In my defenselessness my safety lies.
1. You who feel threatened by this changing world, its twists of fortune and its bitter jests, its brief relationships and all the “gifts” it merely lends to take away again; attend this lesson well. ²The world provides no safety. ³It is rooted in attack, and all its “gifts” of seeming safety are illusory deceptions. ⁴It attacks, and then attacks again. ⁵No peace of mind is possible where danger threatens thus.
This can be a bitter pill to swallow. We so want the world to work. We try and try again to manipulate the world so that it makes us happy. When I first started studying the Course, I did so with the idea that this was going to help me have a better life. Slowly, I came to the realization that this is not another better self-help book or a way to get more of whatever I thought would make me happy, money, relationships, or whatever fantasy I thought I needed at the time. In fact, I discovered that it is here to show me that there is no world and I am just dreaming and that waking up is the way to achieve happiness and peace of mind.
2. The world gives rise but to defensiveness. ²For threat brings anger, anger makes attack seem reasonable, honestly provoked, and righteous in the name of self-defense. ³Yet is defensiveness a double threat. ⁴For it attests to weakness, and sets up a system of defense that cannot work. ⁵Now are the weak still further undermined, for there is treachery without and still a greater treachery within. ⁶The mind is now confused, and knows not where to turn to find escape from its imaginings.
Our previous lesson told us that we hold all the power. Our thoughts and beliefs determine the world we see and how we see it. It told us that no one nor anything outside ourselves is responsible for our lives. Now we are being given another very important piece of the puzzle. Jesus starts by establishing the fact that the world doesn’t provide us safety and this can be frightening to those who look for it here.
The danger isn’t in the world itself but in the confusion we experience as we try to defend ourselves. When we feel attacked we become angry and believe that it is reasonable and even necessary that we defend ourselves through fighting back. The problem with this is that defending ourselves just makes us feel more vulnerable. The more we defend, the greater the threat becomes to us and the more frightened we become. As Jesus says, we start out with feeling attacked by the world, and now our own mind is causing the sense of attack to be more frightening.
3. It is as if a circle held it fast, wherein another circle bound it and another one in that, until escape no longer can be hoped for nor obtained. ²Attack, defense; defense, attack, become the circles of the hours and the days that bind the mind in heavy bands of steel with iron overlaid, returning but to start again. ³There seems to be no break nor ending in the ever-tightening grip of the imprisonment upon the mind.
4. Defenses are the costliest of all the prices which the ego would exact. ²In them lies madness in a form so grim that hope of sanity seems but to be an idle dream, beyond the possible. ³The sense of threat the world encourages is so much deeper, and so far beyond the frenzy and intensity of which you can conceive, that you have no idea of all the devastation it has wrought.
When I first began to get even an inkling of what Jesus is saying here, I felt a sense of hopelessness. I could see that he was right. I had spent my life trying to defend myself. My relationships were battlegrounds; even when there was relative happiness my mind was always devising strategies to defend against the next attack. Sometimes I was planning how to get my way. Sometimes I was thinking of justifications to explain my behavior.
At other times, I was busy trying to make myself look better, behave better, make myself more valuable to defend against the loss of the relationship. Work was no different. I was always vying for top position, defending myself against competition within the company and competition against other companies. The weirdest part of the whole thing was that I didn’t really notice this was happening nor did it occur to me that there was any other way to live. And all this striving did nothing to make me feel safe. It just drove me to greater lengths to defend myself.
5. You are its slave. ²You know not what you do, in fear of it. ³You do not understand how much you have been made to sacrifice, who feel its iron grip upon your heart. ⁴You do not realize what you have done to sabotage the holy peace of God by your defensiveness. ⁵For you behold the Son of God as but a victim to attack by fantasies, by dreams, and by illusions he has made; yet helpless in their presence, needful only of defense by still more fantasies, and dreams by which illusions of his safety comfort him.
I understand now that defensiveness is a trap. The more I defended the more vulnerable I felt. When I fell into this trap, I became hypervigilant for signs that attack was imminent and often saw threat where there was no attack. The worst of it was that I could not know my Self when I was defensive. What has the holy Son of God got to defend against? What could threaten my true Self? Could God’s Son be endangered?
6. Defenselessness is strength. ²It testifies to recognition of the Christ in you. ³Perhaps you will recall the text maintains that choice is always made between Christ’s strength and your own weakness, seen apart from Him. ⁴Defenselessness can never be attacked, because it recognizes strength so great attack is folly, or a silly game a tired child might play, when he becomes too sleepy to remember what he wants.
7. Defensiveness is weakness. ²It proclaims you have denied the Christ and come to fear His Father’s anger. ³What can save you now from your delusion of an angry god, whose fearful image you believe you see at work in all the evils of the world? ⁴What but illusions could defend you now, when it is but illusions that you fight?
