By Alan Cohen
Every situation has only the meaning you give it. When you find another perspective with higher purpose, the problem dissipates and the path clears.
I was stunned to see the long line of customers waiting in front of the rental car desk. As I counted 50 people and just a few agents to service them, I realized I would be here for at least an hour. Never again will I rent from this company.
As I chatted with Tom, a fellow in line behind me, I remembered I had a membership to the rental company’s express club. “If I go to the express desk on the lower level, maybe they’ll expedite my rental,” I thought out loud. Tom told me, “Go ahead—I’ll hold your place.” Wow, how thoughtful! I told him thanks, and if I didn’t return, I would save a seat for him in heaven.
When I found the express desk also glutted, I returned to the regular line where my new friend let me back in as he had promised. As the line slowly advanced, Tom and I got to know each other, laughing and telling stories. The frustration of being in the long queue dissipated and the time went more quickly. When I finally reached the front of the line, I told Tom to go ahead of me. We shook hands warmly and wished each other well.
A Course in Miracles asks us to remember, “I do not know what anything is for.” It explains that rewarding relationships provide the express route to healing. While I believed my purpose in that line was to get a rental car, my more meaningful opportunity was to connect with another human being and help each other through a difficult situation. We gave each other a miracle.
Jewish theologian Martin Buber said, “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” The ego’s destinations are always material. The spirit’s destinations run deeper. We believe we are here to get somewhere physically, while we are really here to get somewhere spiritually. Never accept an experience, especially a challenging one, at face value. There is always more going on than meets the eye, a doorway to a blessing.
My friend Nadine had been house-sitting at different homes in Hawaii for several years, and she yearned to have her own place in the small town of Waimea. One day while Nadine was sunbathing on the beach, a dog that had just frolicked in the ocean came and shook water on her, startling her. Soon the dog’s owner arrived and apologized. As the two women began to chat, the lady explained that she had been renting a cottage in Waimea, but she had to move out, and she was looking for someone to take over the lease. When Nadine heard the details, she couldn’t believe her ears. The cottage was exactly what she had been looking for. A month later Nadine moved in to her ideal situation. The wet, shaking dog at first seemed to be a nuisance, but turned out to be an angel. Don’t be hasty to judge nuisances as bad; they always contain a gift if you are willing to look deeper. A friend told me, “Interruptions are the best part of my day.”
The lofty practice of reframing calls us to take the facts of a situation and look at them from a different angle, to reveal an opportunity. Every situation has only the meaning you give it. If a circumstance feels painful, you are attributing negative purpose to it. When you find another perspective with higher purpose, the problem dissipates and the path clears. Miracles proceed from a shift in perception.
In the biblical story, Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery and he was later unjustly thrown into prison. As a result of Joseph’s gift of prophecy, he was released and rose to become Pharaoh’s top advisor. Years later when a famine befell the region, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to beg for food, and they found themselves standing before none other than Joseph. When they apologized for their misdeed, Joseph said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
So it is with all challenging situations. What starts out as evil can be turned into good. Every minus is half of a plus waiting for a stroke of vertical awareness. As spiritual beings, material experiences alone cannot fulfill us. It is only when we find spiritual purpose that we feel fulfilled.
A teacher posed a question to his students: “Imagine you wake up one morning and you feel like having some French toast. But you don’t have any eggs. So you go to the corner mini-mart, pick up some eggs, and have a brief chat with the clerk. Since you know him from your regular visits, you ask him how is kid is doing in his new school. Then you head back and cook your French toast. What was the purpose of your trip to the grocery store?”
The teachers’ students answered, “To buy some eggs.”
“Not really,” the teacher replied. “That was just the excuse to get you into the store to connect with the clerk. Life is more about relationships than eggs.”
There is a nobler purpose to every experience than meets the eye. No encounter is by chance. Everything that happens is designed to lead us to spiritual reward and growth. When we realize that life is about connecting more than getting somewhere, we find treasure right where we stand—even in line.
Alan Cohen is the author of many inspirational books including A Course in Miracles Made Easy. Join Alan for his life-changing Holistic Life Coach Training beginning September 1, 2020. For information on this program and Alan’s books, videos, audios, online courses, retreats, and other inspirational events and materials, visit http://www.AlanCohen.com.