If we can learn to let go of our defensiveness, our lives will be perfect expressions of love. In a nutshell, that is what we are here to learn. A very familiar line from the Course sums up both the message of the Course and the message of this article: "Teach only love, for that is what you are" (T-6.I.13:2).
Recently I was watching a movie on home video; I won't name the movie or the stars to spoil it if you haven't seen it yet, because I'm going to talk about the ending of the movie. It concerned a young mother who was dying of cancer, and her relationship with her family and especially her thirteen-year-old son, who was the narrator of the story. The movie, and the actress playing the mother, did a remarkably good job of depicting a healthy, warmly loving family all through the film. The closing scenes were very moving to me. The son and a younger daughter were in the kitchen, making pancakes for the family. The mother and father were seated at the table, when suddenly the mother grimaced in pain. At that moment, it became evident, she knew she was very near death.
Using her last strength, she rose and walked into the kitchen. She told her daughter she was a wonderful daughter; she ruffled her son's hair and said, "You're a wonderful cook." She walked back into the room where her husband sat and gave him a long, final kiss. And then she walked into their living room, sat down on a chair, and quietly breathed her last.
What struck me was how beautifully she left her family with a last, strong memory of her love. I found myself, that night and the next morning, coming back to that scene over and over in my mind. I thought about how, when I leave this world, I would very much like to leave such a memory of love with everyone in my life. Then I thought about how many times I have parted from a friend or acquaintance and, for one reason or another, have never seen them again. I decided that I would like the last memory of every friend to be of love, whether or not the parting is due to death or to other reasons.
I thought about how often we never know when some encounter will be our last with that particular person. I began to realize that, in order to be sure that the last memory given to anyone would be a loving one, that I would need to live every moment, every day, with every person, extending only love.
I began to wonder why it was that we don't do that. The next morning I was reading Lesson 153 in the Workbook, "In my defenselessness my safety lies." From that lesson I started to see that what keeps us from being loving in every moment is, very simply, our defensiveness. The lesson talks about how this world is rooted in attack. On every side, in a multitude of ways, this world seems to be attacking us. We bury our fears, but they are always there beneath the surface. The weather threatens us. Sickness threatens us. Death hangs over all our heads. Above all, perhaps, we fear rejection from people around us. We fear their judgment, their disdain, their criticism, their abandonment. Alert to all these possible attacks, we stand heavily armored, walled inside our protective enclosures.
Because we are so firmly encased in our armor, we dare not open up to let our love out. We are afraid of being misunderstood. We are afraid our love will be rejected, or laughed at, or thought silly. We are afraid of losing face.
Yet loving is our sacred trust. Loving is why we are here. How can we learn that love is what we are while we hide behind our armor? Perhaps our love will be misunderstood at times, but what does that matter? Was not Jesus misunderstood? Did that stop him? Over and over, Lesson 153, and the rest of the Course too, tells us that we have a mission here; we are here to bless the world. We are here to be the manifestation of God's Love in the world. We are told that only in doing so can we begin to remember who we truly are. To do that, we have to lay down our sword and shield; we must become defenseless.
Becoming defenseless seems a terrifying thought; why? Because we believe that we are surrounded by attack, and without defense, we will be consumed. Yet if what the Course is saying is true, then at the core of everyone's being, they are love, just as we are. Here we all are, a bunch of beings of light, whose only happiness lies in the expression of love. Yet we are convinced that everyone else is attacking us, so we layer ourselves with armor and strive to attack first, lest we be attacked. The entire scenario of attack is an illusion, yet we make it real by our belief in it.
Somebody has to stop playing this game! And somebody has; that is exactly what Jesus did. He is calling us now to join him in unmasking what this lesson calls a childish game of attack, defense; defense, attack. He is asking us to lay down our defenses and to let the love out, to reach out to those around us and to help them to choose to do as we have done (W-pI.153.11:1). He wants the joy he has found, the joy to which he now invites us, to extend its holy blessing throughout the world (W-pI.153.9:3).
You are love. Isn't there something in you that resonates with that idea? Isn't there something in you that knows it is true? Haven't you often felt that there is so much love inside of you that simply can't seem to find its way out? I know that I feel strongly, as I am sure you do, too, that my dearest desire is to be remembered for how deeply I have loved.
