Today we would remove all meaningless and self-made gifts which we have placed upon the holy altar where God’s gifts belong. His are the gifts that are our own in truth...” Workbook, page 186, Lesson 104.
Lesson 104 informs us that we, as holy sons of God, are entitled to the joy and peace of God. The problem is that we cannot receive these gifts from God if we substitute our own gifts instead. In other words, we need to focus less on the things we value in the world so that we can receive God’s joy and peace, which belong to us; the things we value are just illusions, whereas joy and peace are not.
Lesson 104 asks us to “...lay aside the conflicts of the world that offer other gifts and other goals made of illusions...and seek instead that which is truly ours, as we ask to recognize what God has given us. We clear a holy place within our minds before His altar, where His gifts of peace and joy are welcome...”
It is important to recognise that if we place too much value on anything in this world, it will keep us chained to world, which is exactly what we want to avoid if we are serious spiritual seekers. The sages of the Far East have always warned against attachment to things in the world of form, and A Course in Miracles does the same. In Lesson 128 we read, “Each thing you value here is but a chain that binds you to the world, and it will serve no other end but this...Let nothing that relates to body thoughts delay your progress to salvation, nor permit temptation to believe the world holds anything you want to hold you back. Nothing is here to cherish...”
Another Workbook lesson which ties in nicely with this theme is Lesson 133, “I will not value what is valueless.” Specific criteria are given in this lesson to test if the things we desire have any value. One of the criteria is permanence; if we value something that won’t last forever, then it has no real value. Most of the things we cherish in this world don’t really last very long at all. Another criterion is guilt; if our choices in life make us feel guilty, we can be sure we have been listening to the ego instead of the Holy Spirit. Also, if we value something belonging to another person and we try to take it, this will only bring us loss because we are all one; if we hurt another person, we hurt ourselves.
On page 553 of the Text we are warned that if we cherish things in the world it means we are denying that the world is unreal and this will only bring us pain. “Anything in this world that you believe is good and valuable and worth striving for can hurt you, and will do so. Not because it has the power to hurt, but just because you have denied it is but an illusion, and made it real.” Once again the Course is highlighting the need to accept the fact that this world is an illusion—a mental projection and nothing more. And if there is only one thing we hold onto, it will keep us trapped within the dream. “For no one can make one illusion real, and still escape the rest...Make no illusion friend, for if you do, it can but take the place of Him Whom God has called your Friend. And it is He Who is your only Friend in truth. He brings you gifts that are not of this world...”
The things we value, such as a career, family, wealth, health, fame, success, power, etc., all come to an end in time—sometimes quite abruptly— so it worth remembering that there is a much more lofty goal in life. Lesson 258 reminds us: “Let me remember that my goal is God.” We live our lives just as anyone else. Of course we will cherish our families, as we rightly should, but we must try not to forget our goal. So we adhere to our spiritual practice regardless of what is going on in our dream world. For students of ACIM, it means constantly extending love and forgiveness to everyone and every circumstance that calls for it. It also means studying the Workbook, Text and Manual not just for a short while but for the rest of our lives. It means calling upon Jesus or the Holy Spirit for guidance whenever the ego rears its head, and for most people that happens quite frequently. Furthermore, it is important to have quiet moments each day when we turn away from the world and try to calm our minds and turn within.
Listening to the Holy Spirit instead of the ego brings with it a huge reward—peace. As we read in Chapter 12 of the Text, “When you have accepted your mission to extend peace you will find peace, for by making it manifest you will see it...” Listening to the ego is unlikely to bring us peace but if we listen to the Holy Spirit and follow the teachings of ACIM, we will extend peace by being loving and forgiving and by refusing to judge others. This is the best way to avoid conflict in life.
Lesson 105, “God’s peace and joy are mine” explains that the more we offer peace and joy to others, the more we receive them ourselves. We are urged to think of any enemies we think we may have and say silently to them, “My brother, peace and joy I offer you, That I may have God’s peace and joy as mine.” And, as we have seen, Lesson 104 shows us that we are entitled to joy and peace, which are God’s eternal gifts to us. What more could we ask for more?
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