Does life seem like a struggle, trying to get through day by day?
Are your tests relentless?
Does it seem that just as you’ve passed one, you’re given another?
As we know from the Bahá’í Writings, tests are sent to us for the perfection of our souls.
Man’s physical existence on this earth is a period during which the moral exercise of his free will is tried and tested in order to prepare his soul for the other worlds of God, and we must welcome affliction and tribulations as opportunities for improvement in our eternal selves. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 367)
Shoghi Effendi tells us that it’s not always easy, we can find meaning and wisdom in the midst of our suffering:
Suffering is both a reminder and a guide. It stimulates us better to adapt ourselves to our environmental conditions, and thus leads the way to self-improvement. In every suffering one can find a meaning and a wisdom. But it is not always easy to find the secret of that wisdom. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 434.)
Recently I stumbled upon this story, which gives us a perspective to consider. Unfortunately I can’t find and credit the author.
Here’s the story:
Once upon a time a daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn’t know how she was going to make it. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed. Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire.
Once the three pots began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second pot and ground coffee beans in the third pot. He then let them sit and boil, without saying a word to his daughter. The daughter, moaned and impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. After twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He took the potatoes out of the pot and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. He then ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup.
Turning to her, he asked. “Daughter, what do you see?” “Potatoes, eggs and coffee,” she hastily replied.
“Look closer”, he said, “and touch the potatoes.” She did and noted that they were soft.
He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.
Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face.
“Father, what does this mean?” she asked.
He then explained that the potatoes, the eggs and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity-the boiling water. However, each one reacted differently. The potato went in strong, hard and unrelenting, but in boiling water, it became soft and weak. The egg was fragile, with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. Then the inside of the egg became hard. However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they changed the water and created something new.
“Which one are you?” he asked his daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?”
So in a Bahá’í context, which of the does God want us to be?
When we’re the potato, and become soft and weak through adversity, we’re dull, lazy and weak, even though we may feed the body (and do some good):
But to weak believers tests are trials and examination, for, on account of the weakness of their faith and assurance they fall into difficulties and vicissitudes . . . Consider thou that at the time of an examination in sciences and arts, the dull and lazy pupil finds himself in calamity . . . Therefore, tests to the weak souls are calamity and to the veiled ones the cause of their disgrace and humiliation. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, v2, p. 5)
When we stand firm in the fire, like the egg, we’re like pure gold whose impurity has been burned away:
Torment is the fire of test wherein the pure gold shineth resplendently and the impurity is burned and blackened. At present thou art, praise be to God, firm and steadfast in tests and trials and art not shaken by them. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 120)
And when we’re the coffee we can transform the whole character of mankind!
Is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions? For if the character of mankind be not changed, the futility of God’s universal Manifestation would be apparent. (Bahá’u’lláh, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 25)
Táhirih (1814 or 1817 – August 16–27, 1852), a famous Baha’i poet, was probably best remembered for unveiling herself in an assemblage of men during the Conference of Badasht. The unveiling caused a great deal of controversy and the Báb named her Táhirih (meaning “the Pure One”) to show his support for her. She was soon arrested and placed under house arrest in Tehran. A few years later in mid-1852 she was executed in secret on account of her Bábí Faith. As a prominent Bábí (she was the seventeenth disciple or “Letter of the Living” of the Báb) she is highly regarded by Baha’is, and often mentioned in Baha’i literatureas an example of courage in the struggle for women’s rights. Her date of birth is uncertain, as birth records were destroyed at her execution.
Her poems were translated by the various authors found in this volume
1. The Song of Tahira — Translated by: Arthur J. Arberry
If ever confronting face to face my glance should alight on you
I will describe to you my sorrow for you in minutest detail.
That I may behold your cheek, like the zephyr I have visited
house by house, door by door, lane by lane, street by street.
Through separation from you my heart’s blood is flowing from my eyes
river by river, sea by sea, fountain by fountain, stream by stream.
My sorrowful heart wove your love into the fabric of my soul
thread by thread, thrum by thrum, warp by warp, woof by woof
Tahira repaired to her own heart, and saw none but you
page by page, fold by fold, veil by veil, curtain by curtain.
2. Translated by: Masudu’l Hasan
O Beloved, if I am admitted to your presence
I will tell Thee in detail of the grief that I suffer because of Thy separation,
In order to get a glimpse of your face, I am moving like zephyr
From door to door, and street to street
Because of Thy separation the blood of my heart flows as tears
From my eyes, like fountains, streams and rivers
Your love is woven into the fabric of my soul;
Thread by thread, warp by warp, and woof by woof,
In the book of my heart, there is nought but you
In every word, every sentence, and every page.
3. Translated by Farzaneh Milani:
I would explain all my grief
Dot by dot, point by point
If heart to heart we talk
And face to face we meet.
To catch a glimpse of thee
I am wandering like a breeze
From house to house, door to door
Place to place, street to street.
In separation from thee
The blood of my heart gushes out of my eyes
In torrent after torrent, river after river
Wave after wave, stream after stream.
This afflicted heart of mine
Has woven your love
To the stuff of life
Strand by strand, thread to thread.
4. Translated by Mohammad Ishaque:
If I happen to see thee before me face to face, I shall tell you of my pangs in minute details;
To see thy face, like unto Zephyr I passed from house to house, door to door, street to street, lane to lane;
The circuit of thy tiny mouth and thy cheeks with down of ambergris (are luxuriant) with buds, roses, tulips and fragrance,
On account of thy separation, my heart’s blood flows forth from my eyes (like) many a Tigris, many a sea, many a brooklet, many a stream,
The dejected heart hath knit thy love on the web of life thread by thread, fibre by fibre, warp by warp, woof by woof;
Tahirah entered her heart and found nothing save thee (searching) page by page, fold by fold, screen by screen, layer by layer.
