The economic crisis has made us all feel vulnerable. In these difficult times, many of us have felt our sense of security pulled out from under us as our jobs, houses, and savings have vanished in the blink of an eye. But according to A Course in Miracles, these things never made us secure in the first place. Our true safety comes from God. Therefore, our economic difficulties don't have to bring us fear and trembling. They can also give us a precious opportunity to let go of our false sense of security and accept our real protection.
Lest anyone think I'm glibly announcing this "opportunity" from a comfortable ivory tower, let me add that the opportunity is mine as well, because my own life feels like it has been "ripped from the headlines." I recently experienced a major downsizing of my job, and I am now seeking work in Atlanta, Georgia. Let me tell you, it's a jungle out there. A single job opening attracts hundreds of applicants. I've been to mass hirings for new store openings and watched people stream in and out for hours. A friend told me she knows a lawyer who has had to seek retail sales jobs because his law practice no longer supports him. I've applied for at least fifty jobs for which I am fully qualified, and have only three interviews to show for it. By worldly standards, my life is insecure indeed.
Fortunately, I have drawn great strength and assurance from the section of the Course's Manual for Teachers on how the teacher of God should spend his day (Section 16). That section goes into much detail about practices the teacher should use in the course of the day, but here I want to focus on what it describes as "one thought in particular that should be remembered throughout the day. It is a thought of pure joy; a thought of peace, a thought of limitless release, limitless because all things are freed within it" (M-16.6:1-2).
What is this one thought? To get its full impact, we first need to set the scene. The way we normally think, our safety lies in what the section later calls placing "reliance on himself alone" (8:5). We try to make ourselves safe by carefully arranging our lives so the myriad things that threaten us are kept at bay. If we can just get all our ducks in a row and ward off the duck hunters, we tell ourselves, we'll be okay. But in the Course's view, this will never make us truly safe. The things that threaten us are illusions, and our defenses against them are illusions as well. Our attempts to rely on ourselves alone are thus nothing but "magic," like the tricks a stage illusionist uses to make things seem to disappear.
That's where this one thought comes in. The section expresses it this way:
You think you made a place of safety for yourself. You think you made a power that can save you from all the fearful things you see in dreams. It is not so. Your safety lies not there. What you give up is merely the illusion of protecting illusions. And it is this you fear, and only this. How foolish to be so afraid of nothing! Nothing at all! Your defenses will not work, but you are not in danger. You have no need of them. (6:3-12)
There is such a sense of exhilaration in this passage. The "bad" news that our illusory defenses don't work (which many of us, to our dismay, have already figured out) is completely canceled out by the good news that the things we're defending against are illusions too, so our defenses don't need to work. Our guns are shooting blanks, but fortunately there's no one shooting at us. We can just throw the silly guns away. Hallelujah!
Laying down our arms enables us to accept our real protection, which is God. He loves us with an infinite Love, and it is His Will that we be perfectly safe. Our true Self as He created us in Heaven is forever unassailable, completely invulnerable no matter what happens to our bodies on earth. And even on earth, if we let go of our resistance to His Will for us, He will care for us and make sure that we are provided with everything we need to fulfill our part in His plan for salvation. Getting in touch with His Will for us, then, is our true safety. As the section says later, "There is no substitute for the Will of God. In simple statement, it is to this fact that the teacher of God devotes his day" (10:1-2).
The promises the section attaches to accepting this idea are truly staggering:
How simply and how easily does time slip by for the teacher of God who has accepted His protection! All that he did before in the name of safety no longer interests him. For he is safe, and knows it to be so. He has a Guide Who will not fail. He need make no distinctions among the problems he perceives, for He to Whom he turns with all of them recognizes no order of difficulty in resolving them. He is as safe in the present as he was before illusions were accepted into his mind, and as he will be when he has let them go. There is no difference in his state at different times and different places, because they are all one to God. This is his safety. And he has no need for more than this. (7:1-9)
Who would not want a day like this? What would it feel like to know that you are safe and sound, no matter what is happening around you, no matter how big the problems look, no matter how far the Dow has plummeted and how many layoffs were announced today—even if one of those layoffs was your own? It is difficult to even imagine such a profoundly peaceful state of mind.
This may sound abstract and metaphysical, but it is really quite practical and transformative when actually applied during the day. I'm doing that with a simple line: "I accept my real protection." I repeat this line frequently, and try especially to use it whenever I am tempted to think that my protection comes from relying on myself alone. For me, this line comes packed with all the meaning this section has brought to it, so it packs a real wallop. Here's what it says to me:
In my current situation, I think my safety comes from finding the right job and finding it soon. But it doesn't. No job will ever protect me—the economic crisis has demonstrated that in spades. Fortunately, though, I have God to protect me. He loves me and only wants my happiness. It is His Will that I am perfectly safe always. He created me safe in Heaven, and when I open my mind to Him and accept His Will for me, He ensures that I am safe on earth as well. Of course, I'm still looking for a job and watching my budget, but these things aren't the source of my safety. If I keep my mind on Him and listen to His Voice guiding me, any job or money I get will come from Him as an expression of His protection.
I'm augmenting the "I accept my real protection" practice with other lines that emphasize God's infinite Love and care for me. One favorite passage is this beautiful one from the Text:
Do you really believe you can plan for your safety and joy better than He can? You need be neither careful nor careless; you need merely cast your cares upon Him because He careth for you. You are His care because He loves you. His Voice reminds you always that all hope is yours because of His care. (T-5.VII.1:3-6)
I like to pick out lines from this passage, put them in the first person, and address them directly to God: "I need merely cast my cares upon You because You careth for me. I am Your care because You love me….All hope is mine because of Your care."
Another recent favorite is a practice line from Lesson 99, which is the Holy Spirit's answer to appearances of "sin and pain and death…grief and separation and…loss." Therefore, it is His answer to all the pain engendered by the economic crisis. The line says simply: "God is still Love, and this is not His Will" (W-pI.99.5:5). This line has a huge impact on me as I'm bombarded with headlines of massive layoffs while I'm seeking employment myself. As bad as it looks, God is still Love. This is not His Will. Therefore, in the end, all will be well. Thank God!
These practices have helped me in two main ways. First, they have greatly reduced my fear around my money and job situation. I would be truly terrified if I thought I had to rely on myself alone. But doing these practices frequently and regularly has given me a real sense that God is with me and I truly am under His loving care and protection. Everything will be okay.
Second, this feeling of being cared for and protected by God has enabled me to help others who are in the same situation. When you see hundreds of others seeking the same jobs you are, it's easy to see them as competitors fighting with you for scarce resources. But if I'm protected by God and so are they, there is nothing to fear from them. They are compatriots rather than competitors, and since they are compatriots, I want to offer help to them.
I've tried to do exactly that, smiling and giving encouragement to my fellow job seekers at those hiring events, even when they were seeking the same job I was. This feels so good. And according to the Course, it has the added benefit of helping me with my situation, for as the Course says so many times in so many ways, the way we receive is to give. "The miracles I give are given back in just the form I need to help me with the problems I perceive" (W-pII.345.1:4).
What about you? Perhaps you've been hit hard by the economic collapse, or perhaps you are simply suffering the slings and arrows we all experience in this life, no matter how "secure" our finances and employment seem to be. Whatever your current situation, I encourage you to consider the idea that your true safety comes not from relying on yourself alone, but from the limitless love, care, and protection of God. It is His Will that you are perfectly safe now and forever. Why not try out some of these practices and accept your real protection?