Effort or Willingness?

Question: Does it take effort to learn the Course, or just willingness?

The simple answer is that it takes both effort and willingness. The Course is constantly encouraging us to give our best effort to practicing it, as in the following example: "If you can see the lesson for today as the deliverance it really is, you will not hesitate to give as much consistent effort as you can, to make it be a part of you" (W-pI.194.6:1). Yet it also says that all we need to learn the curriculum is willingness: "[The Holy Spirit] needs only your willingness to share His perspective to give it to you completely" (T-16.VI.12:2).

Since the Course emphasizes both ideas, obviously they must go together. I can think of at least two ways in which the Course relates the two ideas to each other. First, making the effort to practice is evidence of willingness to achieve the the goal of the Course. Here's an example of this idea from Lesson 71. The second to last sentence, which I have italicized, is the key:

Give [God] full charge of the rest of the practice period, and let Him tell you what needs to be done by you in His plan for your salvation. He will answer in proportion to your willingness to hear His Voice. Refuse not to hear. The very fact that you are doing the exercises proves that you have some willingness to listen. This is enough to establish your claim to God's answer. (W-pI.71.9:6-10)

Second, making the effort to practice is a way to increase our willingness to achieve the goal of the Course:

Our next few lessons make a special point of firming up your willingness to make your weak commitment strong; your scattered goals blend into one intent. You are not asked for total dedication all the time as yet. But you are asked to practice now in order to attain the sense of peace such unified commitment will bestow, if only intermittently. It is experiencing this that makes it sure that you will give your total willingness to following the way the course sets forth. (W-pI.In.181-200.1:1-4)

There's one more "effort" quote I'd like to share, because it is one of my favorites. I hear a lot of Course students say that we don't have to make an effort to learn the Course, because it takes no effort just to be who you really are. The Course's own counsel, however, is quite different. It says that precisely because we have made such a strenuous effort to be who we are not, we must now exert a counter-effort to rediscover who we are. Only then do things truly become effortless:

[Mental] vigilance does require effort, but only until you learn that effort itself is unnecessary. You have exerted great effort to preserve what you made because it was not true. Therefore, you must now turn your effort against it. Only this can cancel out the need for effort, and call upon the being which you both have and are. (T-6.V(C).10:4-6)

So, let's all be willing to make the effort to learn the Course. This effort will produce positive results that will increase our willingness, until the day comes when we are totally willing to awaken to God. And on that day, we will awaken to God.

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