I know of a woman, who, after eagerly anticipating the birth of her first child, took one look at him after delivery and said “But he’s a blond.” She refused to wash, hold or nurse him for days after his birth. She had anticipated a cherub with brown hair and eyes, and couldn’t accept the blue eyed beauty who arrived.
This woman had no appreciation for the utter wonder of this small new being, a child of God, grown in her womb and birthed by her. She was not awed by the miracle of birth, or the gift that God offered her in the privilege of becoming a parent – which is the opportunity to learn about love, and God’s very nature through our own lived, visceral, heart-tugging experience with another being, a child.
She wanted a brown haired baby, and this one was blond. So he was rejected.
I know of another woman who felt certain that her long-standing boyfriend was soon to propose to her. She collected jewellery catalogues pondering which ring she would love to wear. When she found one she liked she strategically left her chosen ring circled in the pages, lying around her apartment. She was hoping her man would take the hint.
Sure enough, the day arrived when after a long and beautiful date that the boyfriend had planned, (culminating on the deck of a yacht no less), he got down on one knee and produced a ring box. This was it – her long anticipated moment. He asked to spend the rest of his life with her.
And yet as he opened the ring box her face suddenly fell in disappointment. He had purchased another ring! Her ‘perfect moment’ was suddenly marred as she gazed into the ‘wrong’ glittering diamond arrangement.
It turned out that she had previously marked another ring in the catalogue and the diligent boyfriend has seen this and bought it, thinking it was what she wanted.
After accepting his proposal, she promptly insisted that he go back and exchange the ring for the correct selection.
This woman could overlook the huge gratification of having the man that she professed to love, actually loving her back. (No small gift in itself people).
She could forget that this same man loved her so much that he wanted to spend, not just the afternoon, but the rest of his life with her, and only her.
She wasn’t interested that he was attentive enough to even notice a jewellery catalogue in her home, and to look to at it in order to attempt to make her dreams come true.
Nope, she felt that he ‘ruined’ the moment by not getting it exactly right.
So why am I telling you all this?
I’m telling you because these are examples of people who, because of their own agendas, overlooked gifts that were offered to them. Their examples might sound extreme to you? But I didn’t use them so that you could shake your head and judge these women.
No, I’m telling you because as I look at my own life and I see that I have been showered with gifts, and I have rejected so many of them because they didn’t come in the package or way that I wanted or anticipated. A lot of times, it is only with hindsight that I even recognise that a gift was even being offered.
I’m telling you because often we see the absurdity and hurtfulness in other people’s actions, but at the same time overlook how we ourselves are acting in very similar ways.
About five years ago, I had just returned from living overseas for an extended period. It had been a time of great personal change, new experiences and exposure to new ideas. I was at a point where I knew that I wanted to reassess what my life was all about.
I’d experimented with my career. I’d taken up more post-grad study. I’d recently broken up with a partner. While I thought I knew some things about what I wanted, there was a whole lot of stuff that just didn’t sit right about my future direction and life values. I sort of knew what I didn’t want, but internally I didn’t think I could get what I really dreamed of – because that stuff just doesn’t work in the ‘real world’, right?
Around this time my friend Jessica invited me to go out for dinner in Brisbane with her and some of her work colleagues and friends. After dinner we piled into a near-by night club called ‘Fridays’. Having lived in Brisbane for four years while I studied for my degree, being back in ‘Fridays’ brought back many memories of my uni days, not all of them were fun or flattering (smile). This night, I distinctly remember standing very soberly on the edge of a dance floor, surrounded by people of various ages and in varying degrees of inebriation and thinking “Here I am back in a familiar place, yet I feel so different. What is my life really all about anyway?”
I chose that moment to pray. Strange I know, but there it is.
Now, back then I wasn’t what you would call a formal ‘pray-er’. In fact I hadn’t explored my own feelings enough to decide what I really believed about God. But from what I now know about true prayer, I can tell you that I most definitely prayed at that moment.
Here’s what I prayed:
“God, please let me find the one man who is for me. I want the partner who will share my passions, and dreams, who will want to make a life together, a life that is about something meaningful and true. I want the ‘forever’ man who will be my friend and partner and who will want what I want for the world.”
It was a strong feeling, that I felt explode out of me like a shock wave. Then I just went back to making small talk with the journos I’d had dinner with.
You know what comes next in this story don’t you?
The next week AJ gave a talk at my parent’s home and he and Cornelius stayed overnight. It wasn’t a huge, harps playing, thunder clap kind of moment. I wish I could tell you that doves appeared in the sky and we gazed knowingly into each other’s eyes.
The event passed for me without much conscious acknowledgement (although many emotions were stirred). AJ was famously tongue tied, and I spent most of the time telling Corni about my travels, interspersed with me directing some pointed questions towards AJ about the Course in Miracles or something or other.
I couldn’t see the gift.
In fact, as is by now well recorded, as I got to know AJ I vacillated between extremes of attraction towards him and intense rejection, anger and denial of any feeling toward him.
Quite simply, meeting AJ triggered every fear and deeply suppressed sense of loss inside of me. So extreme was my fear and its denial, that I didn’t see our relationship as a gift. In fact I hardly saw his true personality at all. I rejected my feelings, resented the truth, and did a great many things to harm him and the possibility of us being together.
With every gift that God gives us He desires that we come to know ourselves more fully. And that we may be drawn by our own desire to grow closer to Him. This often means confronting the errors and blocks we have to knowing God’s Nature, Love and to recognising the Wisdom inherent in His Design.
I feel now that my meeting AJ again was perhaps the best gift I have ever, ever received – even better than our very first meeting in the 1st century. Yet at the time not only did I reject this gift, I resented the sense of a loss of control and terror of attack, that our meeting triggered in me.
