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What I Have Learned About the Special Function

What is the special function? I have defined it this way:

  • Capacity: our special abilities, talents, strengths
  • Active role: a particular role through which we express our special abilities (e.g., Helen’s role as scribe of the Course)
  • Contribution: progress toward the world’s salvation due to the fulfillment of our assigned part

For more on this, I recommend you read my article ” What on Earth Is Our Special Function?” It is not just, as commonly believed, forgiving our special forgiveness challenges. Think of Helen’s function as scribe of the Course. That was an active role in which she expressed a special capacity of hers, and through which she made a special contribution to the salvation of the world. When you think of the special function, think of hers.

The following points are not so much based on the Course, but on my experience with my own special function and with working with a number of individuals in helping them find and move into theirs. Between those two things, I’ve gained a significant amount of life experience in this topic over the last thirty years. This is my attempt to distill that experience down into a series of points.

    1. There is a profound need in us for the special function. Using the very strongest and best in us to make a positive contribution—this is as deep of a human need as there is. If you are useless, you are depressed. We tend to see the spiritual life largely in receptive terms, as us passively basking in peace and joy. This leaves half our nature—the active half—unaddressed and unfulfilled.
    2. Therefore, you can’t stop people from searching for this function, and especially for a spiritual version of it, in which this becomes an actual calling from God. You can tell them it’s not part of the Course, it makes the error real, but you can’t stop them from yearning for it.
    3. It’s for real—there really is a role for us that is perfectly tailored to our talents, abilities, and interests, through which we can make our own unique contribution. Our entire life has been designed to allow this to unfold when we were ready.
    4. There is a whole life journey involved in finding it, moving into it, and growing in it.
    5. You can speed this journey up, but only so much; it involves forces in you and in your life that need to go through their own evolution.
    6. We don’t make this role up. It is designed for us. We have zero power over what it is. This can be a sticking point, but it is really an advantage.
    7. The design of it is absolutely brilliant. It comes from a Power that sees us far better than we see ourselves and can design something that truly fits us far better than we can.
    8. It is probably some version of a thing that you have done in different forms your whole life, a thing you really can’t stop yourself from doing.
    9. It may well be an overtly spiritual, serving, or healing role. I have not personally seen a lot of “undercover” special functions, though I am certain they exist.
    10. Sometimes it may not seem to be an ideal fit. That is because we have either not entirely heard the guidance or understood the role, or because of things in us that need to go because they don’t really fit us.
    11. Guidance is especially concerned with this topic of your special function. Much authentic guidance that is not directly about it is indirectly about it. Further, guidance is generally eager to speak on this topic, and given half a chance will do so.
    12. Being ready for it is much more than finding out what it is. It is mainly about growing to the point where you are mature enough to carry it out.
    13. Finding out what it is is usually a journey in itself, one of slowly putting different pieces together, until the picture comes into view. However, even that picture will only be partial. With time, that picture will continue to grow.
    14. Resistance will almost certainly be a major part of the process (subsequent points will elaborate on this). Often your stated resistance is a cover for your real resistance.
    15. Resistance comes in part from a sense of inadequacy, self-doubt: “Are you talking to me?” The hallowed tradition of questioning if God has the right person goes all the way back to Moses.
    16. Resistance also comes from the feeling that you are not in charge. This is usually a profound threat to even the most loving, sincere, and flexible of us.
    17. Your special function will almost certainly change your plans for your life, perhaps in radical and unexpected ways, inevitably taking you out of your comfort zone. This may cause you to turn against God for a time.
    18. You may as a result abort the process or neglect it for long periods.
    19. Yet that is OK; it is built into the process. The Holy Spirit will always repeat His messages and be patient with you in the process. And sooner or later your special function will come back around.
    20. Your special function is built around core strengths and abilities, as well as desires and interests. It is built around the very best in you—not just what you are good at, but also the good in you.
    21. Your use of these core strengths has involved your ego (though not exclusively). Think of these strengths as your strong right arm. Your ego has probably built that arm, and once it has been built, your ego can’t resist using it.
    22. The Holy Spirit’s use of that arm, however, is designed to take you out of your ego. In His use, you will devote the best in you to becoming egoless.
    23. In my experience, a significant minority of special functions (like Helen’s) involve unusual abilities, which often come to light at a particular stage in your life. This sort of function will involve its own kind of special problems, often around being perceived as not normal.
    24. Once you know what it is, you’ll be able to look back and see that it was foreshadowed years before, in guidance or in events that seem, in hindsight, to have been arranged.
    25. There may be a long preparatory period, even a training period. It is important to give yourself to this preparation and training and not expect things to happen magically because the function is from God. It is a question of priorities.
