|UNITY OF VANCOUVER
3814 FRANKLIN ST. VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON 98660 360-696-0996
The Four Stages of Life
Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
August 21, 2022
All Rights Reserved
PRAYER / MEDITATION
In preparing for prayer, I invite you to become still. If you have any thing in your hands that might be a discomfort, please put it aside. I invite you to become still and relaxed. in your seat. As we come to this special time of the day and this special time of our service, realize that this is your time to put aside all the cares of the day. Put aside the busyness of getting here, the anxiety of driving through traffic and become centered in God.
The God of Jesus and Unity is not a far away God who is off somewhere on top of a mountain or way up in the sky. Jesus said that God is the precious, powerful, imminent Source that is with you, within you and closer than your own breath. He taught that God is love and that God is a refuge to which we can go to regain our strength in times of need.
At this time of the year where new beginnings are made, let us we renew ourselves in the knowing that we are one with the One Presence and Power of God who is love and who loves each one of us. Jesus said, "Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them." So, today, we rejoice in our oneness with God and with God as our own indwelling Christ presence. The Presence and the Mind that was in Jesus Christ is the same presence, power and Mind that is active in and through us.
Now, relax into a deeper state of consciousness. Let go and let the Presence of God within you be your Counselor, your Physician and your help in every need. As we go through our quest of life, this timeless advancing of our souls, we are free. We are unlimited. Through God, with us RIGHT NOW, we have the strength to overcome any challenges of the appearances of the outside world. So now, let us take a moment to be in the silence of prayer with God. In the silence. In the silence of prayer. . .
Dear God, we give thanks that we can come to You, anytime of the day or night. We like to go to the top. We are thankful, dear God, that You have an open door policy and that Your door is always open to day, night or us. We give thanks that we can come to You at any moment, at any time of need. We pray this knowing in the name and through the power of Jesus Christ . Amen.
THE FOUR STAGES OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
Today’s lesson is about the four stages we all go through as we learn about our true nature as spiritual beings living in a physical world and as we learn how to focus on and live fully from our indwelling Christ nature rather than just living through a limited physical body and ego identity.
1. The first stage is the VIRGIN phase. We all enter the physical realm as babies born to physical parents. We then go through a growth and development process. We grow into toddlers, little boys and girls, teenagers, young adults and so forth. The Virgin Phase is a phase of innocence. Little children naturally feel a closeness, a oneness with nature and God. When we are ‘new’ we feel a Unity with our Mother and all life. Small children look with wonder at the world. They trust everyone and must be taught to fear strangers & judge others. They are excited about each new day of life because they are seeing and experiencing everything for the first time.
For example: As a little child I went to Catholic Sunday School. In Sunday school, the nuns told us stories and taught us songs about Jesus, His Mother Mary, His disciples, God, Creation, Angels, Christian Martyrs and many other miraculous and mystical things. As I grew up, some wonderful things happened in my life but as in all of our lives, I also had some very challenging experiences. I experienced several very serious illnesses. I witnessed some terrible things like the day some boy scouts tried to outrun a train and died on a bridge right in front of me. I tried to use my mind to make sense of the terrible things that sometime happen in this world. When I asked the nuns questions about these things in Sunday school, their answers didn’t comfort or really help me. The most common answer was, “It’s God’s will. You don’t have to understand. You aren’t suppose to think about it. Your job is to trust God and believe in Jesus Christ.” When I asked “Why did my grandfather die as he was walking up the steps to his church on a Sunday morning. She said: “God wanted him now, so he took him home.”
Then a neighbor took our dog Pete and killed him with poison. As a child, I couldn’t understand why God would let children die, take my grandfather away or let someone poison our dog. So event by event, slowly over the years, the innocence of my Virgin stage eroded away and my innocent view of God changed. It was replaced with a God of wrath, judgment and punishment; a God that I was afraid of and that I really didn’t want anything to do with. By the time I graduated from high school, I also graduated from the VIRGIN PHASE and fully entered into the second stage which is the VICTIM STAGE.
Without a belief in a God who protected the innocent and righteous I stopped going to church and rarely prayed. Why bother. If God couldn’t or wouldn’t keep me safe it was a waste of time. and like many young adults, as I started college, I was adrift on the sea of life without a compass to guide me. Inside I felt lost. I felt a ‘God sized hole’ at the core of my being and so I started to try to find ‘things’ to fill it. We all begin in this VIRGIN state of faith and innocence and then pass into the second phase of life, which is our VICTIM STAGE. There are several things that go on during the victim stage of life.