The creation of our soul mate is an immense gift. It is the gift that delivers the exact answer to my prayer made in the night-club five years ago. Even in our injured state, being in a relationship with our soul mate has immense power to help us grow and know ourselves. Even if both halves of the soul are injured or hurting, if they desire to know and heal themselves, they naturally and automatically become a support, inspiration and example for the other simply through their own self-expression and journey.
But I literally couldn’t see or receive these gifts until I developed humility to my own fear and pain. The resistance to my own self caused me to be blind to what gifts I had received and was being offered.
Our friend Josh always says that God’s Law of Attraction brings you Truth in a graded way – first as a feather, then as a brick, and then as a truck. Meaning that God is gently trying to bring us towards Truth all the time, and when we engage our soul’s desire to grow and yet keep overlooking the feather-weight Truths that nudge us, a stronger attraction is required to wake us up to our error, enter the brick. And if we still deny or resist he brings us a truck sized event, all in the effort to help us see how we err from Love and Truth.
Imagine if we could all wake-up to the feathers brushing up against us, designed to show us our errors. If we saw these nudges and worked in our hearts on releasing their causes, our awareness and appreciation of gifts would overwhelm us.
I know that it has become fashionable in recent years to keep a ‘Gratitude Diary’ as a way of counting blessings, and seeing gifts. The problem with this approach is that we aren’t already automatically seeing and feeling the gifts. Instead we are employing a technique to grow our awareness. In principle I’m not opposed to any non-violent practice that assists a person to grow their awareness. Awareness is the first step we take when healing a problem, or opening to a gift.
However the problem with simply keeping a journal and not pausing to reflect more deeply to ask ourselves why we weren’t already noticing these gifts and rejoicing in them in our daily life, is that the practice will require constant repetition in order to provide any sense of joy. The joy cannot be deep and lasting because we are already suppressing or avoiding the feelings that prevent the natural recognition of gifts.
In my own example, it didn’t matter how intellectually aware I was of the gifts of my soul mate’s love, support and acceptance of me. While I justified my fear and pain, I simply didn’t honour or feel them as gifts. Until I was willing to be humble to my true feelings I couldn’t see that God had answered my prayer; instead I believed that He had dealt me a poor hand in life.
In the experience of the first women above, the emotions triggered by the birth of a son whose appearance reminded her of something painful, marred her joy at motherhood. So intense was the experience, that she couldn’t manufacture gratitude. Her only solution would have been to explore her reaction emotionally in order to resolve it and open her heart to her child.
In the second example, the woman had closed her heart to love, and instead lived in the injuries of façade. She believed that love equated to providing her with material things, and fulfilling her every wish. She literally could not see the gift of her boyfriend’s love and fidelity because she was obsessed with appearance, fanfare, and tradition. She demanded the fulfillment of her obsessions, rather than seeing what of value was being offered.
Intellectually counting gifts in order to grow gratitude is only effective if we understand that in a truly humble place we would not need to count our gifts – they would already be blindingly apparent and abundant on a moment to moment basis. So if we are using an intellectual technique to notice our gifts, in order to grow we must be willing to take the next step which is to heal our injuries that prevent us seeing receiving these gifts without the need for technique.
Also, if we try for gratitude, we can quickly end up in a stuck and self-punishing state. We can use our mind to see or count gifts around us, and yet finding that our heart is dead to them, we can end up berating ourselves. For example, I spent many nights punishing myself, because I had vast evidence of my soul mate’s kindness, patience and generosity with me and others, and I could see that I was not feeling grateful for these things. In fact I was actively rejecting and criticizing them.
By trying to be grateful, trying to manufacture gratitude because we ’know it’s the right thing to be’, we can end up creating a hell of self-flagellation for ourselves.
The only way to truly notice and receive gifts is to open our hearts and heal the injury that blocks us to receiving in the first place. Our lives lived in suppression of emotion cause us to seek out addictive and damaging prizes, rather than notice and honour the true and nourishing gifts that God and others offer us. It’s like trying to suppress a deep hunger with sugary sweets, that don’t stay in our stomach long and rot our teeth. Our real hunger and thirst is to feel and know ourselves and God, but most of us feel that’s frightening and dangerous so we bail out and deny.
Yet when we close down the experience of one emotion, we close down the potential experience of others. If we shut down our pain and fear, we can’t feel love or gratitude. It’s as simple and difficult as that.
I can tell you from lived experience that once you begin to open your heart to whatever is in there, without self-punishment, and with a desire to love and heal, gratitude is a natural result.
Can I inspire you today friend? The benefits of opening to our pain are not just a stronger sense of self, greater potentials of a relationship with God and a more loving lifestyle and relationships. Undertaking the journey of healing ourselves literally makes life come alive with a knowledge and experience of the gifts that God has offered.
I feel some pain as I begin to feel how many gifts I have overlooked, rejected or simply let pass me by in life. But there is also the excitement of knowing that as I continue, and grieve and grow, the gifts begin to appear in technicolour all around me.
Do you remember the wonderful world of Walt Disney – full of colour and magic? I liken those images to how life comes alive as we grow. The gifts spring out at us, to be relished and received readily.
But in order to live this we must be willing to examine our expectations, our agendas, and our preconceptions in the light of what is loving and what honours Truth. Only when we are willing to allow the pain of past hurts and the discomfort of letting go of unloving expectations can we even begin to notice the gifts being offered. And this is the first step in coming to discover and embrace the beauty and fulfillment that God has planned for us.
I have been blind to the many blessings and opportunities offered to me until I at last found the courage to begin to open my heart to all that was within it.
I even received the exact thing that I prayed for within one week of my prayer. But I missed the gift because I didn’t expect or want his name to be Jesus.