I wrote a blog entry in December about how I found my special function. But the special function is not a static thing; it is always evolving and revealing new facets. So here, I’d like to share some new elements and patterns revealed by going through Robert’s “Special Function Questionnaire.”
Many of my questionnaire answers simply reaffirmed things I already knew about my special function: I am a teacher of A Course in Miracles with the function of helping to found a new spiritual tradition rooted in walking the path of the Course as the author laid it out. An aspect of this larger mission is helping to found a tradition of Course scholarship. Another aspect is engaging in dialogue with people from other perspectives, giving the Course a seat at the table in the “larger conversation” that is going on in our world today. These things I have known for years.
But the questionnaire also revealed patterns that may indicate other, previously unnoticed aspects of my special function. One question that was particularly revealing was “What kinds of needs do you feel drawn to serve? What sorts of people do you take under your wing?” Part of my answer was the expected: Course students in need of teaching and counsel. But I also realized that I have a pattern of helping people that might be regarded as “outcasts,” people whom other people often avoid. The people I take under my wing are often those whom few others want to help, for whatever reason (fear, disgust, etc.).
For instance, I have worked with prisoners (including a child molester), the developmentally disabled, children with severe psychological problems, elderly people in nursing homes, and dying people. I have a strong pull to work with those who are generally neglected, shunned, or even (like the child molester) hated by society. This could be a part of my special function, especially now that I am doing CNA work and am looking to get back into hospice.
Another question that brought new insights was “What sort of essential gift do you find yourself wanting to give to people? In other words, what sort of mental or emotional state do you want to bring them to?” I wrote a number of things in response to this question, but what jumped out at me most of all was this: I see the fundamental state of this world as one of imprisonment, and what I yearn to do the most is set people free from this prison. The joy of being set free from prison is the mental and emotional state I want to bring people to.
As I thought more about this, I realized that my desire to “set free from prison” even applies to the Course itself. For many years, I have felt that the Course is in a prison of sorts, boxed in by a Course community that doesn’t really appreciate all it has to offer. The Course is meant to bless the entire world, but right now it is languishing in a tiny New Age jail cell. I yearn to break the Course out of its current shackles and free it to reach “the hearts for which it was intended.”
Out of these thoughts, an entire picture of the basic content of my special function emerged. That picture is rooted in what has been the central burning issue of my life: the conflict between my belief that God is Love and the sad fact that this world is wracked with immense suffering. In theology, this is the problem of evil: How can an all-loving, all-powerful God be reconciled with a world that is so full of evil and suffering? This question has haunted me for as long as I can remember.
I realized that there are two essential elements to this picture of my special function, which correspond to the two elements of the problem of evil: the “suffering” element and the “all-loving, all-powerful God” element. In essence, the former is the problem my special function addresses, while the latter is the solution my special function offers.
First, there is the “suffering” element — the problem. Let’s face it, this world is a prison, an evil, hellish place that keeps us bound and shackled, a place of immense suffering. Yes, moments of real love and happiness exist here too, thanks to God, but unfortunately I think for most of us they are the equivalent of that hour prisoners get to go outside into the prison yard — only a brief respite from the cell. I have felt this sense of imprisonment in a visceral way my entire life, both in my own life and when I look outward at the lives of others. Everyone is a slave groaning under the horribly painful limitations of this world. So, I am filled with compassion. I long to set people free from this prison of suffering.
Second, there is the “all-loving, all-powerful God” element — the solution. In spite of all the suffering, deep in my heart I have always believed that God is both the sole real Power and is pure Love, nothing but Love. All my life, I tried to reconcile this God of Love with the painful prison of the world, but could not. It was A Course in Miracles that finally resolved this lifelong dilemma for me. It taught me that I don’t have to reconcile God with this world, because He did not create it. It is our nightmare, nothing but an illusion, God’s Will is the only power that is real. We are still in His heavenly embrace. All He wants to do is release us from our nightmare, because He loves us.
This was an incredibly immense relief for me; in a very real sense, it set me free from this prison of suffering. Yes, I still have pain, but I also have a way out. Now I want others to experience the relief that I felt; I want to show them the way out that I found. So, I long to give them the gift that set me free: the glorious news that suffering does not come in any way from God, that God is pure Love and wants only to free us from suffering.
Putting all this together, then, here is the essence of my special function: My mission is to set people free from the painful prison of life as we know it in this hellish world, so they can be all that the God of Love meant for them to be. My mission is to help them experience the liberation from suffering that comes from the glorious news that God is pure Love.
This is the drive that motivates everything I do. I want to free the Course from its shackles so it can free those whom it was meant to free. I want to help found a lasting Course tradition so it can free many generations even after I’m gone. I want to bring the Course to the larger world because there are so many who could be freed by it if they only knew about it. I am drawn to the “outcasts” because they are the ones who experience the world’s suffering most acutely and are the ones most bereft the help they need to be free.
Perhaps the essence of my special function could be summarized by the stirring final words of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech:
When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
So, given these realizations, what’s next for me? I don’t really know for sure. Of course I will continue my work as a Course teacher for the Circle of Atonement. Based on guidance and other factors, it looks like I will remain in Atlanta for a while instead of returning to Sedona right away. I have some good job leads in the hospice and home health care field; I even got guidance that suggested I might have a role in helping someone grow a brand new home health care agency. So, perhaps I’m meant to develop the “freeing the outcasts” part of my function here. Perhaps there are people here I am meant to set free. As they say, “More will be revealed.”
Thank you, Robert, for a tool that helped reveal a lot more for me.