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Becoming More Steadfast

I supplicate God that day by day thou mayest become more steadfast, so that like unto an impregnable stronghold thou mayest withstand the surging of the ocean of tests and trials. The people of the world are like unto trees. Those that are rootless are toppled by the slightest breeze, while those that grow deep roots and become strong and firm are not shaken by violent winds, and in time bring forth leaves and blossoms and fruit. (From a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—translated from the Persian, from Give me Thy Grace to Serve Thy Loved Ones, Compilation for the 2018 Counsellors’ Conference, [22])

What does it mean to be steadfast and how do we know we’re becoming more steadfast?  These are two questions I ask myself when I read this quote.  The dictionary uses the following words to describe steadfastness, which gives me some clues:

  • adherence to something to which one is bound by a pledge or duty
  • attachment, commitment, dedication, devotion, faith, loyalty
  • fondness and affection for
  • determination, resolution, firmness
  • reliability, trustworthiness

So I can use these as benchmarks to assess how steadfast I’m becoming.  When I became a Bahá’í, I agreed to follow the Covenant.  The more committed I became, the more attached I became to “doing the right thing”.  This increased my dedication and devotion and I became more and more loyal as I increased my teaching and service.  As I met more and more Bahá’ís, I developed a real fondness for being around “my people”, but sooner or later my faith was tested.  That was the moment I really needed to lean on my determination, resolution and firmness.  People needed to know I would be reliable and trustworthy, even in moments of severe tests.

The imagery in this quote reminds me of a song written in the late 1990’s by Nancy Ward, a Canadian Bahá’í singer-songwriter called “The Grass Endures”.  In it she shares why she doesn’t want to be an oak tree, which gets upended in a storm.  Instead she wants to be a blade of grass, which bends in a storm and endures.

It also reminds me of a song written by a friend of mine, called “This Love is a Weed”.     In it, he makes a case why it’s better to be a weed than a rose, because the rose blooms and fades, but the weed is hard to kill.

Recognizing the need for steadfastness, I stand taller, and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Strengthening Your Relationship with God

 

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Plowing our own Fields

If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, we are wasting precious time. We are like ploughmen each of whom has his team to manage and his plough to direct, and in order to keep his furrow straight he must keep his eye on his goal and concentrate on his own task. If he looks to this side and that to see how Tom and Harry are getting on and to criticize their ploughing, then his own furrow will assuredly become crooked.  (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, pp. 5–7)

I love this quote because I seldom see Shoghi Effendi use English idioms such as “Tom, Dick and Harry”.  It seems unlikely that Tom and Harry are Persian names!  So everytime I read this quote, it makes me giggle.  I also love the imagery.  It’s so easy to see the ploughmen looking to this side and that, and the furrows weaving all over the place.  Don’t we all do that?  Don’t we all have a tendency to look around and compare ourselves to others, and either feel superior or less-than?  I’ve heard it called “compare and despair” and that’s what it feels like to me.  When I’m in despair, I lose motivation to do anything, which is definitely wasting precious time.  As Bahá’ís, we don’t have any time to waste.  You may remember memorizing this quote in Ruhi Book 4:

There is no time to lose. There is no room left for vacillation. Multitudes hunger for the Bread of Life . . . God’s own Plan has been set in motion. It is gathering momentum with every passing day . . .  Such an opportunity is irreplaceable . . . To try, to persevere, is to insure ultimate and complete victory.  (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America, #75)

We’ve been given a Plan, which all of the Institutions are asking us to win in the next few months.  That’s the big goal we need to keep focused on.  With God’s help, we’ll win it, to honor the efforts of the Bicentennials.

Remembering where to keep my eye focused, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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Showing our Aloofness

Increasingly, as time goes by, the characteristics of the Bahá’ís will be that which captures the attention of their fellow-citizens. They must show their aloofness from the hatreds and recriminations which are tearing at the heart of humanity, and demonstrate by deed and word their profound belief in the future peaceful unification of the entire human race. (From a letter dated 26 October 1941 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 17)

In the past few weeks, there has been an explosion of craziness around people hoarding items like toilet paper in fear of the pandemic.  Pictures abound about grocery stores with empty shelves and people fighting over the last item of something.  Has the world gone mad?  Bahá’ís definitely have an opportunity to show the world that we have something to offer in the days ahead.

As we work to elevate the conversations around us, let us remember that God is in charge and everything that happens is bringing us closer to uniting the world.  The governments of the world are learning from the lessons of those countries who have gone through it before us.  China is lending a hand to Italy.  Italy is educating the west about how to prepare and the west is listening and taking action.  People everywhere are going into voluntary seclusion.  Neighbors are reaching out to neighbors.  This is exciting news!  If we can figure out how to make a united effort as individuals and governments to overcome this hurdle, surely we can make a similar effort to stop global warming, end war and achieve world peace at last.  If a world crisis which affects everyone on the planet can give us the impetus to overcome our inertia and move forward to what might be our promised collective destiny, then I say bring it on!

Knowing I can demonstrate my profound belief in the future peaceful unification of the entire human race during this crisis, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Forgive

 

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Understanding the Tests in our Communities

Often these trials and tests which all Bahá’í communities inevitably pass through seem terrible, at the moment, but in retrospect we understand that they were due to the frailty of human nature, to misunderstandings, and to the growing pains which every Bahá’í community must experience. (From a letter dated 25 November 1956 written on his behalf to an individual believer, in Living the Life, p. 49)

Sometimes when our Bahá’í community goes through periods of tests, it’s easy to think that we’re the only community in this situation, so it’s comforting to know that it’s just something every community must go through.  I’ve often thought that when an Assembly is formed, they ought to be given a list of everything that could possibly go wrong, so that they could anticipate it and cross it off the list when it happens.  This list of reasons is also a helpful reminder, so that I don’t have to take anything personally.  The causes are:

  • the frailty of human nature
  • misunderstandings
  • growing pains

When I know the causes, I can find the spiritual solutions.  For the frailty of the people involved perhaps forgiveness, compassion and understanding are required.  Where there are misunderstandings, better communication is needed, perhaps involving a mediator if this would be helpful.  For growing pains, an understanding of crisis and victory as well as patience could help.

Knowing there are spiritual solutions for every problem, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

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Self Image

 O Son of Spirit! Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 22)

Recently I was studying the long obligatory prayer with a Bahá’í friend and we noted that in the preface to a paragraph near the end, Bahá’u’lláh asks us to “rise and say:  “O God, my God!  My back is bowed by the burden of my sins, and my heedlessness hath destroyed me.”  It’s always seemed a strange posture to take when talking about my sins.  Normally I would want to crumble, turn in with shame and refuse to look Him in the eye, but no.  He won’t let me do that.  He wants me to stand strong and tall before Him when admitting to my sins.  He wants me to see my nobility before Him.

We’ve all been created noble.  We’ve all been created with a lower and higher nature.  We’ve all been created as sinners.  We’ve all been created with free will.  We’ve all been created weak.  God knows that we are going to abase ourselves because of our weakness or stubbornness or ignorance.  It’s all part of the Divine Plan.  But it’s also part of His plan that we don’t define ourselves by all the ways we fall short in our quest for obedience.  We rise, because we know we’ve been forgiven before we ever transgressed.   We rise because of God’s love for us, whether we believe and accept it or not.

Knowing that God doesn’t judge me as harshly as I judge myself, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Overcoming Abuse and Violence

 

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