LET'S GET REAL ABOUT LIFE'S LESSONS
Come On! Get Real! That's our theme for February and I pose the questions: Are you ready to get real . . .
* About life?
* About relationships?
*About what personal transformation actually takes?
If you are, then February is the month for you because each week, we will Get Real about an important aspect of our lives by bringing a large dose of Reality (with a capital "R," meaning God) to the table.
Today, to kick things off, we are going to Get Real about an idea that is very prevalent in our New Thought teachings.
It is the idea that Life gives us lessons and often difficult lessons, at that, to test our faith and spiritual resolve. But, is that really the case? Does Life really give us lessons? Does Life really test our faith and spiritual resolve by presenting us with difficulties?
You have probably heard the statement that's been attributed to Mother Teresa: "I know God won't give me any more than I can handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much."
So, is there really a force outside of us, call it God, Life, whatever you will, that is testing us and laying adversity on us?
I want to suggest that the answer to that question is no -- absolutely and unequivocally no! I do not believe that Life gives us lessons, and, if you do, make today be the day you release that idea! I do not believe that God tests our faith or our spiritual resolve, and if you do, make today be the day you release that too! I do not believe this one bit, and my prayer and intention is that, after today, you don't either!
Would you like to know what I do believe, and what I invite you into with me? I believe that: "The love of God for His children is beyond description - a love so tender and so deep that it cannot be mentioned in the same breath with the ordinary love as known by the world. The great love of Being is deeper and wider than the thoughts and the words of man have compassed since the beginning of language."a . . . a statement not originated by me, but rather written by Charles Fillmore, in Talks on Truth.
And I absolutely, completely and unequivocally believe that and there is no room in that statement for a God/Life/Universe that tests us and gives us difficult lessons.
So, what do I believe about these experiences we have that do seem to test our faith and our resolve; that do feel like difficulty, pain and adversity? And what belief do I invite you into this morning? Well, take a breath because it's personal responsibility time at a very high level!
I believe that the Essence of our Being, the God of our Being, the Internal Spark of Life that only wants to be as fully expressed through and as us as possible is calling experiences into our life so that we can become who we came here to be.
Ernest Holmes tells us in The Science of Mind: ". . . We reach out to Infinity and since we cannot encompass Infinity, we shall always be expanding and always enlarging our capacity to know and to experience."b
So, said another way, I believe that we bring them in so that whatever is standing in the way of our expanding and enlarging our capacity to know our Infinity, our Divinity, can be dissolved and released.
I love this Note from the Universe: "If it weren't for your challenges how would you ever know that there are things you still misunderstand? You wouldn't. So bless them. Embrace them. And give thanks for them. Tallyho, ho, ho - The Universe"
But really! Darn!! It's so much easier to blame someone else, even if it's God, rather than take responsibility, isn't it?
But what if we could bless them, embrace them and give thanks for them because we know that they are here FOR us; for our expansion, our growth, our new levels of understanding. Really for us to become more and more and more of who we really are at our core? What do you suppose would happen?
Here's a great parable to answer that question. Not a parable from Jesus, the master of parables, but a parable nonetheless. And it's one I've told before, but it's worth hearing a second time. And in a bit, I will tell you another parable about which I could say the same thing.
Once upon a time, there was a young woman who was experiencing some significant challenges in her life. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.
And so she went to her father for comfort and support. Her father, who happened to be a chef, took her to the kitchen, and he sat her down at the kitchen table. He then filled three pots with equal amounts of water and placed each on a high fire.
Soon the pots came to a boil. In one he placed carrots, in the second he placed eggs, and in the last he placed ground coffee beans. He let them boil, without saying a word.
The daughter waited, rather impatiently, wondering what he was doing. In about twenty minutes he turned off the three burners. He fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them a bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup.
Turning to her he asked. "What do you see?" "Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.
He brought her closer and asked her to taste the carrots. She did - they were soft, mushy, tasteless, in fact, pretty much ruined.
He then asked her to try an egg. After pulling off the shell, she bit into the very, very, very hard-boiled egg. Also inedible.
Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. She smiled as she tasted its rich flavor.
Confused and more than a little annoyed at the time that had passed and the lack of comfort and support she felt her father was providing, she asked. "An interesting experiment, dad, but what does this have to do with me and my problems?"
He explained that the carrots, the eggs and the ground coffee beans each had faced the same severe adversity, the same amount of time in boiling water, yet each reacted differently.
