A while back, I presented a retreat at a center on a small island off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia. The only facility was a rustic YMCA-style camp, the only resident a caretaker named Dave.

As our program got going, Dave made constant trips through our meetings in progress. At first, we thought there was some logistical emergency he had to take care of. But there were none. He kept walking in and out of the meeting room at sensitive times when participants were sharing intimate material about their lives. We didn’t find it appropriate that Dave remain during these moments, so we politely asked him to please not enter the meeting room during the program.

Still Dave insisted on walking into our meetings. So we decided there must be some reason for his adamant attendance, and we invited him to join us. At first opportunity, Dave revealed that shortly before that time his wife and young daughter had tragically perished in a car crash. He took the job at this solitary outpost to heal. When he realized that our group was about healing, he wanted to be a part of it.

The group members had compassion for Dave, and embraced him with love and support, which he gratefully received. From that point on, he became a part of the group and attended all the sessions. Over the course of the week, Dave became lighter and lighter, and released a significant amount of the grief he had been carrying. By the end of the week, he was shining.

I’ll always remember the final day of the retreat, when we took a small boat back to the mainland. As our craft headed away from the dock, Dave stood at the edge of the pier, smiling and waving goodbye to us. As we made our way further and further out into the bay, he remained, his image getting smaller and smaller in our field of vision until we could see him no more. (I sometimes wonder if Dave is still standing there, waving.)

Dave’s apparently disruptive behavior was really a call for love. A Course in Miracles tells us that every human act is either a pure expression of love or a call for love. We should interpret all negative or aberrant behaviors as pleas for love. Rather than answer disruptions with punishment or retaliation, we do better to give the love requested. That is the only way that human sorrow and dark expressions are healed.

We can each apply this golden principle to our own calls for love, as well. You might be judging yourself for foolish mistakes you’ve made, unkindnesses you have shown in relationships, and addictions you can’t seem to shake. You might beat yourself up or feel guilty for your errors. But what if all of those mistakes were just unskilled ways you were reaching out for love? What if they were not calls for guilt or self-punishment, but more compassion for yourself? Your errors were not sins for which you deserve to be castigated, but innocent requests for healing.  

We all make mistakes, and lots of them. We all seek love in odd ways from outside sources. When it does not come in the form we expect or demand, we may blame the other person or ourself. But you were really reaching our for the love you didn’t give yourself. Being kind to yourself will heal much of the pain or regret we have in relationships.

Many of us are hell-bent on fixing ourselves. We would do better to be heaven-bent on accepting ourselves. Within each of us there is a Dave trying to work our way into a healing room. And within each of us there is a healing seminar ready and willing to embrace us.

Life is rarely what it appears to be. There is a deeper reason for everything.


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