Breaking Down Barriers
Sermon at New Hope Academy, MD
October 8, 2000
Itís good to be home again!
My husband and I were blessed to spend 6 entire weeks together with our two oldest sons at a family workshop for Unificationist families in Jardim, Brazil. I can truly say that I had a mountaintop experience on the plains of Brazil! We had the opportunity to reflect on our faith, our family, our husband and wife relationship, and our personal relationship with God, Jesus, and True Parents. It was the most profound husband and wife retreat I ever attended!
Since the entire retreat had to do with spiritual growth, which happens to be the theme of this month here in our church, I am very happy to share with you some highlights of the many insights I personally received there.
The workshop site, called New Hope East Garden, is about 20 miles from the town of Jardim in the interior of Brazil near a vast, ecologically rich swampland called the Pantanal, and it is spiritually very clear and physically remote, an ideal place for a spiritual retreat. Just for the record, we didnít encounter any anacondas, jaguars, or alligators Ė not in person -- although the area is known for them.
Yet one night, a couple was startled by the tramping of many feet outside their dormitory, which went on for several nights. They were puzzled and scared as to what it could be. Finally, one night the husband took heart and opened the window. What do you think he saw? Lo and behold, there stood dozens of white Brahma cows in the moonlight munching on grass and looking like ghosts.
My theme today will revolve around "Breaking Down Barriers."
We all face barriers in our relationships everyday. The question is, what are those barriers, where do they come from (and who is putting them up) and above all how can I remove them?
When reading Godís word (Hoon Dok Hae) for 21 straight days at the New Hope East Garden retreat, God opened my eyes about some of those barriers. Many of them are invisible; we are not even aware of them. Therefore, we canít remove them. In fact it was mind-boggling to me to realize how tangled is the web of our destructive patterns of thinking and acting that affect all of our relationships, even towards myself. Those patterns are the ones preventing us from growing spiritually and achieving true love and happiness in our relationships.
Just to mention a few that jumped out at me several times.
Our father the devil has done a good job of using many strategies to keep us in check. One tactic Satan is using is comparing ourselves to others! This can be a spiritual killer. Many times when we compare ourselves to others we feel either inadequate or incompetent, and thus feel jealous and hopeless. Or, on the other hand, we feel superior, arrogant, and boastful, which is detrimental to spiritual growth as well. Out of comparison then arises judgment. For example, if another person doesnít live up to my standard (and I am not God), we judge and put down the other person. The result is always a barrier being put up between the other and me.
Comparing does not come from God. God is a parent, and a true parent does not compare the children. I ran into a situation in Jardim where I compared my children with those of other families. This turned out to be counterproductive because I ended up judging them without acknowledging their unique background and history. It was not fair to them. Whereas it can be good to aspire to a higher standard, there is always the danger of judgment involved and therefore no real change will happen. Not only did I begin to judge my children, I also began to judge and accuse myself until I finally realized I needed to ask Godís input about the situation and follow His direction. Jesus put it dramatically when he said, "Judge not, that you be not judged, for with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged." Certainly it is almost impossible to stimulate spiritual growth when there is judgment.
You also never know what a personís experience, history, or motivation is until you find out directly. Until then, donít judge yourself and donít judge others.
This reminds me of a story cited by Stephen Covey. A man got on a subway train with five children. He sat down, and the children immediately began roam around and made a lot of noise for the other passengers in the car. Finally, one lady burst out at the father, "Canít you control your kids??" The father turned to her and said: "Iím so sorry, madam, I wish I could, but please, understand, their mother just died."
So instead of judging and tearing others down, focus on building yourself and others up. God loves all His children equally.
Avoiding comparisons is especially desirable in close relationships such as between husband and wife. Our fallen tendency is to want our spouse to be like me (and thus I compare him or her to me) and we have a hard time to accept the other as different. This creates unrealistic expectations insurmountable barriers after a while.
Another of Satanís very effective strategies is setting up a smokescreen of negative perceptions between people, thus creating misunderstanding, miscommunication, and disharmony that bring us to the point of hopelessness and discouragement. We come to feel that the other person will never understand us.
I had such a moment once again at New Hope East Garden. One day, I saw all the flaws of my husband (and none of the good points), and started criticizing him up and down until I noticed it was of no use. He didnít even respond! But I felt terrible about myself at the same time, frustrated and disappointed. It was a very uncomfortable state of mind, and I didnít know how to get out of it. Suddenly, I had the idea to read Fatherís words. And while I was reading, unrelated to the text, I seemed to hear a voice saying, "You donít have to buy into those negative thoughts about your husband. Why not serve him instead. I remembered in the early days when I joined the church we were always told to serve the person we have a problem with. So I grabbed some of Bobís laundry and started scrubbing dirty socks (we do laundry by hand there at New Hope East Garden), and as I was washing, the negativity barrier changed into a more positive feeling towards him.
This showed me how much power we human beings have. I am the one who decides what kinds of thoughts I shall have give and take with. It truly helped me to read Godís word and thus get some heavenly input in my thinking and perceptions. I understood why our True Father always asks us to come to the zero point. Why? Because most of our thinking and our experiences from childhood on have not much to do with God and are destructive or counterproductive for spiritual growth.
