A reflection on Lesson 66 from A Course in Miracles: My happiness and my function are one
As a Southern Baptist kid, I was raised with a very stern picture of who God was supposed to be, what He (and it was always a He) was like and what he expected of we humans He created. We were to be good, obedient, and eternally sorry for being born such terrible, awful, sinning creatures.
This old man God, I was told, was love, but at the same time, he had a short fuse and if you were one toke over the line, Sweet Jesus, you would be severely punished – maybe even sent to an eternal fiery hell for all of eternity. This God of unity and love was not afraid to use the threat of eternal separation as a weapon to keep we puny, recalcitrant humans in line.
The idea that God wanted me to be happy never entered my mind. Happiness, we learned, was fleeting in this life. You only got to be happy when you were dead and in heaven, receiving that eternal reward for having no actual fun or pleasure in this life. It was that fickle, punishing god that I walked away from when I realized I was a lesbian. I was told that this loving, awful god would condemn me to hell for seeking out some form of happiness in this life with another woman. Even if those arguing with me granted that I was “born this way,” I still had to deny an innate part of myself – and deny myself any form of happiness in a relationship – to avoid the fiery pits of an eternal hell.
Say what? No way.
My function, according to my upbringing, was to evangelize to sinners, get them to revere this angry, “loving” god and make sure my behavior stayed squeaky clean – or was at least hidden from the public view by Sunday morning. Life was not about being “happy” – it was about doing god’s work in the world of saving sinners.
A Course in Miracles doesn’t traffic in such nonsense. Instead, it makes the most perfect sense of all – our function in this world is to be the light, to be God’s love in the world. We are here to save the world, yes, but not from “sin.” None of us “born that way” when it comes to “sin.” Instead, we are here to help ourselves – and thereby others – remember who they truly are – the light of the world – innocent souls who have this tiny, mad idea that they could ever be separate from God.
The God presented in A Course is Love itself – a form of fierce Love that never gives up on its Children and never punishes them for any “sin” because innocent beings don’t have the capacity to “sin.” We invented sin when we miscreated the ego and its world of competition and behavior modification by religious edict.
Our function in this world is to align our will with God’s will – not because we’ll be punished if we don’t, but because we’ll find the true reward of happiness, joy, peace, and Love when we do. Any choice other than God’s will results in us being lost, once again, in our ego’s ideas about how god and the world works. We may be happy for a moment, but it will pass. Only lasting happiness can be found when we desire only to fulfill our function as the light of the world – forgiving ourselves for forgetting to laugh and sharing that forgiveness with everyone around us.
When we are fulfilling our function – the world becomes beautiful and all we’ll want to tell the world is just how beautiful it is.
The Muslim mystic Hafiz’s poem about a man married to a blind woman sums up this idea:
A man married to a blind woman told her how
beautiful she was every day. And whenever he said
that, she smiled, and her whole body relaxed.
They lived alone at a small remote oasis where
few ever stopped. And whenever someone did he
made sure that no one ever saw his wife,
for a person could openly gasp at her appearance
because she was deformed.
Her husband’s voice and that of her sister, who
would visit a few times a year, were the only
ones she really knew. And she loved her simple
life on the little farm they had.
Appearance, and our relationship, you should
know the truth of those by now:
If you woke next to me on any day, I would say
to you what he so often did.
My dear, you are so beautiful.
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.