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When to Leave a Marriage

There is a case recorded where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote to a Western believer who had sought His advice. She was told that she should remain faithful and forbearing towards her husband but, should his cruelty become unendurable, she should leave him to himself and live separately from him, as this was better and more accept­able.  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 22 July, 1987)

We know from the Bahá’í Writings that even though divorce is “abhorred by God; “strongly condemned”; “very strongly frowned upon; “only under rare and urgent, very exceptional and unbearable circumstances be resorted to”; and that “you should … make every effort to hold your marriage together, especially for the sake of your children”,  it’s also “permissible after “prayer and self-sacrificing effort” and after “the lapse of one full year”.  When my marriage was over, I often wondered:  Are there exceptions to the rule?  That’s why this quote was so helpful.

Although my husband wasn’t deliberately cruel, his actions inadvertently triggered my childhood trauma and I no longer felt safe in the marriage.  It was a great comfort to know that while being faithful and forbearing towards him, that leaving him to himself and living separately was better and more acceptable in God’s eyes. This year of patience (or year of waiting) gave me the time I needed to consult with the Institutions, deepen in the Writings on marriage and divorce, pray and determine whether or not I felt “irreconcilable aversion and antipathy”.

Knowing I belong to a Faith that understands my situation and gives me guidance on what to do, 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  Kindle

 

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Confronting Those Who Hurt Us

Do not complain of others. Refrain from reprimanding them and if you wish to give admonition or advice let it be offered in such a way that it will not burden the hearer.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 453)

Whenever I’m angry it seems natural to nurse the hurt and complain about the injustice.  That’s what society has taught me is normal, after all.  That’s one thing I love about the Bahá’í Faith – it frequently turns everything I thought I knew around, 180 degrees.  In another quote Bahá’u’lláh tells us:

For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 264)

This helps us to see why we aren’t to complain of others.  We don’t want our hearts and souls to be devoured or the effects of our words to last a century.

Here’s an example from my own life:  when I was very young, I heard my mother say (in a moment of anger and frustration towards life in general and my father particularly):  “I wish she’d never been born.”  This was a dagger to my heart.  I put it on the hamster wheel inside my head, nursed it for over 60 years, used it to prove everything that happened to me, that I was unlovable.  You can bet that affected my relationships in my marriage, and towards my son, family and friends, as all I knew was to push people away.  It would have been much better if my mother could have been angry at my father, in private, about his behaviour towards me, and even then, it should have been couched in words as mild as milk, so it didn’t burden him either.  They didn’t know any better, and I’ve forgiven them and the damage has been done and lasting and both things are true.

Knowing what to do when I’ve taken offence to something someone has said or done to me, 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 Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

 

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Change

Unless the season of winter appear, thunder roll, lightning flash, snow and rain fall, hail and frost descend and the intensity of cold execute its command, the season of the soul-refreshing spring would not come, the fragrant breeze would not waft, the moderation of temperature would not be realized, the roses and hyacinths would not grow, the surface of the earth would not become a delectable paradise, the trees would not bloom, neither would they bring forth fruits and leaves. That fierce inclemency of cold, snow, frost and tempest was the beginning of the manifestation of these roses, hyacinths, buds, blossoms and fruits.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 655)

When I was married, I did a lot of growing, educationally, professionally and spiritually but my husband stayed stuck.  He was happy to support me in my endeavors and I was grateful.  I wanted more of an equal partner, though.  Our marriage predictably fell into trouble and I went to 12 marriage counsellors trying to find a way to save it and then all said “there’s no hope.  You have to divorce.”  I knew at the time, that there was one thing I needed to know, which would let me hang in, but I wasn’t able to find it, and the marriage ended.

Many years later, I found the idea of the need for the four seasons.  Many of us marry in spring, where everything is green and fresh and there’s growth everywhere.  When the honeymoon is over, we settle into summer, where everything is warm and cozy.  Then the autumn comes, and change starts to set in.  Leaves begin to change colours.  Instead of being the green we love, I may be yellow and he may be red and I don’t recognize him anymore.  Then winter sets in and everything is cold and dead.  I think most divorces happen in winter, when we forget that winter is always followed by spring.  That’s why I love this quote so much.  It reminds me of the importance of winter.  If I’d understood these things when I was still married, it would have helped me hold on.

Remembering the importance of winter in our lives, I can hold on during times of tests, 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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Baha’is and Baptism

When my son was born, I was a new Bahá’í (of 2 years), and my husband was Anglican.  I had a vague idea that Bahá’ís didn’t baptize their children, but believed that unity in the family was a higher principle, so my son was baptized in the Anglican church and raised as a Bahá’í.

It would have been helpful to know this guidance at that time:

Children of such a union may be baptized if the Christian parent so wishes; from the Bahá’í point of view the baptism has no effect. It must be emphasized, however, that the Bahá’í parent, while perfectly free to attend the baptismal ceremony, should not undertake any commitment or vow contrary to Bahá’í law and should not surrender her parental right to impart the Bahá’í teachings to her child.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 139)

I promised to raise my child in the Anglican church, believing that to raise a Baha’i child was also to raise a Christian, Moslem, Jewish child.  Now I wonder if this is the same kind of dissimulation Baha’is in Iran are rejecting when they are asked if they are Moslem and they say no?  On the surface, they could answer yes, because Baha’is believe in all Faiths, but they don’t.  I didn’t have anyone I could talk to about this back then, so I was on my own.  Fortunately I did not have to surrender any parental right to impart the Baha’i teachings to my son, otherwise I never would have gone through with it.