I therefore recommend, whenever you encounter barriers of hopelessness or constant criticism towards your spouse, read Godís word (any religious text will do) and serve someone immediately.
Jesus said, before coming to the altar, reconcile with your brother. I would submit that the opposite is true, too! Before I can reconcile with my brother or sister or husband, I have to reconcile with God first.
Every morning in Jardim, the three of us Ė Joe, Bob, and myself Ė went to pray at 4:45 am in front of True Parentsí house under a most beautiful night sky with thousands of stars. One morning during that prayer, I felt that God throughout my life has not really been able to give His full love to me because I put up a barrier towards Him; maybe it was fear or self-hate. That self-hate I later realized in hoon dok hae reading about Eve (Dr. Sung Hoon Leeís meetings in the spirit world) has been passed down in a profound, but invisible way from the very first ancestors.
Yet God has been loving me regardless, very intensely, He just couldnít get through to me with His love. And in that one moment of realization, I cried, my barrier crumbled and I met my Heavenly Father. It was overwhelming! I felt His intense love for me. It was as if He was saying to me that He loves me so madly and in fact He loves every single human being the same way: unconditionally, absolutely, with no strings attached. It was as if He was saying that once I am able to receive His love more fully I could be the one loving others just as intensely and absolutely as He does. And thatís what He needs us to do as His true sons and daughters. That is what our True Father and True Mother are truly all about in their essence: People of True Love.
From this prayer, I realized a new angle about the concepts of absolute love and faith as to how they apply between God and me and others. God loved me before I loved Him with this absolute love. I need to receive fully this absolute love and with Godís eyes see others in a new light. I then will be able to love the unlovable, my enemy, anyone. That hot love of God just melted me down. I could see if I have that kind of hot love, absolute love, coming from the Source I can love and heal my husband, children, any relationship, and myself.
I once again felt my true self-identity from God: I am His daughter! I repented that I had put up the barrier between me and God for so long.
Jesus said, "Love God with all your heart and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." The first thing he emphasized was the relationship with God, our heavenly True Parent. It is truly primary. I need to reconcile with God first, receive fully His love and way of thinking (for example, through reading religious texts, which are all expressions of Godís heart), and then I can love my neighbor with that kind of love.
One couple who attended the New Hope East Garden workshop had come for the second time, because of seemingly insurmountable problems, and on the last day of their second 40 days, the brother received the revelation that the reason he was matched with that particular spouse was because he is the only one who can save her. But, he realized, in order to accomplish that, he needs absolute love and faith toward his spouse no matter what she says, does, or thinks. Well, that marriage is now in the process of being saved. Because he felt empowered by God, he determined to break down the barriers between him and his wife.
Unlike our false parent Satan, who seeks always to disempower us, God wants to empower us, encourage us, and give us confidence that we are His precious children and that we can do anything.
Some barriers are passed on to us from our ancestors and are so much harder to battle, because we cannot distinguish between their behavior patterns and our own. This I came to deal with especially in our racial reconciliation group that Bob and I and a black-American family had started about two and a half years ago. We realized from early on that the deeper issue is not the reconciliation between the black and white races but between the two main "races" Father always talks about -- men and women. That is why I was sharing these insights about husband-wife relationships with you, because they apply 100% to overcoming racist feelings and thoughts Ė which are often embedded in a subtle matrix of pride, intellectual aloofness, arrogance, and heartistic coolness.
For example, there were numerous situations during our reconciliation meetings where we felt the barriers tangible in the room and we all knew somehow that they were not personal but instead caused by ancestors from the spiritual realm.
In our church, we believe that when people pass on, they only shed their body, but their spirits live on in the same state as when they were on earth. So if someone leaves the physical realm with pain and resentment toward white people, as have most blacks, those feelings are still there in the spirit world and peopleís spirits will try to influence their descendants.
We found that, in order to alleviate some of the pain, words didnít work. God showed us that we needed to make some offerings and substantial sacrifices for each other in order to break through on those levels. In order to create true unity, we had to find out what the internal deep emotional and spiritual causes of the pain were, and through concrete action reverse them. All of that was guided step by step through intense prayer.
Sometimes I felt like giving up. But then I thought that God doesnít give up on me. I realized that He is the only one who can bring us together. And indeed, through applying the principles of prayer and service, considerable and substantial healing took place, lives were uplifted, and incredible joy often filled the room.
I learned that in order to break down a barrier, I needed to grow my capacity to love.
In addition, to break down barriers means to leave our comfort zone, make extra effort to be open, reach out and try to understand the strange other "enemy" of a different race or gender. It means to express myself in the uncomfortable situation to the "unknown" other. It takes courage to leave that comfort zone, to stick your neck out, so to speak, and risk feeling uncomfortable. But let me tell you, once you go beyond that barrier, you will discover a very sweet love that is so rich and deep that you wish you could have it forever. Surely there is a divine diamond in each person. And it is obvious that Godís enemy is trying everything to keep His children from discovering the God in each other. But only the heart can see that diamond.
