Especially in the early dictation, the Course material speaks of how we are presented with situations similar to situations of the past to give us an opportunity to handle the situation more lovingly and miraculously this time, thus undoing the errors of the past. Recently, I had an opportunity to do that in an area where I have a lot of error-ridden experience: encounters with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I’ve had a lot of encounters with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I grew up in a college town with a 10,000-seat basketball arena, and every summer there would be packed Jehovah’s Witness conventions at the arena. There were, I think, three different conventions every summer. Of course, the great duty of Jehovah’s Witnesses is to spread their gospel door to door, so every summer during the conventions they would descend upon the town like a swarm of locusts. It seemed like every day, you would have a new pair at your door.
As you might have guessed from that image of locusts, my attitude toward them when they showed up was hardly what you would call miracle-minded. Oh, I held my tongue for the most part. I didn’t scream at them or slam the door in their faces. But in my own way, I definitely let them know that they weren’t welcome: the rolled eyes, the exasperated sigh, the polite-yet-tinged-with-impatience declaration that I was not interested in what they had to offer, the quick turning away and shutting the door.
But you know, even back then, underneath my impatience was a sense of guilt about my attitude toward them. After all, they were just trying to share what to them was amazing good news. They did it because they loved me. They probably got a lot of doors slammed in their faces, but they courageously soldiered on. Why couldn’t I at least smile at them and thank them for coming?
This sense of guilt increased as I became a Course student — not because the Course was encouraging guilt, but simply because I knew I was attacking these fellow Sons of God, and that made me feel awful inside. I didn’t want to continue doing that; I wanted to offer them a miracle. So, I resolved that the next time Jehovah’s Witnesses showed up at my door, I would do just that. Strangely enough, though, no new ones came to my door for years. When would my opportunity come?
Well, it came last week: two sincere young women at my door with good news for me. I have to admit, my first internal reaction was, “Oh, I don’t have time for this. I just want these girls to go away.” But I also remembered that this was the opportunity I had long been waiting for. So, I resolved that I would be truly loving to these two fellow Sons of God. I said to God, in words from the Song of Prayer that I had been practicing, “What should I do for them, Your holy Sons?” (see S-2.III.5:1). I resolved that if they asked me what I believed, like Mrs. Albert, I would tell them what I believed “without embarrassment and without hostility.”
So, I gently entered into conversation with them. And you know what? It went great. It felt like a true holy encounter. As the girl who spoke English shared their gospel with me, I listened with a patient smile that was truly genuine. I actually liked her; she was a very nice young woman who really seemed to have my best interests at heart. (Though I have to admit that I was also amazed that she had such absolute conviction about things that I find doubtful to say the least.) She was not pushy, but simply shared from her heart about things that had clearly changed her life for the better. I felt like she really cared about me.
And while there’s much in their theology I disagree with, much of what this young woman actually said I could agree with wholeheartedly. She spoke of how God loves us and wants us to be happy. She spoke of how important it is to pray to Him and ask for His Will for us, and how important it is for us to be loving human beings. She showed me Bible passages that spoke of God’s Love and care for us. When she asked me questions about what I believed, I didn’t feel guided to get into Course metaphysics, but simply said that I too had experienced God’s Love, that I had a personal relationship with God and Jesus, that I too prayed frequently and wanted dearly to be a truly good person.
At the end of the encounter, she asked if they could come again next week. I could tell that they thought I might have some potential — after all, I was actually talking to them. Though I enjoyed the encounter, the truth was that I didn’t want them to come back in the impossible hope of converting me. So I asked within for what say, and it felt like I just needed to be very direct and loving at the same time.
So, I told them that while I was glad they had come and I admired their commitment to their mission of sharing God’s Love, I was very happy with my own relationship with God and Jesus and didn’t feel the need to follow their way. They accepted that graciously and thanked me for listening. The girl who talked to me even told me she had learned something from me and was grateful for that. We said “God bless you” to each other, I thanked them for coming and wished them well, and that was that.
Afterwards, I felt strangely uplifted, as if a load had been lifted from my mind. I realized that this was literally the first time I had experienced a truly positive encounter with Jehovah’s Witnesses. And it felt like somehow I had cleansed all those previous negative encounters, like the errors of the past had been undone by my decision to be loving in a similar situation in the present. It felt like the kind of “trial” that the final section of the Text speaks of, an opportunity to make a better choice that would undo the pain of the choices of the past:
Trials are but lessons which you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you. In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity you face, Christ calls to you and gently says, “My brother, choose again.” (T-31.IX.3:1-2)
At last, after so many opportunities and so many unfortunate choices, I chose again with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I chose to bless them with a miracle, and I can almost hear Jesus saying, as he did to Helen when she made the right choice in her scroll vision, “You made it that time. Thank you.” It feels good.