[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
After I wrote my previous post, “A new slant on the difficult things,” I couldn’t get my mind off of it. (Thank you for all the comments on it, by the way!) The picture that came to me was of two streams of God’s Love expressing, 1) my life circumstances/lessons and 2) my practice. The picture was of these two streams meeting, so that responding to my life lessons with my Course practice was the way to actually learn those lessons. In other words, it’s the meeting, the combination, of the outer lessons and the inner practice that makes for learning.
Then I had a thought: Isn’t this whole picture in Lesson 193, “All things are lessons God would have me learn”? I knew that that lesson contained the notion that everything that happens to us is a lesson from God. And I knew it also contained the idea of responding to those happenings with our Workbook practice. What I wasn’t sure about was if it framed those two things as expressions of God’s Love.
So I went to read the lesson and sure enough, there was an extremely heavy focus on the life lessons and the practice being expressions of God’s Love. I had clearly read that in there before, but it apparently hadn’t really registered. Strange how that works.
What I now saw is that the picture I was trying to paint in “A new slant on the difficult things,” along with my later insight about the two streams meeting, was all right there in Lesson 193.
So this morning I got up and drew this diagram to capture what I was seeing in that lesson. You’ll probably need to visually explore the diagram for a while before it really becomes clear for you. I know it’s a bit complicated, but I’m hoping that my explanation here can make it clear.
In the diagram, you can see God’s Love on top, and then two streams coming down as expressions of that Love. The stream on the left is our life lessons—our circumstances, everything that happens to us. This would include the situation in which we are sitting right this second. The left stream seems to happen to us.
The stream on the right is the teaching and practice from the Course. The right stream requires our active application.
Each stream has a form and a content. The form is the delivery device, the vehicle, for the content. And in each stream, the content is the same.
The form of the left stream is, as I said, everything that happens to us in our lives. But within this form is the content, the actual lesson to be learned. We can see the relationship between the form and content in this passage from 193:
Each lesson has a central thought, the same in all of them. The form alone is changed, with different circumstances and events; with different characters and different themes, apparent but not real. They are the same in fundamental content. It is this:
Forgive, and you will see this differently. (paragraph 3)
The form of the right stream is the Course’s practice, which mainly consists in dwelling on and applying the Course’s content, the teaching. We can see the relationship between this form and content in this passage from 193:
This is the lesson God would have you learn: There is a way to look on everything that lets it be to you another step to Him, and to salvation of the world. To all that speaks of terror, answer thus:
I will forgive, and this will disappear.
To every apprehension, every care and every form of suffering, repeat these selfsame words. And then you hold the key that opens Heaven’s gate, and brings the Love of God the Father down to earth at last, to raise it up to Heaven. (paragraph 13)
So we have the teaching—“I will forgive, and this will disappear”—which we are meant to practice in the face of “every apprehension, every care and every form of suffering.”
The content of the left stream “are the words the Holy Spirit speaks in all your tribulations, all your pain, all suffering regardless of its form” (paragraph 5). The content of the right stream are words that we speak in those same circumstances: “Shall we not learn to say these words when we are tempted to believe that pain is real, and death becomes our choice instead of life?” (paragraph 6).
It is the meeting of these two streams—responding to our life lessons by practicing the teaching–that allows learning to take place, that allows the lesson to be learned. And as you can see in the diagram, that learning lifts us out of pain, tears, thorns, and nails and into the eternal home that God has willed for us. In the diagram, that learning is what draws the mind of the Son upward, away from pain and back to his home.
Finally, Lesson 193 is extremely clear that all of this is an expression of God’s Love for His Son. The life lessons are expressions of His Love, and the teaching and practice are expressions of His Love. This theme runs throughout Lesson 193. Look, for instance, at paragraph 9:
All things are lessons God would have you learn. He would not leave an unforgiving thought without correction, nor one thorn or nail to hurt His holy Son in any way. He would ensure his holy rest remain untroubled and serene, without a care, in an eternal home which cares for him. And He would have all tears be wiped away, with none remaining yet unshed, and none but waiting their appointed time to fall. For God has willed that laughter should replace each one, and that His Son be free again.
As you read the above paragraph, realize that that is the actual intent behind your life lessons, and that is the actual intent behind the Course’s discipline. That is the intent surrounding you at all times.
So what does this mean on a practical level? It means this: Right this second you are surrounded by circumstances. These have been perfectly tailor-made as the lesson you need at this moment, because God wills your happiness. You see only the outer form, but within this form the Holy Spirit is whispering at this moment, “Forgive, and you will see this differently.”
In this situation, you also have the Course, because God wills your happiness. Its practice asks you to apply its teaching by looking at any difficulty that is facing you now and saying, “I will forgive, and this will disappear.”
And when you do that, when you respond to your life lesson in this moment by practicing the teaching of forgiveness, the two streams meet, the content of both streams floods into your mind, and the lesson is learned. And that fulfills the whole purpose that sent those streams to you in the first place—to lift you out of your pain and back into the joy of your natural state. Because God would not leave one thorn or nail to hurt His holy Son in any way. Because He wills His Son be in an eternal home which cares for him.