We white brothers and sisters tend to see things more from the head than the heart. And that is why I think God is now elevating the black race here in America, a race that has gone through immense suffering and pain, while largely embodying and living the core religious principles of compassion, humility, and forgiveness. Because it is only when you go through pain that you can understand other peopleís suffering and lead them.
Satanís target is God. Satan hurts God by using different races, religions, and character traits to divide people. If we maintain the barriers between each other, we handcuff God and put Him in a box. We Ė I myself Ė have to break through to God, my husband or wife, and neighbor.
The bottom line to all of this is practicing True Love. Rev. Chang No Yoon, the central figure for education at New Hope East Garden, gave a morning sermon while we were there in which he identified the key elements of True Love. In summation he described some aspects of True Love: honesty, creating harmony with others, forgiving and forgetting, living for the sake of others, wanting to serve the other first (or be the first one to say hello), putting yourself lower than your partner, wanting the other be better than myself, and sincere investment into someone else. True Love thinks of the other first. True love is unchanging, eternal and absolute. True Love always needs an action.
Father Moon, has said that the motto for this year is "The Cosmic Expansion of True Love Is the Completion of the New Millennium Kingdom."
God has prepared an unprecedented opportunity on October 16 to bring His family together, to atone for the past, and to make a new beginning in this new millennium. This is a chance to practice True Love. This Million Family March is one giant step toward the realization of Martin Luther Kingís dream that is also yours and mine. As we all know there is still a heavy cloud of racism in this country, and it is only when we take responsibility to make a whole in this cloud that Godís sunshine and blessing will come. This time has come!
This is our chance, white brothers and sisters, to serve our black brothers and sisters in our church who are taking much of the leadership in this endeavor and also to the Nation of Islam. It is time to reach out to brothers and sisters of all races and faith and put the barriers or hate behind us. I am very excited. This is what we have been working for all these years. This is one reason why I joined this movement.
This call for unity is not Minister Louis Farrakhanís or Father Moonís idea but is and always has been Godís idea. It is also Jesusí cause, Buddhaís, and Mohammedís. I believe that they are working overtime in the spirit world to bring their followers to the event on October 16. Yet they do need bodies Ė yours and mine Ė to help them work on the earth. Working to promote the Million Family March, we all discover that all you have to do is show up in front of a particular clergyman or other public figure and speak out. God has prepared many individuals, churches, and groups of all faiths to hear the final call.
Minister Farrakhan has had a road to Damascus experience and has turned from Saul into Paul. He is now calling together families of all faiths and races to create one family. His motto: "Come as many Ė leave as one." As I said before, this is not his personal idea but Godís, and God has prepared people in all faiths to be open at this time for this vision.
When I was handing out fliers together with an an African sister at Howard University on Friday, I felt that the beautiful young black people looked at me initially surprised to see the flyer with Luis Farrakhan and then my white face. Then they smiled and I felt a real sense of appreciation and hope between us. I was proud to hand out those flyers and felt that my spirit was liberated with every flyer I handed out.
It is truly our chance to substantially contribute to racial and religious reconciliation Ė as well as promoting strong, two-parent, God-centered families in America Ė by getting involved in this giant project, which has a tremendous potential for follow-up activities, too.
Working for this event is an opportunity to invest, to love, and to grow. It is an expression of Godís love to us to offer us the chance to get involved. To me it represents some of the fruit of all the years of investment we have made to build the kingdom.
Letís practice True Love, which Jesus and Father Moon have taught us and grow spiritually. By offering us the chance to embrace our former enemies, God wants to give us a great blessing. We need to do the right thing at this very historic time. Please pray about that. It is our chance to liberate and uplift black brothers and sisters, by joining them in this great effort. It is our chance to liberate ourselves Ė and most of all our God.
Brothers and sisters, it is time to lay down the sword and bury the hatchet between God and myself, husband and wife, parents and children. It is time to reach out to our former enemies and embrace them. It is time for God and us to be liberated. As my German brother Karl Marx Ė who is gradually reforming in the spirit world Ė once said, "Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!" I say, "Brothers and sisters, break the barriers! We have nothing to lose but our pain! And we will find our long lost family.
Footnote: Bob and I truly recommend to each blessed family to take the time out of our precious earthly lives and find the resources to spend six weeks together especially with your spouse at this spiritual retreat. Bob and I found that the participation of both husband and wife is essential in order to get the full value and impact of this workshop, even though it has been said officially, that the attendance of one spouse and the oldest son or daughter would fulfill the requirements.
This workshop in our experience has the potential to heal our blessed families from the deepest core Ė at least start a process of healing, provided and guided by God and True Parents. In Jardim New Hope East Garden, God and True Parents speak directly to each person if you invest yourself 100% in the program Ė no central figures are involved. It is more than the moneyís worth what you can receive there quite substantially for your couple and your family. According to Rev. Yoon, the educational director of Jardim, New Hope East Garden, True Parents have extended the time for this workshop until the year 2004. Please, plan on attending. If there is anyone who would like to sponsor another family especially in Africa, or elsewhere, Bob and I would like to act as a connecting point.
(E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Bob and I are very happy to share more of our personal experience with anyone who is interested.