In both the Text Reading Program readings these past couple of weeks (in Chapters 3 and 4) and my own Text Readings in Chapter 31, Jesus has been teaching us about the images and concepts we try to make of ourselves. It’s neat that in both those early chapters and in the last one, he’s discussing this same topic––the beginning and end point.
I was just discussing this with one of my pupils, and it sparked a desire to share some of what’s been striking me about what Jesus says.
We see ourselves in certain ways that fluctuate with external circumstances; for example, someone says something appreciative and I feel good about myself; I worry about someone judging me and I feel badly about myself. I try to build and maintain an image of myself that is going to elicit affirmative responses so that I can feel good about myself––or rather, so that the ego can feel good about itself. Timothy (one of our long-time students at the Circle) used to call this “image maintenance.” A lot of effort goes into maintaining––and managing––that image; and, as we know, it doesn’t always work!
It all comes down to the “authority problem”: If I truly accepted God as my Author and the Authority on what I am, I wouldn’t be concerned with my image, because I would accept the fact that there isn’t an image of myself to be concerned about! That’s the “starting point” to which I must continually return:
But know that this making [our making of ourselves and our lives] will surely dissolve in the light of truth, because its foundation is a lie. Your creation by God is the only foundation that cannot be shaken, because the light is in it. Your starting point is truth, and you must return to this Beginning. (T-3.VII.6:4-6; Urtext version)
No matter what anyone thinks of me or what I think of myself, this is where I need to keep going for a “reality check.” My starting point is truth, and I must return to this Beginning. Wow; I find that so powerful. Then, in the “Self-Concept versus Self” and “Recognizing the Spirit” sections in Chapter 31, Jesus says,
Seek not your Self in symbols. There can be no concept that can stand for what you are…. You who believe that you can choose to see the Son of God as you would have him be, forget not that no concept of yourself can stand against the truth of what you are. (V.15:1-2; VI.5:1)
I am really excited about these teachings and am using them as my daily practices. Last evening, before my TRP class started, something happened that threw me off and had me feeling concerned about myself. Then I stopped and started to laugh: this was exactly what Jesus was teaching and what I was about to teach my students! I was concerned about my image and what people would think of me, and that was an act of denial of my Authorship. I immediately thought of my starting point in truth and went right back to it.
Then in our class, we came to the passage were Jesus says, “Your worth is not established by your teaching. Your worth was established by God” (T-4.I.7:1; Urtext version). Again, Jesus brings us back to that starting point. It doesn’t matter what we think establishes our worth; it was established by God and so it is! The starting point, from which all else follows.
Today, I am practicing this:
It matters not how I see myself or what I think of myself, for no concept of myself can stand against the truth of what I am.
The truth in me remains as radiant as a star, as pure as light, as innocent as love itself.
This is God’s will for me (and mine)––and it can never change.
I’ve already had a few temptations to go in the opposite direction, but this practice has brought me back each time. I really want to keep my starting point firmly in my mind and go to it in those moments of temptation as well as all through the day. I think that I’m on to something big here!