The carrot went in strong and tough, but after being subjected to the boiling water, became weak - even mushy.
The egg, which had been fragile to begin with, held together by a thin outer shell, after being boiled for 20 minutes, became hardened inside.
The ground coffee beans, however, were unique. Even after they boiled for 20 minutes, they did not really change. They stayed true to what they were -- but they changed the water.
He went on to ask his daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?
Are you a carrot that seems strong and tough, but with pain and adversity do you wilt and become soft? Do you lose your strength?
Are you the egg, which starts off with a soft, fluid center, but in the face of challenges becomes hardened inside. Your shell may look the same, but something inside is gone.
Or are you like the coffee grounds? They did not change. They stayed true to what they were and in the face of real adversity, they changed the world around them. They changed the water into coffee."
He then said, "My darling daughter, the best comfort and advice I can give you is to be like the coffee bean. When things are at their worst, remember who you are, stay true to your nature and you will change the world around you."
And I will add, you will become more and more of who you were meant to be. We aren't here on the earth plane merely for success; we are here to learn, to grow - and daily life is guaranteed to offer us all we need in order to grow, and evolve and awaken to our higher purpose here.
So, accepting that that is so, I want to bring four quick ideas to your awareness as you embrace this new way of looking at Life Lessons.
First - We Can't Escape Our Growth Experiences
There's a story told that Ptolemy, the king of Alexandria, once expressed his impatience at Euclid's elaborate explanation of geometry.
"Isn't there a shorter way of learning geometry?" asked the king.
"Sire," replied Euclid, "in the country, there are two kinds of roads -- the hard road for the common people and the easy road for the royal family. But in geometry, all must go the same way. There is no royal road to learning."
This is our journey; this is our path in the human experience we signed up for!
Second - They are Repeated Until We Get It!
Our growth opportunities are repeated until we get the growth! Sometimes we hear a wake-up call but prefer to pull the covers over our heads so we can slumber and dream a little longer. We may ignore, resist, rationalize, or blame for a considerable time. That's ok - our schooling is entirely self-paced, but the opportunities for growth keep coming until we change.
I married and dated the same man over and over (and there were a lot of them!) until I woke up and changed!
We will speak more on this topic the last Sunday of the month, so consider this a precursor!
Third - They Get More Challenging
If we don't get the easier ones, they get harder. Resistance to growing reaps more dramatic consequences over time - not to punish us but to get our attention.
As New Thought Minister David Owen Ritz once said, if we ignore them, they go away, change clothes, get their friends and come back!
Fourth - They May Seem Daunting, But We Can Grow!
Just as when we are learning the rules in mathematics as they did for Ptolemy, the king of Alexandria, the life's challenges may seem daunting or overwhelming.
Nonetheless, we have the ability to grow from every experience, to release whatever does not serve and to make a deeper connection with the God of our Being. At any moment, we have the ability to make good choices, and to start being who we are meant to be. We have the freedom to start letting God be God in us.
And we can take comfort in these words from Charles Fillmore in Atom-Smashing Power of Mind: "Every problem of life can be successfully solved if we begin with the use of the I AM on the various planes of mind. It is not we alone; it is when we realize that we can connect ourselves with the Father-Mind and prove what Jesus said - 'I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me doeth his works" - that our potential almightiness begins to appear."c
The purpose of every growth opportunity is to heal the belief in separation and every step of the way, the Infinite Source of Good that is only conspiring for our good is as close as our breath, as near as our hands and feet!
I want to end with another parable, and, as I already said, one that I have shared before.
It is a story of a group of women in a Bible study. The women were studying the passage at Malachi 3:3, which says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. . ."d
This verse puzzled the women in the Bible study group and they wondered aloud what this statement meant.
One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.
That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up.
He explained that, in refining silver, one needs to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames are hottest --- to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about how sometimes we are in hot spots in life and blame God for putting us there; then she thought again what the verse "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver" could mean.
She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.
The man answered, "Yes, not only do I have to sit here holding the silver, but I have to keep my eye on the silver the entire time it is in the fire. If the silver is left a moment too long in the flames, it could be ruined."
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?"
He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy --- when I see my image in it."
If you feel that you are being held to the fire, remember you aren't being tested. You have called it in for one reason and one reason only, so that the image of God can be more fully seen as you.
aCharles Fillmore Talks on Truth, p. 64 (or p. 39 in the 2008 edition)
bErnest Holmes The Science of Mind p. 31
cCharles Fillmore Atom-Smashing Power of Mind, p. 71