The reason we need no defense is that we have nothing to fear. We are not these weak and fragile bodies and we are not in them even temporarily. There is no threatening world. Until we open our minds to our true nature, we will continue to feel threatened forgetting that the threats are illusions. The threats will increase with every defense we make until they bind us so tightly fear becomes so common that we forget what safety feels like. We forget that God is Love and so are we.
8. We will not play such childish games today. ²For our true purpose is to save the world, and we would not exchange for foolishness the endless joy our function offers us. ³We would not let our happiness slip by because a fragment of a senseless dream happened to cross our minds, and we mistook the figures in it for the Son of God; its tiny instant for eternity.
It is like we are playing this incredibly realistic video game, the kind with the best virtual headgear in the world. It’s so realistic that we get caught up in it and play for such a long time that the game feels like reality and reality feels like an impossible dream. It is time to walk away from the game and return to reality. The game keeps showing us more monsters to slay and because we have become confused and think the monsters are real, we are afraid to turn away from them. But if we don’t take that step, put down our shields and swords and turn away, we will remain in endless battle when we could be in eternal safety.
9. We look past dreams today, and recognize that we need no defense because we are created unassailable, without all thought or wish or dream in which attack has any meaning. ²Now we cannot fear, for we have left all fearful thoughts behind. ³And in defenselessness we stand secure, serenely certain of our safety now, sure of salvation; sure we will fulfill our chosen purpose, as our ministry extends its holy blessing through the world.
10. Be still a moment, and in silence think how holy is your purpose, how secure you rest, untouchable within its light. ²God’s ministers have chosen that the truth be with them. ³Who is holier than they? ⁴Who could be surer that his happiness is fully guaranteed? ⁵And who could be more mightily protected? ⁶What defense could possibly be needed by the ones who are among the chosen ones of God, by His election and their own as well?
We have been given a gentle way to disentangle from the games we play, a way that will not frighten us. I know that often when we get to the point that we realize there may be a way to freedom we wish that the Holy Spirit would just shake us awake, that our Father would just bring us Home. Sometimes we feel anger that He has abandoned us here and resentful that He doesn’t just end the whole thing.
But sudden awakening would be fearful and our Father knows we don’t need Him to rescue us. He created us and He knows His creation is exactly like Him. Does God need to be rescued? He gave us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth to guide us as we rescue ourselves. Now Jesus has given us these simple lessons to smooth the transition and make it painless.
We are not asked to give up all defenses at once while we are still uncertain of who we are. He is taking us by the hand and leading us out step by step. He tells us that we can heal ourselves when we are sick, but that if we are afraid to do that, we can give medicine the power to relieve our suffering. He explains how defensiveness hurts us and keeps us trapped and then he teaches us how to lay down one at a time as we notice he is right.
11. It is the function of God’s ministers to help their brothers choose as they have done. ²God has elected all, but few have come to realize His Will is but their own. ³And while you fail to teach what you have learned, salvation waits and darkness holds the world in grim imprisonment. ⁴Nor will you learn that light has come to you, and your escape has been accomplished. ⁵For you will not see the light, until you offer it to all your brothers. ⁶As they take it from your hands, so will you recognize it as your own.
As he does throughout the Course, Jesus emphasizes that we must include our brothers in our salvation or we are not saved. How is it that we can help our brothers choose as we have? The way I do this is that when a brother lashes out, I don’t defend myself. I don’t try to make them feel guilty or in any way act as if I have been threatened or hurt. At first this seemed dangerous but now I see that it is actually the way out of the false sense of danger we feel when we believe the game is real. It is the way we back out of the game. Now, I don’t respond because I don’t believe I am endangered.
If someone were going to hit me, I would duck. If someone were abusing me, I would leave. But I would not feel like I am endangered because this body was endangered. I would not leave in anger or resentment. I would just leave. This was not always true, of course, but through the practice of these lessons and the growing desire to return Home, I have gradually come to understand that there is only love and a call for love. If I answer a call for love with defensiveness, I will further trap myself in my delusions. Since I am no longer altogether insane, I have stopped hurting myself in that way.
12. Salvation can be thought of as a game that happy children play. ²It was designed by One Who loves His children, and Who would replace their fearful toys with joyous games, which teach them that the game of fear is gone. ³His game instructs in happiness because there is no loser. ⁴Everyone who plays must win, and in his winning is the gain to everyone ensured. ⁵The game of fear is gladly laid aside, when children come to see the benefits salvation brings.
13. You who have played that you are lost to hope, abandoned by your Father, left alone in terror in a fearful world made mad by sin and guilt; be happy now. ²That game is over. ³Now a quiet time has come, in which we put away the toys of guilt, and lock our quaint and childish thoughts of sin forever from the pure and holy minds of Heaven’s children and the Son of God.
