“Surprised by Joy”

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

In September, I went on a six-day retreat, which was one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life. In those six days I felt closer to God than ever before. I experienced His presence and His love; I actually felt Him telling me how much He loved and cared for me. Every practice and every meditation was powerful, and for the first time, I was able to enter consistently into “the wordless deep experience” of God and His Love. During the whole retreat, I felt as if I spent most of my time in a place of the stillness of the peace of God, and I had a great sense of fullness in my heart all the time.

I also had the same sense of closeness with Jesus. I felt in almost constant communication with him, and guidance seemed to come effortlessly. The focus of my retreat was my healing, and Jesus kept telling me that my healing was accomplished and all I needed to do was accept it. He was very clear and consistent about that and I really took it to heart.

Something changed inside me on that retreat, and I have been feeling the effects ever since. The most significant change is that out of the blue I am seized by feelings of intense joy.  As C. S. Lewis wrote in his book of the same title, suddenly I am “surprised by joy.” In the midst of doing something, I spontaneously start to smile and chuckle and sometimes burst into song. It’s as if I can’t contain the joy I feel. I just have to share it with someone. James says that he has never heard me laugh with such lightness and joy.

In the musical, Finian’s Rainbow, the townsfolk are singing about the hero’s sister, Susan:

A secret, a secret
She’s got a little secret
A secret, a secret
A secret kind of secret
She’s aching for to shout it to every daffodil
And tell the world about it,
In fact, she thinks she will–

Then they burst into the theme of the song,

If this isn’t love…

These days I’m feeling like Susan, but the joyful “secret” that I want to tell the world–well, at least you–is not just that I am in love, but that I’m in a state of love, and that love seems to encompass everyone.

These moments that I’ve been having are usually characterized by my feeling as if I have been let in on a secret. The gist of the secret is that I am already in Heaven. I’m healed; I’m whole. None of this is real. All my worries and concerns are nothing. In those moments, they don’t even exist. Contrary to the past when I read these thoughts in the Course and understood them and even believed them intellectually, now I seem to be actually experiencing the truth of them.

This doesn’t only happen in relation to me. The other day James was struggling with some issues about which we had just spent some time talking. Then I went into the kitchen and was hit with one of these moments of joy. In that instant, I knew that James was already past this period of difficulty. He was through it, but he just didn’t realize it. His awareness hadn’t caught up with the facts. It’s also happening in the middle of teacher-pupil meetings, as I have surprised by that joy again as I see pupils already far beyond the issues with which they are dealing. It seems as if every encounter with students and pupils these days is characterized by a sense of joy and gratitude and love.

Lesson 306 (“The gift of Christ is all I seek today”) sparked one of those moments of joy, which lasted all day long and continued late into the evening as I began to write this blog.  Here’s what I saw:

1) The gift of Christ is already given us. It’s ours. It’s like a birthday present which is sitting there but which we didn’t open, and now it’s got pushed aside by all the gifts we’ve given to ourselves over the years, and we’ve forgotten all about it. But it’s right here waiting for me! In that box is everything I want, and all I have to do is open it to have everything be restored to me.

2) Then this from the prayer: “And so, our Father, we return to You, remembering we never went away….” Joy once again seized me as I realized in a very tangible way that we are home. We’re like the Prodigal Son returning to a home he’s actually never left.  His Father’s love has wiped away all the time and all the events that seemed to happen to him during the time in which he appeared to be away. All his adventures and misadventures have disappeared. Nothing is left but being home with his Father and family.

Just as James and I were beginning our morning quiet time with Lesson 307, “Conflicting wishes cannot be my will,” once again joy hit. “Of course they can’t,” I exclaimed. Since I am one with God “in being and in will… there is no other will for me to have”! My will cannot be other than God’s; therefore, of course, there can be no conflict. There’s only one choice and it has already been made! So, to experience the happiness that God and I will for me, all I have to do is accept His will for me “and enter into peace where conflict is impossible.”

Tears fill my eyes as I write that. It’s such good news and it’s the truth. When I accept God’s Will as mine, I open that birthday present that’s been waiting for me for such a long time. And I’m so clear that this is not just for me. The joy and love I feel is for all of us. It’s not just that I realize that I am home, healed, and whole, already at the end of the journey. I feel it for all of us. It’s such a glorious feeling!

P.S. It’s not lost on me that all this has been coming and is even intensifying as Christmas, the “time of rebirth” approaches. It really is mean to be a joyful time, “for the time of Christ is meaningless apart from joy” (T-15.XI.8:1). I pray that we all will open the glorious birthday present God has waiting  for us!

With love and blessings,

Mary Anne