I wondered how many other families might be in the same situations, so I turned to the Writings to see what they had to teach us.  Let’s have a look!

In the past, baptism was used to awaken people:

Reflect, also, that baptism in the days of John the Baptist was used to awaken and admonish the people to repent from all sin, and to watch for the appearance of the Kingdom of Christ. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 94-95)

Children don’t derive any spiritual benefit from baptism.  In fact, many of them become agitated and ill.

But at present in Asia, the Catholics and the Orthodox Church plunge newly born children into water mixed with olive oil, and many of them become ill from the shock; at the time of baptism they struggle and become agitated. In other places, the clergy sprinkle the water of baptism on the forehead. But neither from the first form nor from the second do the children derive any spiritual benefit.   (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 95)

In this dispensation we don’t need a symbol of repentance and seeking forgiveness from sins:

No, this baptism with water was a symbol of repentance, and of seeking forgiveness of sins.  But in the cycle of Bahá’u’lláh there is no longer need of this symbol; for its reality, which is to be baptized with the spirit and love of God, is understood and established.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Baptism doesn’t cause spiritual awakening or conversion – it’s only a custom we follow:

Other peoples are amazed and wonder why the infant is plunged into the water, since this is neither the cause of the spiritual awakening of the child, nor of its faith or conversion, but it is only a custom which is followed.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 95)

Religious laws are changed in accordance with the changes and alterations of the times:

Question. — Is the ablution of baptism useful and necessary, or is it useless and unnecessary? In the first case, if it is useful, why was it abrogated? And in the second case, if it is useless, why did John practice it?

Answer. — The change in conditions, alterations and transformations are necessities of the essence of beings, and essential necessities cannot be separated from the reality of things. So it is absolutely impossible to separate heat from fire, humidity from water, or light from the sun, for they are essential necessities. As the change and alteration of conditions are necessities for beings, so laws also are changed and altered in accordance with the changes and alterations of the times.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 93-94)

Material water doesn’t purify the heart:

For material water does not purify the heart of man; no, it cleanses his body.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Real baptism is through the divine teachings and the exhortations of Baha’u’llah:

The performance of baptismal celebration would cleanse the body, but the spirit hath no share; but the divine teachings and the exhortations of the Beauty of Bahá will baptize the soul. This is the real baptism. I hope that thou wilt receive this baptism. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 390)

It’s the heavenly water and spirit which makes the human heart good and pure:

But the heavenly water and spirit, which are knowledge and life, make the human heart good and pure; the heart which receives a portion of the bounty of the Spirit becomes sanctified, good and pure — that is to say, the reality of man becomes purified and sanctified from the impurities of the world of nature. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Real baptism removes evil qualities such as anger, lust, worldliness, pride, lying, hypocrisy, fraud, self-love, etc.:

These natural impurities are evil qualities: anger, lust, worldliness, pride, lying, hypocrisy, fraud, self-love, etc.  Man cannot free himself from the rage of the carnal passions except by the help of the Holy Spirit. That is why He says baptism with the spirit, with water and with fire is necessary, and that it is essential — that is to say, the spirit of divine bounty, the water of knowledge and life, and the fire of the love of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

When we’re baptized this way, we will become filled with eternal bounty:

Man must be baptized with this spirit, this water and this fire so as to become filled with the eternal bounty. Otherwise, what is the use of baptizing with material water? (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Baha’is don’t act as godparents either:

Your Assembly understands that a conscientious Bahá’í couple must not have their children baptized, nor should Bahá’ís ordinarily participate as godparents in a baptismal ceremony for this also may seem to imply their affiliation with the church.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 143)

For parents who are looking for a spiritual baptism ceremony to welcome the newly arrived babe, they can consider a naming ceremony:

Thou hast asked regarding the naming of children: When thou wishest to name a babe, prepare a meeting therefor; chant the verses and communes, and supplicate and implore the Threshold of Oneness and beg the attainment of guidance for the babe and wish confirmated firmness and constancy; then give the name and enjoy beverage and sweetmeat. This is spiritual baptism.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 149-150)

This would not be an official public ceremony, and would not involve any ritual:

We have no ‘baptismal service’ in the Cause, such as the Christians have. There could be no objection, however, for the friends to come together on such happy occasions, provided they do not hold an official public ceremony, and provided also they strictly avoid any uniformity and rigidity in all such practices.  We feel that this activity should be left to the discretion of the parents.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 138)

How has this helped you understand the topic better?  What’s been your experience?  Post your comments below.

A Pep Talk for the “Default Parent”

Janna shares 3 ideas for the default parent (the one who goes to parent-teacher interviews; stays home when a child is sick; or on school holidays etc)

  1. Remember you chose this role
  2. Changing “I have to” to “I get to”
  3. Your husband isn’t out to get you

 

Janna Denton-Howes is a Marriage Coach whose passion is to help couples get unstuck and move powerfully towards the vision of true Baha’i marriage.  If you liked this video, you can visit her site; read her blog and watch her other videos.