    26. Once you start doing it, you will still need to work out your remaining resistance, so that the function and the true content of the function become more and more of a priority for you.
    27. The overall issue of priority is a massive one. Once you know what your function is, one form your resistance takes is bumping your function down the priority list. Resistance need not be active pushback; it can just as effectively take the form of (apparent) disinterest. And if you starve your function, it won’t grow.
    28. Whether you learn through training or through doing (and, of course, much of your learning will be through doing), the sheer amount of time you put in will largely determine the amount of actual expertise you have in your function. There is no substitute for the raw volume of time put in.
    29. You will also need to continue growing in it, deepening in it. This means growing into more and more of a wholehearted devotion to those you serve. That is the real core of your function.
    30. It also means following guidance more and more fully. You need to not stay on auto-pilot, but always be seeking guidance. It will constantly take you in unexpected directions.
    31. Your function is not really yours; it is His. It is important to keep that in mind.
    32. One big temptation is specialness—seeing your function as being there to pump up your specialness. This temptation is especially big because the function is special, unique. It was, as the Course says, designed to be a concession to your need for specialness. Yet using it to enhance your specialness compromises the core of it. It’s about them, not you.
    33. For this reason, people tend to be safer in the role if they take it on because they realize something needs to be done and if they don’t do it, no one will, than if they crave the role because they like how it looks on them.
    34. Another big temptation is hypocrisy, putting on a front that does not reflect the person behind the scenes. Your own inner work must remain the beating heart of your function. Additionally, the threat or reality of being a hypocrite can actually be a motivator, spurring you to strive to close the gap between your public and private faces.
    35. Once you actually move into your function, everything is not suddenly rosy. There are always challenges and difficulties, little and large, daily and long-term.
    36. It may well become part or all of your livelihood (often after having dispensed with your previous livelihood!). Money will bring in a host of its own problems. For one, money is typically not as abundant as you’d like. Even more important, there is always the choice of whether you will treat money as an end in itself or purely as a means for the real purpose.
    37. A related issue is whether you will compromise your integrity for the sake of growth and numbers. The two can go together, of course. Indeed, the Holy Spirit wants that. But it is easier to pursue the second at the expense of the first.
    38. The Holy Spirit is deeply invested in keeping your special function alive. He may not always show up with the money it needs to expand and grow, but if this really is your function, He will come through to save it from floundering or dying, often in dramatic ways.
    39. If your function becomes your formal role in life, and if that role is an unconventional one, then you may have to deal with the resistance to leading an unconventional life (unless you are weird to start with!).
    40. In spite of all the difficulties, your special function gives you a purpose to live for, a contribution to make, a way to devote the best in you to serving others and thus the larger plan. It is deeply rewarding, in a way that nothing else can be. In terms of money and the formality of the role, it may be less than a job. But in terms of substance, it is far more. There is no substitute for a life filled with meaning and purpose.
    41. You will probably carry it out with others, with holy relationship partners. It will, in other words, be a joint special function. As new people continue to join in, it may well become a new kind of family for you.
    42. It will probably be multifaceted, more like a collection of roles that share a common essence or center. Their number will often grow over time.
    43. In the process, it will stretch you into areas that are not so natural for you, that are not your strength. Some of the roles will leave you feeling “why on earth am I doing this?” Yet there is always a reason.
    44. The goal is for your function to become more and more what you use your time for.
    45. In the meantime, try to let the trivial—the daily maintenance and diversions—occupy less and less of your time. Remember, your function is how you benefit the big picture. This is what you will leave behind you. This is your legacy.
    46. Through truly entering into it, serving others, changing lives, and receiving their gratitude, you ultimately learn you are not the person you thought you were. It will give you a new perception of you. This is how your special function awakens you.
    47. It is ultimately meant to be your life. It is the life you are meant to have. It will involve your time and effort, your decisions and direction, your guidance, many of your closest relationships, your contribution to a suffering world, and your own awakening. It will involve all of the most meaningful things in life.
    48. This life is not just a different life, but a different kind of life, a different vision of what life is.
    49. The typical life is about the ego, about it getting its needs met, finding food and shelter, locating its support in the form of companions, and fitting into its social system. This new life is about the journey to egolessness, about serving the needs of others and identifying with others so fully that you realize you are not an ego.
    50. This is the source of the friction all along. You are strung between two competing visions of life. But you are on a journey towards totally embracing the one and totally relinquishing the other.