The game we have played is that we were tossed out of paradise by an unloving and vengeful God and that we were left to fend on our own in constant competition with each other for whatever we could hope to gain. We are playing at being unloved and uncared for, in a state of unending war with others and within ourselves. But all of that is ending now. We have made a decision to put down our defenses and to come Home. Our loving Father has designed the happy game that has only winners and we are learning that salvation is something we want.
14. We pause but for a moment more, to play our final, happy game upon this earth. ²And then we go to take our rightful place where truth abides and games are meaningless. ³So is the story ended. ⁴Let this day bring the last chapter closer to the world, that everyone may learn the tale he reads of terrifying destiny, defeat of all his hopes, his pitiful defense against a vengeance he can not escape, is but his own deluded fantasy. ⁵God’s ministers have come to waken him from the dark dreams this story has evoked in his confused, bewildered memory of this distorted tale. ⁶God’s Son can smile at last, on learning that it is not true.
Our part is two-fold. Our purpose is to accept the Atonement for ourselves and to help our brother do the same. As for myself, I have not completed my purpose entirely, but what I have accepted thus far has convinced me that it is only in my defenselessness that my safety lies. I might still defend myself at times but as soon as I do so, I recognize the error and choose again.
I do this because I have proven to myself that Jesus is right, that my salvation and the salvation of the world depends on me making this choice for freedom. There is no salvation until I accept my salvation and I am not saved until all others are saved. We are in this together and so I want only the best for everyone.
15. Today we practice in a form we will maintain for quite a while. ²We will begin each day by giving our attention to the daily thought as long as possible. ³Five minutes now becomes the least we give to preparation for a day in which salvation is the only goal we have. ⁴Ten would be better; fifteen better still. ⁵And as distraction ceases to arise to turn us from our purpose, we will find that half an hour is too short a time to spend with God. ⁶Nor will we willingly give less at night, in gratitude and joy.
16. Each hour adds to our increasing peace, as we remember to be faithful to the Will we share with God. ²At times, perhaps, a minute, even less, will be the most that we can offer as the hour strikes. ³Sometimes we will forget. ⁴At other times the business of the world will close on us, and we will be unable to withdraw a little while, and turn our thoughts to God.
17. Yet when we can, we will observe our trust as ministers of God, in hourly remembrance of our mission and His Love. ²And we will quietly sit by and wait on Him and listen to His Voice, and learn what He would have us do the hour that is yet to come; while thanking Him for all the gifts He gave us in the one gone by.
There is now even greater emphasis on meditation, on sitting in stillness and allowing our mind to be healed and remembering who we are. We are encouraged to spend as much time as we can with this. He does understand that we will be distracted and sometimes fail to give these hourly remembrances, but we are asked to do the best we can.
Maybe you have by this time gained at least enough peace and happiness from your practices that you understand the importance of what is being asked of you. The more time you devote to the lessons, to the time spent with your Self, the more this happiness and peace increases.
18. In time, with practice, you will never cease to think of Him, and hear His loving Voice guiding your footsteps into quiet ways, where you will walk in true defenselessness. ²For you will know that Heaven goes with you. ³Nor would you keep your mind away from Him a moment, even though your time is spent in offering salvation to the world. ⁴Think you He will not make this possible, for you who chose to carry out His plan for the salvation of the world and yours?
This is my experience and it becomes more so all the time.
19. Today our theme is our defenselessness. ²We clothe ourselves in it, as we prepare to meet the day. ³We rise up strong in Christ, and let our weakness disappear, as we remember that His strength abides in us. ⁴We will remind ourselves that He remains beside us through the day, and never leaves our weakness unsupported by His strength. ⁵We call upon His strength each time we feel the threat of our defenses undermine our certainty of purpose. ⁶We will pause a moment, as He tells us, “I am here.”
If I ever feel like I can’t do some part of this work, this is the paragraph I come back to. I am not alone and I have so much Help. Let us rise up strong in Christ today, remembering who we are and Who remains with us throughout the day. If I think for even a moment that I am in need of defense, I will call upon His strength and hear His Voice tell me, “I am here.”
20. Your practicing will now begin to take the earnestness of love, to help you keep your mind from wandering from its intent. ²Be not afraid nor timid. ³There can be no doubt that you will reach your final goal. ⁴The ministers of God can never fail, because the love and strength and peace that shine from them to all their brothers come from Him. ⁵These are His gifts to you. ⁶Defenselessness is all you need to give Him in return. ⁷You lay aside but what was never real, to look on Christ and see His sinlessness.
We are the ministers of God and as such we cannot fail. It is His strength and peace shining from within us that reminds me that God gave all of Himself to me in my creation. How could I fail? I gladly lay aside all my defenses as I am able and in doing so, I accept my reality.