This lesson, much like the previous lesson, sounds like standard Judeo-Christian fare. And for good reason—it is plucked straight out of the Psalms. "God is our refuge and strength" declares the opening line of Psalm 46.
Based on this, we probably assume we know exactly what it means: God will keep us safe in the midst of danger. Psalm 46 goes on to elucidate this very meaning: "Therefore we shall not fear though the earth would change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult."
Yet just as in the previous lesson, we need to read the body of the lesson to see what meaning the Course is specifically placing in today's idea. Let's look at the opening lines:
I will identify with what I think is refuge and security. I will behold myself where I perceive my strength, and think I live within the citadel where I am safe and cannot be attacked. (1:1-2)
This actually continues the theme from the end of "What Is the Body" (W-pII.5), which immediately precedes this lesson. There, we were given a psychological principle: "You will identify with what you think will make you safe. Whatever it may be, you will believe that it is one with you" (W-pII.5:5:1-2).
This is why we experience ourselves as living in the body. It's not because we are actually in it; we're not. It's because we think the body is our safety. It is our safe place. And we are so attracted to being in our safe place, that we psychologically place ourselves in it, imagine we're in it. We want to be there, so we experience ourselves as being there, even though in reality we aren't.
You can see this principle at work when the place we are in (or think we are in) becomes dangerous to the point of being psychologically unbearable. If we can't physically leave, what do we do? We mentally leave. This happens in all kinds of forms. On a mild level, we simply "check out." We turn the TV on. We lose ourselves in a novel. On more extreme levels, we escape through alcohol or drugs. The point is: We go somewhere else; not physically, but mentally.
This urge can get so intense that we can even leave our body. There are countless stories of people expecting that death is near, and so, before it comes, they pop out of their body. I once heard a friend's roommate tell me how she had been taken by the Mafia to a remote house, where two men had her strip down and then put a gun to her head, as they prepared to pull the trigger. She was in such intense fear that she popped out of her body. She found herself floating in the room, watching the scene from above. She said that some kind of peaceful energy then washed through the room. The phone then rang, and the men were told to let her go. This is an extreme example, but her escape from her body is not so different than us escaping from the stress of life by reading a good novel.
The odd thing is, then, that even though we mentally locate ourselves in the body, in the belief that it's our safe place, it is anything but safe, as the examples I've just given make clear. By seeking safety there, we are trying to find "security in danger" and "peace in murderous attack" (1:3). This is why we are constantly checking out, zoning out, escaping, drugging ourselves, numbing ourselves, even leaving our bodies. If a place is manifestly unsafe, we will psychologically go somewhere else.
If we aren't really in the body, where are we? The lesson gives us the answer: "I live in God" (1:4). We merely dream that we are in this body. And the "bed" in which we have this dream is God. We are in God right now. We've always been in God. There's nowhere else to go. But we decided that our safe place was somewhere else, so we imagined ourselves going there. And that is where we experience ourselves now.
This brings us to the meaning of the lesson. If we truly realize that God is our refuge and security, we will psychologically locate ourselves in Him. We will mentally go back go to where we have always been. We will return to our starting point. All we need do is understand, on an emotional level, that He is our safe place.
Each morning, I look forward to my meditation. It is work, having to concentrate that much. But I like where that concentration takes me, because I think of God as my safe harbor. The world is so uncertain, so full of tricky twists and turns, so fraught with constant risk. I want to be where everything is perfect, where I am totally safe, and I believe that place is in God's Arms. Not that I reach that place in my meditations, but I certain get closer. And when my time is up, I regret having to leave that safe harbor and brave the high seas of my life.
The promise of this lesson is that, as I truly associate God with safety, as I really think of Him as my safe place, I never have to leave. Remember, "I will behold myself where I perceive my strength, and think I live within the citadel where I am safe and cannot be attacked" (1:2). If I really think that God is that citadel for me, then I will experience myself inside that citadel—all the time. My body will go through the day, buffeted by the winds and tossed by the waves, and I will have to attend to all that. But in some real sense, I won't be there. I will be resting in my safe harbor, where the winds and waves cannot come.
That's what I want. Isn't that what we all want? This may seem like escapism, and in a sense it is. But it's not an unhealthy escapism. It is a holy escapism. An escape to what is real.
So as we repeat this lesson today, let's give it not the meaning from the Psalms, that God will make sure the danger never reaches our body. I think that meaning does have definite validity, but it's not our focus today. We are pursuing something more profound. We are using today's idea to realize that, if we really believe God is our refuge and security, we can experience ourselves as being in Him, no matter what happens on the outside. All through the day, even while our body is riding the high seas, we can be at rest within our safe harbor.