This past Sunday, Revs. Brian & Kristen Grandon presented a talk titled “The Journey of Spiritual Awakening: Reframing Salvation” as the 5th installment in the 8-week series “Our Authentic Spiritual Journey.” It got me thinking this week about how my own thoughts and ideas around salvation have changed over the course of my life, and how I learned that love is the answer to every question I have.
Salvation Is Not Static
The way I learned to view salvation growing up was through a largely Catholic lens, diffused through a Protestant filter. I was taught God was in Heaven separated from me, and that the way back to God was through accepting Jesus as my personal lord and savior. Of course, this is a simplified explanation of a much more complicated line of thinking.
However, right or wrong, I came away thinking that salvation was a static condition. All I had to do was accept Jesus, be born again and I was good to go, salvation was mine, as it were. I believed that once I had an experience of salvation, it was automatic from then on. Of course, after having what I thought was a salvation experience, I continued to have experiences where I felt everything but saved.
Ultimately, about the age of 35, I found myself in crisis. I was desperately in need of an authentic experience of salvation, but deeply distrustful of the Catholic and Protestant appeals of my youth. I did not have anything against Jesus personally. In truth, I always liked Jesus, even at my lowest. However, the idea that “Jesus Saves” was not enough of a motivator to get me on the path to salvation.
Salvation Is Renewing the Mind
Throughout the entire experience of searching for my salvation, one Biblical verse kept banging around in my head. Even in moments when salvation seemed eternally impossible for me, it kept returning into my consciousness. In some ways, it kept me moving forward, even when it felt hopeless.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
Throughout my life, and especially at my lowest point, I had a lot of resistance to the “will of God” part. However, I was always intrigued by the “renewing of your mind” idea. My mind definitely needed renewing, but I had no idea how to make that happen. Distrustful of organized religion and skeptical of modern psychotherapy, I felt like I needed “God” to send me a unique path to salvation, one that was custom made for me and my particular belief system.
I know it sounds pretentious to disclose that detail here now, but at the time I saw it as my way of not “being conformed to the world.” It was like saying to God, “I have seen what the world has to offer, you need to send me something custom made. I’ll wait.” And wait, I did. However, in the big scheme of things, it wasn’t all that long.
God Sends Me a Plan for Salvation
In August 1997, on the invitation of a dear friend, I purchased a copy of A Course In Miracles [ACIM] and joined a weekly group study. I did not know it at the time. But, those were the first steps I took on what would become, for me, the path to salvation I had requested. Over the last 20 years, I have learned many valuable lessons through my study of ACIM. For today’s purposes, I want to highlight two key ideas that literally “renewed my mind” and transformed my entire experience.
The first one I want to mention is with respect to the idea of “reframing salvation” that Revs. Brian and Kristen spoke to on Sunday. ACIM taught me that salvation is a dynamic, ongoing experience. It is not static. It is an active, ongoing process that requires my personal engagement. If my salvation was to be, it was up to me.
Learning this invaluable lesson required me to unlearn my old, embedded belief system. Among other things, my old belief system had me believing that my salvation was dependent on something or someone external to me. In Lesson 71 of the ACIM workbook, I learned that my “ego’s plan for salvation centers around holding grievances,” always maintaining that if someone behaved differently, or the world changed some “external circumstance” that went against my sensibilities, then, and only then, would I be saved.
Only God’s Plan for Salvation Works
ACIM maintains that miracles are the natural result of the expression of love. It also asserts that the only true miracle is a changed mind. If this is true, then the “change of mind necessary for salvation” required that I remove all responsibility for my salvation from anyone or anything outside of me. Everyone? “Yes, EVERYONE!” Everything? “Yes, EVERYTHING!”
In that moment, I became aware of how many grievances against the world I had accumulated. Holding grievances is the opposite of God’s plan for salvation. Therefore, each grievance blocked my potential to experience salvation. Where grievances are present, forgiveness is required. Without love, there is no forgiveness. Since only God’s plan for salvation works, I had to become willing to love everyone and everything, holding on to no grievances of any kind, lest salvation be withheld from me. This placed the responsibility for salvation squarely on my own shoulders, so to speak.
Love Is the Answer to Everything
This brings me to the most important lesson I learned through my study of ACIM. Love is the answer to every single question we have. Every single problem we face, every single challenge we imagine, love is the answer.
Where healing is needed, love is the answer. Where hearts are breaking, love is the answer. When we’re feeing lonely, love is the answer. When we tremble in fear, love is the answer. When we need forgiveness, love is the answer. When we need some peace, love is the answer.
ACIM ultimately teaches that we are always choosing between love and fear all day, every day. Where fear sees challenge, love sees opportunity. Fear separates and divides by holding grievances in place. Love unites and harmonizes, releasing grievances through forgiveness. With no grievances in place, salvation is not only possible, it is inevitable.
If salvation is going to be, love is the answer.