holy Spirit, He told me that He wanted me to give up something else: suffering and the belief in its inevitability. Given that suffering has been a trademark of the women of my family for generations, I was surprised that I hadn’t thought of that myself!
Realizing that He knew exactly what I needed to “sacrifice,” and that it was exactly what I really wanted to let go of, I set to work. I searched out the Workbook lessons that dealt with suffering, and have been practicing one a day ever since and will continue until Easter–the real end of suffering! I start each day by affirming that I will not tolerate suffering today. Instead, I will accept the truth about me that the Holy Spirit teaches. Even though the ego has a huge investment in my not letting go of suffering, as shown by all the ways in which it tries to sabotage my practicing, I have been making quite a lot of progress. Practicing this one issue has given me a clear focus and I am finding so many concrete ways to approach it.
Here are some of the things I have been learning through reading and practicing my lessons:
- Since I am as God created me and His Will for me is perfect happiness, I am really incapable of suffering. I can only bring the idea of suffering into my mind
- Just as sickness is a defense against the truth, so is suffering
- Suffering comes from judging and not seeing beyond appearances to the truth
- Its origin is in the belief in sin and guilt
- Suffering is nothing but self-inflicted punishment
- I need to stop denying the truth and be clear about what I am (sinless) to realize that there is absolutely no cause for suffering
- I need to let the Holy Spirit judge for me and remove all faith I have placed in “pain, disaster, suffering and loss”
- As I rest in God and realize my oneness with Him, I can exchange all suffering for joy this very day!
I think that the big realization that I am having is that since God’s Will for me is only happiness and nothing can oppose that Will–, I cannot suffer and am not suffering. I am only dreaming a dream of suffering and making it real. This seems to be tying in with what I just wrote in my blog on “Here I am, Lord, resting in You.” A suffering me is not who I am, and here in this suffering world is not where I am! Oh my, I was just reminded that I wrote a blog back in February on “Who is suffering,” which also dealt with the idea that I am not a body, so I cannot suffer. How could I have forgotten that?!
Today, my “suffering undoing” lesson is, “I bless the world because I bless myself” (Lesson 187). I woke up in suffering this morning and even practicing the lesson didn’t alleviate, let alone undo, it. I even felt frustrated because, although I understood what the lesson was saying in relation to suffering, I didn’t see how it applied to me today. Then the phone rang, and, as I picked it up, I groaned as I realized it was someone calling for some on-the-spot counseling. All I felt like doing today was hiding away in bed, and here was this person calling for help. How could I help her when I couldn’t even seem to help myself?! “Having” to give to her sure seemed like a sacrifice.
Then instantaneously something clicked in, as I realized that I really did want to be truly helpful to her. I didn’t want to be stuck in the self-centredness of suffering. In that instant everything changed. Suffering was nowhere to be found. I cared for this person; I gave her my full attention; and I think I was truly helpful. When I got off the phone, I felt totally different–free and full of joy; so much so that I went out for a walk in the glorious springtime sun and felt that I was sharing the blessing I had received with everyone.
This experience was a perfect demonstration of what the lesson was trying to get across to me: There is no sacrifice in giving; “never believe that you can sacrifice”; “give gladly. You can only gain thereby”; “Both must gain in the exchange, for each will have the thought in the form most helpful to him”; “accept not suffering, and you remove the thought of suffering.” What had happened to me was all summed up in this:
No form of sacrifice and suffering can long endure before the face of one who has forgiven and has blessed himself [by seeing no loss in giving and by forgiving].
Where I had thought that the person’s call was going to mean sacrifice and more suffering, it actually brought me a beautiful gift: a blessing for me, with which to bless the world. I was so amazed and grateful for the Holy Spirit who had obviously answered my call for help by sending me someone to help.