I. The Last Step, P 4
4 The ego, on the other hand, always demands reciprocal rights, because it is competitive rather than loving. It is always willing to strike a bargain, but it cannot understand that to be like another means that no bargains are possible. To gain you must give, not bargain. To bargain is to limit giving, and this is not God’s Will. To will with God is to create like Him. God does not limit His gifts in any way. You are His gifts, and so your gifts must be like His. Your gifts to the Kingdom must be like His gifts to you.
A Course in Miracles introduces me to a God so unlike the one I learned about in traditional religion. That God loved me only when I was obedient, and punished me when I was not. The God I used to believe in was a bargain maker. It seems so obvious to me now that this God is simply a reflection of the ego and not God at all. God gives and only gives. He has no conditions on His giving. He gives because that is His nature, and because He created me from His nature, as an extension of His nature, I too, give without condition. So this thing I seem to be now, this bargain maker, is clearly not me.
Becoming aware of the beliefs I hold that do not reflect my true nature is the first step in returning to my senses. I ask that these beliefs be brought to my attention. How do I still reflect the belief that love is a contract, a bargain to be struck? How do I try to set boundaries and limits on love? I want to be aware of these misconceptions in my mind so that I can look with Spirit and allow them to be undone for me. As the answers to my prayer begin to play across my mind I see that they are many and often subtle.
I thought I needed my daughter to answer a question for me before I could go on with my plans. She seemed to be ignoring her texts and her phone calls. I felt annoyed and frustrated. I felt rejected. Because my feelings were mostly focused inward, and carefully hidden behind a gentler façade than I was actually feeling (a slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury, Lesson 21), I was able to avoid seeing the hidden bargain.
Looking honestly with Holy Spirit I am able to see the bargain. If my daughter will show me love, respect, and attention, then I will love her above all things and put her first in my life. If she fails to live up to her part of the bargain, I will turn on her in carefully cloaked rage. I can’t let her see the full extent of my fury because I want to renegotiate the bargain, so I use more subtle methods to bring her back into line, maybe guilt and manipulation. Could I have ever thought this was love? And yet it passes for love in most people’s relationships.
Many relationships themselves are an attempt to limit love. “I will single you out and love you in a special way if you will love me in that same way.” Isn’t this the bargain that is typically made between two people who “fall in love?” What if I simply loved and allowed that love to flow everywhere? What if there were no boundaries on my love?
I could still live with only one person, I could even marry that person. But why should that be a special relationship? Why should marriage to one person limit the flow of love? Yet, that is the way we typically define being in love. Two people find each other so special that the “love” they feel for each other is different than the love they feel for others. That is like building a wall around love to contain it. This is not the nature of love and so what is felt is no longer love. The bargain that is struck between two people to limit love is no longer about love, but is now about need and the fear of loss.
I see the thoughts in my mind about reciprocal giving such as the ones that I noticed when my daughter failed to answer my call. These kind of thoughts occur in nearly all my relationships. Mostly they just float on by, though sometimes they slow down a bit as I consider them, deciding whether or not I believe the thought. Very rarely now, I choose to believe it for awhile until I get tired of suffering, then I let it go. It is a relief and wonderfully freeing not to be blindly attached to that belief anymore.
Where I am still attached to a belief in limiting my love is in the special relationship. I still do not allow my love to flow unimpeded by limits of any kind. I try to direct it to some people and try to withhold it from others. I cannot, of myself, do anything about this. What I can do is desire to experience love as it truly is, not what I try to make of it. My desire is an invitation to healing.
I notice the times when I try to direct love and ask that my mind be healed of such foolish and unproductive beliefs. I do this as often as I need to and allow the desire for love to be love become stronger until it overwhelms the need to be special. I must be getting closer because I can now imagine my love flowing like a strong and wide river, encompassing all in its path. I laugh at the idea of the river trying to avoid certain people, or getting dammed up by certain other people.