Since a class I did last Thursday, on relationship with Jesus, I’ve been mesmerized by this passage from Chapter 17:
My holy brother, I would enter into all your relationships, and step between you and your fantasies. Let my relationship to you be real to you, and let me bring reality to your perception of your brothers. They were not created to enable you to hurt yourself through them. They were created to create with you. This is the truth that I would interpose between you and your goal of madness. Be not separate from me, and let not the holy purpose of Atonement be lost to you in dreams of vengeance. Relationships in which such dreams are cherished have excluded me. Let me enter in the Name of God and bring you peace, that you may offer peace to me. (T-17.III.10)
The starting point for this passage is two very different ideas. One idea is that we have difficulty convincing ourselves that our relationship with Jesus is actually real. Our senses can’t see him or hear him or touch him. How can we be sure he’s there? What if he’s just the adult equivalent of an imaginary playmate?
The other idea is that our human relationships are typically not real relationships. We aren’t in a real relationship with the real other person. Rather, we have projected our fantasies onto that person and are in a private relationship with our private fantasies. That’s not exactly a relationship, is it?
What I find so brilliant about this passage is that, in its teaching, overturning the first is the key to overturing the second. In other words, letting the relationship with Jesus be real to us is the way to have all our relationships be real.
Specifically, we acknowledge that Jesus is really there, and invite him to enter into the rest of our relationships. We see him stepping between us and our fantasies of others. This simple image is very powerful and surprisingly effective. Imagine that you are projecting onto someone your fantasies of how that person can meet your every (ego-) need. While lost in this fantasy, you aren’t thinking just how unreal, unloving, and ego-centered this is. Then imagine Jesus, not as an imaginary image but as real, stepping in between you and this fantasy. What happens in your mind?
The person is in front of you—Jesus—now represents reality, love, and God-centeredness. What can that do but burst the bubble of your unreal, unloving, and ego-centered fantasy?
And then, this real relationship with Jesus can facilitate a real relationship with the other person. The principle here, I think, is very simple. If Jesus is in the middle of the relationship, he, you could say, sets the tone for it. What is incompatible with him is dispelled; what is compatible with him is invited in. His reality, then, chases away our fantasies of the other person. And that same reality invites us into relationship with the reality of the other person.
The last couple of days I’ve made this paragraph the focus of my practice. I’m so captivated by it. The image of Jesus entering our relationships and stepping between us and our fantasies is a very practical one. And the idea of a real relationship with Jesus allowing us to have real relationships with others is simply brilliant. Who would have thought to combine those two ideas? That is the kind of wisdom that I just don’t find anywhere else. That’s the kind of wisdom that keeps me bound to the Course.