Belonging to God

I’ve always like the prayer to Lesson 244 (“I am in danger nowhere in the world”), but the best part of it, in my view, is the final sentence, which, unfortunately, is so long that by the time I’ve reached the end, I’ve forgotten the beginning. Here is the prayer:

Your Son is safe wherever he may be, for You are there with him. He need but call upon Your Name, and he will recollect his safety and Your Love, for they are one. How can he fear or doubt or fail to know he cannot suffer, be endangered, or experience unhappiness, when he belongs to You, beloved and loving, in the safety of Your Fatherly embrace?

The other day when we passed this lesson, I found myself breaking that long final sentence into several different parts. I also changed most of the third person references to first person, since I don’t really relate to referring to myself as “he.”

Here, then, is what I ended up praying:

Your Son is safe wherever he may be, for You are there with him.

I need but call upon Your Name, and I will recollect my safety and Your Love, for they are one.

How can I fear?

How can I doubt?

How can I fail to know I cannot suffer?

How can I fail to know I cannot be endangered?

How can I fail to know I cannot experience unhappiness?

When I belong to You, beloved and loving, in the safety of Your Fatherly embrace?

Let’s now go through this line by line:

Your Son is safe wherever he may be, for You are there with him.

If a son knows that he is loved by his father, then whenever his father is around, he feels safe. Last night, for instance, my four-year-old cried out in the night. He’d had a nightmare and was scared, to the point where he’d gotten out of his bed and switched his light on. I came in and laid down with him for a while, and he quickly calmed down and went back to sleep. I expect this scene is repeated all over the world millions of time each night.

We as adults are not so different. If you really felt that you were God’s beloved Son, and you really knew that your Father was right there with you, wherever you may be, what would you feel? We all know the answer: safe.

I need but call upon Your Name, and I will recollect my safety and Your Love, for they are one.

Again, if we think about a loving father and his son, this makes immediate sense. If you are a child, you instinctively know that your father’s love equates to your safety. If you are sure you can count on his love, then you know that whenever he’s nearby, you are safe. All you need do is call his name, and you are protected.

In the case of this prayer, though, the situation is slightly different. I don’t call upon my Father to become safe, I call upon Him to remember that I already am safe. I call upon His Name to “recollect” my safety. Actually, as the prayer says, I recollect both my safety and His Love. The two come back to mind together, “for they are one.”

How can I fear…When I belong to You, beloved and loving, in the safety of Your Fatherly embrace?

As I said, I broke that last sentence down into several different sentences, as that made it easier for me to connect all the dots. All of the rhetorical questions—“How can I fear?” “How can I doubt?” etc.—are answered by the final line: “When I belong to You, beloved and loving, in the safety of Your Fatherly embrace?”

What has always struck me about this prayer is that phrase “When he belongs [i.e., I belong] to You.” At first, I had trouble saying that. I had no trouble with “I belong in God.” But “I belong to God”? That seemed to diminish me. It made me someone else’s possession. It was like I was God’s pet.

I also wasn’t entirely sure that me belonging to God is mentioned anywhere else in the Course. I certainly couldn’t recall any other references. Maybe this one line is a bit of poetic exaggeration, an anomalous flourish for the sake of effect. To settle this in my mind once and for all, I have just checked through the references in the Course to variations of “belong.” To my surprise, I found thirteen places where the Course says that we belong to God. The odd thing is that most of these passages are familiar to me; I’ve just never actually taken note of the fact that they say I belong to God. Yet in many of them, it’s not hard to miss. For instance, look at these two:

You who belong to the First Cause, created by Him like unto Himself and part of Him… (T-14.IV.2:1)

You are a stranger here. But you belong to Him Who loves you as He loves Himself. (C-Ep.2:2)

However, even without these other references, I have been learning to turn the idea of belonging to God into a good thing. After all, we all have a deep need to belong. We all want to be in our right place, where we are accepted, where we are part of something positive, where we feel at home. We all want to belong somewhere and with someone. And if we are okay with “belonging in” and “belonging with,” then perhaps under the right conditions, we could actually come to treasure “belonging to.”

The final part of this prayer paints a picture of those right conditions. In this picture, we are with our Father, the One Who loved us into being. And we are wrapped in His “fatherly embrace.” Inside the Arms of this embrace is a bond of pure mutual love. We are His beloved and we love Him in return. In this embrace is perfect safety.

While caught up in this embrace, how could we have a shred of fear? How could we be stricken with any doubts whatsoever? How could we imagine that suffering was an option for us? How could we even think we could be endangered? How could we believe that unhappiness was even a capacity of ours?

And if that’s what belonging to God means, then, okay, I’ll belong to God. Or rather, I’ll welcome the fact that I already do belong to God.