1. As a child we felt that the universe was friendly, now we don’t. Where God was a friend to me as a young child, now there is a separation from God. God doesn’t feel close anymore. God is separate, way up in the sky or off somewhere. In the VIRGIN STAGE, we didn’t know where God is, but the adults around us said things like: “the man upstairs or God lives in Heaven” and we begin to think of God like the giant in “Jack in the Beanstalk," looking down at everything and everyone and keeping track of what you did bad, wrong, or right. In the victim stage of life, you don’t give because you want to give, You give out of fear and try to live up to all the expectations, rules and regulations of culture. As for myself, I found that “As hard as I tried, it seemed as if I was always missing the mark. I wasn’t living up to the God standard.”
One man told me his story, “In my church you were not supposed to dance, play cards or go to movies (especially on Sunday). During World War II, I was sitting in a movie theater eating Popcorn, watching a John Wayne war movie. All of a sudden I realized that it was Sunday and I was at a movie. I can remember sitting in the theater thinking, "I sure hope Jesus doesn't come this Sunday afternoon. Because, If He did, I was sure I was going to Hell instead of Heaven, because I was at the movies at the wrong time.”
While in the VICTIM STAGE, we have a life of punishment because we expect it. We have a life that’s unfulfilling because we have a God sized hole in our heart that we’re continually trying to fill with something from out there. We yearn for the oneness or closeness with God and others we felt as tiny babes and we put ourselves down for feeling that way. It’s confusing because we don’t understand how we came to feel so bad about ourselves, and so guilty because it happens so gradually, over the course of our childhood. In addition, we often find ourselves at odds with others as we try to fulfill their expectations of us. Recently, I asked a woman why she had come to Unity and she said, “I don’t have a particular religious belief, so I started going to church with a friend. I wanted to meet others and not be so lonely. But after several months, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to tell my friend, “I am going to stop going to church with you because I go in with 10 pounds of weight on my shoulders and when I leave I have 100 pounds. I can hardly get out of there because of the weight of guilt, sin and damnation. In their eyes, I don’t do anything right. I don’t understand how you can keep going to that church.”
Jesus Christ said, “For my yoke (weight upon you) is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30). Jesus taught that God is love. It seems to me that a true Christ based church, a true Christian church based on the teachings of Jesus should be loving. The worship service should lift your spirits so that you feel better when you leave than when you entered and more able to celebrate and cope with life. Jesus taught and demonstrated unconditional love. In the name of Love, He broke down the cultural barriers of sex, race, religion and age and taught that humanity is one family, “Our Father.” If you study his words, you find that spiritually is supposed to help you to peal off layers of guilt not pour more guilt on. Spirituality is intended to unite us not divide us.
3. VICTORY STAGE: The 3rd stage is the Victory stage. You begin to leave the VICTIM stage of your life and enter the VICTORY stage of life the instant you begin to actively question your beliefs and actively seek an alternative perspective of God, one that supports your intuitive feeling, that God is loving and inclusive and that the universe is friendly toward you and not out to get you. In the words of the Gospel of John 14:20: "On that day, you will know that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you." Jesus said, “He that is within me is greater than he that is in the world.” In the VICTORY STAGE, you intellectually accept this belief and begin to affirm that you are a spiritual being and one with God. Everybody in this room is at least in the beginning of the Victory Stage of life. You know that God is within you, helping you right here, right now. You know the power of the whole universe is with you and that you can have it all because you live, move and have your being in God and with God, you are a VICTOR in life not a Victim of life. You believe Jesus when he said, “I come that they might have life and have it abundantly. Be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.”
God didn’t create us as victims. God created us to be ‘overcomers.” In the VICTORY STAGE, when something bad happens you reach inward to God. In the victory stage, you regain your connection with God and become friends again, and more than friends, you become partners in life with God; a co-creator with God. “With God all things are possible.”
Unity teaches that “Your mind is your connecting link with God and you connect with God through thoughts, feelings and prayers.” To move from the Victory to the Vessel stage of life you need to learn to consciously use, the three distinct phases of Mind: subconscious, conscious and superconscious. Understanding this and using this information is a very important spiritual task. When Jesus said that we are “to be in the world but not of it”, he was referring to the fact that we are here on this life plane of physical experience. But we are ‘not of it’ because we are still first and foremost a spiritual being living in a spiritual world governed by spiritual law. We are Embodied Spirit enjoying expression through an earthly Vessel. The true purpose of the conscious mind is to keep this fact in mind and “keep our eye single’ so that we IDentify ourselves with spirit and God’s potentiality and not just with the physical Body and limitation.
Conscious mind is pivotal. It can look both ways. It is to look and see the limitation in the physical realm and then turn and look to Spirit, the Source of all fulfillments. We are to look past the limitation and not to be a victim and slave in bondage to it. In the Bible, Moses represents the illumined mind that turns to God and makes a covenant with God to lead the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land.
