While on my way to church …

“Be comfortable but not complacent with your imperfections. Your less-evolved areas have a right to be. All your faults and imperfections are already known. They are part of the Divine Plan.” —Emmanuel, from Emmanuel’s Book

by Scott Kalechstein — 

One day I was on my way to church to give an inspirational talk and sing a few songs. Having received a license in the mail a few weeks earlier that claimed I was now an officially ordained minister, I was excited to be giving my first legal sermon. (I had been an outlaw for many years before going straight.)

Driving in my car, I noticed what appeared to be a speck of dirt on my clean white pants. When I went to brush it off, it somehow smeared into a dark streak of oil. I looked down at my lap and, as is the custom of spiritually advanced souls such as myself, who are trained in mystical Christianity, I immediately called on Jesus. “Christ Almighty!” I fumed, venting my exasperation, “How am I going to stand in front of the congregation with my pants smeared like this?”

My frustrations turned from Jesus toward myself, and a critical voice inside me began a smear campaign of his own. “Scott, how stupid of you not to be more careful. When are you going to learn how to pay attention and stop being such a klutz! What are you going to do now? You can’t go to church looking like this.”

The inner critic continued his clothes-minded sermon for a few more moments until a kinder, wiser voice took a turn at the pulpit. “Scott, let’s take a breath and remember what’s really important. You’re on your way to church to express light and love. What do you want to focus on, the stain on your pants or the love in your heart? You’ll be there in 10 minutes. Do you really want to spend it beating yourself up?”

I took a breath, reestablished my priorities and dropped the self-criticism. I dropped it just like that — without affirmations, therapy, meditation, colonics or psychic surgery. I spent those 10 minutes in peace, enjoying the drive and reflecting on the ease of my attitudinal adjustment.

I wondered why it was so easy, almost effortless, to let go of the self-attack. So often I struggle for hours with my inner critic, getting down on myself for what I perceive to be my shortcomings. What could I learn from the ease of this experience that I could transfer to some of my more challenging lessons in self-loving?

I realized that I shifted so quickly in that moment because I was on my way to church, and I knew that it was part of my divine job description to be ease-filled, clear, lighthearted and loving with the congregation. I knew that self-judgment would be a heavy weight on my shoulders that would interfere with my ability to serve. Self-criticism, I recognized, was off-purpose, a luxury I could not afford to indulge in while preparing my consciousness for my talk. I dropped it instantly, because I saw its lack of value.

Then I had an inquiry that stretched me and excited me and truly disturbed my inner critic, which is always a good thing. “Aren’t I always on my way to church? Is there ever a moment or a place where the opportunity to express love doesn’t exist? In God’s eyes, is speaking to a congregation any more important or holy than speaking with a gas station attendant or smiling at a clerk when she hands me my change? Is there really such a thing as a time where self-attack is constructive?”

Shame is a condition of mind that can make a convincing case for the belief that I deserve to suffer for my mistakes and that I have little of substance to offer humanity. It is like a shovel that can temporarily dig my soul into a grave. Each time I make my way out of that tomb, I rise with a story to tell, a gift of hope for those who also are climbing out. I re-connect, with more love to give and more enthusiasm for living. It is becoming obvious that self-criticism paralyzes my heart and accomplishes nothing. Is that the kind of sermon I want to practice while on my way to church? Not!

That day at the church service, I started my talk by mentioning what I had gone through in the car. Everybody could identify with how I initially made a big deal about the stain, and people were inspired by how I let it go and the insights I shared about my process. I realized that my sermon was far more effective and more fun because of the stain on my pants and what I did with it.

Perhaps there is more wisdom and happiness to be gained from dealing with stains gracefully than from keeping our pants forever white.

Now, when I find myself in critical condition, I remember the experience of spontaneous remission in my car. I say to myself, “Hey, let’s wake up! We have a ministry of love here.” The entire planet is a church/temple/mosque and all people, including myself, are the congregation. What I say to myself in the pulpit of my mind is simultaneously being broadcast to the world, so let’s put the sin, fire and brimstone away and preach ourselves some loving kindness and original innocence.

In every moment, I am faced with the opportunity to choose between focusing my attention on the dark spot on my white pants — the mistakes I will inevitably make as an evolving human being — or on my unchanging love-ability. I want to remember that just as the dark spot doesn’t alter the fact that the pants are white, my fumblings don’t change the fact that I am of the light. Any time I transmute self-criticism into self-acceptance, I am doing my job and living my purpose as a minister of love.

 

Scott Kalechstein is a modern-day troubadour and inspirational speaker. He travels the world giving concerts, talks and workshops, as well as presenting at conferences. He lives in Marin County, Calif. www.scottsongs.com, scott@scottsongs.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 6, December 2006/January 2007.

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