"Reach out to all your brothers, and touch them with the touch of Christ" (T-13.VI.8:2). That simple appeal is so incredibly powerful! I recall one time when I was in Las Vegas for a computer convention, and several of us went out one evening to hear Diana Ross. During her concert, she sang a song that had become a trademark for her: "Reach out and touch somebody's hand. Make this world a better place, if you can."
Here we were in glittering Las Vegas, sometimes called "Sin City," with a crowd, many of whom were elegantly dressed, out for a good time. Diana Ross walked around the room, singing the song over and over, literally reaching out and taking the hand of one person after another. In that theater in a Las Vegas casino, the atmosphere became that of an old-time revival meeting. Around me, many people had tears in their eyes as they felt the spirit that connects us all. If truth be told, there were tears in my own eyes.
Such a simple message she gave! "Reach out and touch someone." Open your heart to love. Just let it out. The experience was a powerful one because it tapped into a deep-seated longing in everyone, a compelling instinct that tells us, "We are one. We are connected." Diana Ross was, in her own way, fulfilling her function as a minister of God, and doing a lot more than many who call themselves ministers. Her song aroused the deep longing we all have, but usually repress, to be channels of God's Love in the world.
When I walk through my life these days, I am so much more conscious of the many blocks to that love that rise up. I feel the love, I perhaps even think of expressing it, but then something rises up, some spectre of fear, to quench it, to stop it. "What will he, or she, think, if I do that or say that? What will other people hearing or seeing me think?" More and more, though, I am beginning to say to myself, "I don't care what anyone thinks. I want to let this love out."
Each one you see in light brings your light closer to your awareness. Love always leads to love" (T-13.VI.10:3-4).
To love is to see someone in light; it is to see the light of God in them, and to speak to that light, to encourage it, to give thanks for it, to acknowledge it. Love sees the tiniest kindness and smiles on it. Opening ourselves to see the love in another, instead of seeing attack, enables us to recognize that same love in ourselves.
There is a light in you that this world cannot give. Yet you can give it, as it was given you. And as you give it, it shines forth to call you from the world and follow it (T-13.VI.11:1-3).
The light, or the love, is in us. The world cannot give it, but we can. That is why we are here:
I am the light of the world. That is my only function. That is why I am here (W-pI.61.5:3-5).
Extending the love that I am to the world is my only function; it is my sacred trust. It is the only reason I am here—wherever here may be, every hour of every day. As I give Love, It will shine forth from the world around me and call me ever more deeply to Itself.
Love does not limit, and what it creates is not limited. To give without limit is God's Will for you, because only this can bring you the joy that is His and that He wills to share with you. Your love is as boundless as His because it is His.
Could any part of God be without His Love, and could any part of His Love be contained? God is your heritage, because His one gift is Himself. How can you give except like Him if you would know His gift to you? Give, then, without limit and without end, to learn how much He has given you (T-11.I.6:6-7:4).
You and I are here to be the manifestation of God's Love in this world. We are here to teach only love. It is so easy to let our love be limited, restrained, restricted. We are afraid of loving too much, as if that were possible. Love cannot be contained; Love exists in no way except without limit and without end. "…what can change was never love" (T-16.IV.4:4).
Love is by nature extravagant. It is impossible to love too much. There is a story in the Gospels of a woman who, although known as a sinner, began to show her love for Jesus by opening an alabaster box and annointing his feet with a precious ointment, washing them with her own hair and tears. The Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner thought to himself that Jesus, if he were a prophet, would have known what kind of woman this was. In another version of the story, the disciples murmured among themselves, noting how the ointment could have been sold, and the money given to the poor. But Jesus rebuked them. He praised the extravagance of her love, and said, "Her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much." (Luke 7:37-50; Matthew 26:6-13)
There is something redemptive in the release of love. As my dear friend, Lynne, used to continually say, "There is no shortage of love."
So let us begin, then, simply. Let us watch for those stirrings of love, bubbling up from within, wanting expression. Instead of listening to the voice of fear within us, telling us to limit that love, to hold it back, to dole it out in small parcels only where it has been thoroughly earned, and only in safe situations, let us release our love to the world. Speak that kind word. Display gratitude. Encourage and uplift one another. Notice kindness. Praise gentleness. Release one another from guilt. And in so doing, we will begin to remember: "Love, which created me, is what I am" (W-pII.229.1:1).