The 2nd phase of mind is the subconscious or memory mind, which is a reservoir that holds all our thoughts and feelings through our lifetime(s). It is a wonderful part of mind that like a computer, stores information. It is the phase of mind that enables us to automatically put on our shoes or make a pot of coffee or tea. You don’t have to get a cookbook out and relearn how to make a pot of coffee every time you want a cup. The information is retrieved instantly from subconscious mind when you make the demand on it. Our mental responses are so automatic and fast that we forget that we’ve asked the subconscious mind for the stored information. For example: Sometimes, when I’m driving, I get someplace I’ve gone before and wonder how I got there because I don’t remember driving there. My mind was preoccupied on something else. Have any of you had that happen?
The subconscious-memory mind will store anything we put in it. It doesn’t understand the word ‘not’. If you say, "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." It simply registers “I am sick.” Subconscious Mind contains both negative information (less than true things) and positive informaton things we affirm and pray. What you are today and what you are experiencing as ‘my current life’ is the sum total of your thoughts of yesteryear. What you are going to be in the future is being programmed by the thoughts you are holding today.
Unity teaches that Life is consciousness and that your mind is like your house. In other words, if you entertain love and spiritual thoughts in your mental house you’ll project them through the windows of your five physical senses and your mental house will radiate a welcoming energy of acceptance.
Story: I was in a restaurant the other day and next to my table was a group celebrating a co-workers retirement. In the midst of the party, I overheard her telling someone, "I sure hope I die before I get broke. I don’t want to outlive my money." People in the Victim stage of life; live in fear that they will exhaust their resources before they retire from earth life. Unity teaches that God is our Source. It also teaches meditation and prayer as methods to actively stay close and connected to God. Pray, trust and know that all your needs will be taken care of. Unity teaches that Jesus is our elder brother and way shower. Jesus said, “God looks after the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. We are also a part of nature and God will provide for us.
So, the Sub-conscious phase of mind is our past. The Conscious Phase is the present moment with the ability to co-create. With God as our partner we can choose to hold creative thoughts that build in mind.
The 3rd phase of mind is Super consciousness or Christ Mind and it is our future. In meditation we open our conscious mind and consent to an infilling of God’s Divine ideas poured to overflowing into our subconscious. This is explained in the 23rd Psalm. “My cup runneth over, surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, for I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
In other words, if you want to look to your future, don’t look to your past or to the subconscious mind first. Look heavenward, instead and with the Christ Mind, in your own mind ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord.’ Plant seed thoughts that will grow and reap the harvest of a wonderful tomorrow. We have complete freedom to choose which phase of mind we use.
In the Victory Stage, we begin to see that life is unfolding according to the nature of our thoughts and feelings. We will eventually see that we had the VIRGIN phase of life, the VICTIM stage and the VICTORY stage. Then it is time to move from the Victory Stage into the Vessel Stage. This is the hardest move of all because it is moving from living through our head to expressing who we are through our heart.
4. VESSEL STAGE: In the VESSEL phase, we know through personal experience gained during our times of prayer and meditation the oneness that Jesus urged us to feel when he said, “the Father and I are one and if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” In the vessel stage we become an expression of heaven on earth, a healer and someone who looks for the good and praises rather than complains. A Vessel gives as God gives. A Vessel pours out, whatever has been poured into it.
In the VICTIM stage of life, we give out of fear.
In the VICTORY stage of life, we give because we think we will receive. “So in mind so in manifestation.’
But when we get into the VESSEL stage of life, we give because it’s our nature to give, our purpose is to give. Our relationship to God is like the relationship of a wave to the ocean. We no longer have ‘to think’ about it.
For example: There was once an elderly man who had just turned 100 years of age. He was seen the day after his birthday in his front yard with a shovel in his hand. He was outside planting a row of young seedling peach trees. A 30-year-old neighbor couldn’t contain his curiosity and asked, "Do you really expect to eat the peaches from those young trees? It will take years for them to grow and bear fruit? The old man leaned on his shovel and smiled, "All my life I’ve eaten peaches from trees that other people planted. Now, I am planting these trees so that someday, someone else will enjoy the benefits of what I have done this day, just as I have done."
So, what stage are you in, in your life? Virgin, VICTIM, victor, or vessel. An ancient proverb says, “Give a man a fish and he will feed himself for one meal but if you teach him to fish, he can feed himself forever. Unity of Vancouver is part of a world wide spiritual educational movement that teaches people how to fish” and how to rise from VIRGIN to VICTIM, from Victim to Victor and from Victor to VESSEL by learning to use the levels of our own mind. A Vessel is aware of itself and aware that it is actively being a TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD, made manifest. A Vessel that God will continually fill to overflowing and that will never run dry or die.
What do you think?
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