5. The Effulgence of Thy Face … Translated by Edward Granville Browne:
The effulgence of thy face flashed forth and the rays of thy visage arose on high;
Then speak the word, “Am I not your Lord? “and “Thou art, Thou art!” we will all reply.
The trumpet call “Am I not?” to greet how loud the drums of affliction beat.
All the gates of my heart there tramp the feet and camp the hosts of calamity.
That fair moon’s love is enough, I trow, for me, for he laughed at the hail of woe,
And triumphant cried, as he sunk below, “The Martyr of Karbala am I
When he heard my death-dirge drear, for me he prepared, and arranged my gear for me;
He advanced to mourn at my bier for me, and o’er me wept right bitterly.
What harm if thou wilt the fire of amaze should’st set my Sinai-heart ablaze,
Which thou first mad’st fast in a hundred ways but to shake and shatter so ruthlessly?
To convene the guests to his feast of love all night from the angel host above
Peals forth this summons ineffable, “Hail, sorrow-stricken fraternity!”
Can a scale of the fish of amaze like thee aspire to enquire of Beings Sea?
Sit mute like Tahira, hearkening to the whale of “No” and its ceaseless sigh.
6. The Morn of Guidance — Translated by Susan Stiles Maneck and Farzad Nakhai
Truly the morn of Guidance commands the breeze to begin
All the world has been illuminated; every horizon; every people ,
No more sits the Shaykh in the seat of hypocrisy
No more becomes the mosque a shop dispensing holiness
The tie of the turban will be cut at its source
No Shaykh will remain, neither glitter nor secrecy
The world will be free from superstition and vain imaginings
The people free from deception and temptation
Tyranny is destined for the arm of justice
Ignorance will be defeated by perception
The carpet of justice will be outspread to everywhere
And the seeds of friendship and unity will be spread throughout
The false commands eradicated from the earth
The principle of opposition changed to that of unity.
7. Awaiting Your Blessing — Translated by Susan Stiles Maneck and Farzad Nakhai:
In the path of your love, 0 Idol, I am enamored with torment
How long will you ignore me, I am grief-stricken
My face veiled, my hair torn out
I have separated myself from all creation
You are the light, you are the veil, you are the moon, you are the horizon . . .
8. Translated by Farzaneh Milani:
In pursuit of your love, 0 darling,
Enamored of afflictions, I am
Why do you shun me so?
Weary of your separation, I am.
You’ve veiled your face
You’ve disheveled your hair
You’ve abandoned people
Just as secluded, I am.
You’re the milk and you’re the honey
You’re the tree and you’re the fruit
You are the sun and you are the moon
A speck, an iota, I am.
You’re the palm and you’re the date
You are the nectar-lipped beloved
A distinguished master, you, dear love,
An insolent slave, I am.
You are the Mecca and you are the One
You’re the temple and you’re the shrine
You’re the beloved, the honored one
The miserable lover, I am.
“Come to me!”
Love said alluringly
“Free of pride and pretense,
Manifestation of the One, I am.”
Tahereh is but floating dust at your feet
Drunk by the wine of your face.
Awaiting your blessing
A confessing sinner, I am.
9. In the Land of Your Love — Translated by Susan Stiles Maneck and Farzad Nakhai:
In the land of your love I remain, finding no favor from anyone
See what a stranger I am, Thou who art King of the land?
Is it a sin, 0 Idol, that my every breath breathes the mystery of your love?
Separate me, kill me, take me unjustly
The time of patience has ended, how long should I stand separation?
When every piece of my being, like a hollow reed, tells a sad tale
Reason cannot apprehend you, souls die of your thought
All the door of existence are nothing, you are ultimate
When the zephyr passes by bringing news of their destruction
Making pale the faces and the eyes weep, what would be your loss?
You step to my bed in the morning out of compassion, I fly with both wings and hands
When you rescue one from this place, you will take her to the placeless place
Then I will let go of the soul of the world, for you are the creator of all souls.
10. Yearning Love — Translated by Edward Granville Browne:
The thralls of yearning love constrain the bonds of pain and calamity.
These broken-hearted lovers of thine to yield their lives in their zeal for thee.
Though with sword in hand my Darling stand with intent to slay though I sinless be,
If it pleases him, this tyrant’s whim, I am well content with his tyranny.
As in sleep I lay at the break of day that cruel charmer came to me,
And in the grace of his form and face the dawn of the morn I seem to see.
The musk of Cathay might perfume gain from the scent of those fragrant tresses rain.
While his eyes demolish a faith in vain attacked by the pagans of Tartary.
With you, who condemn both love and wine for the hermit’s cell and the zealot’s shrine,
What can I do, for our Faith divine you hold as a thing of infamy?
The tangled curls of thy darling’s hair, and thy saddle and steed are thy only care;
In thy heart the Absolute hath no share, nor thought of the poor man’s poverty.
Sikandars pomp and display be thine, the Qalandars habit and way be mine;
That, if it please thee, I resign, while this, though bad, is enough for me
Pass from the station of “I” and “We” and choose for thy home nonentity,
For when thou has done the like of this, thou shall reach the supreme Felicity.
11. Translated by Farzaneh Milani:
Kingdom, wealth, and power for thee
Beggary, exile, and loss for me
If the former be good, it’s thine
If the latter is hard, it’s mine.
12. Translated by Masudu’l Hasan:
You are fond of power and empire;
I am fond of faith and poverty;
If power and empire are to be preferred
Be blessed with them.
And if the way of the Dervish is to be deprecated
I don’t mind the punishment.
13. A Beauty Mark … Translated by Susan Stiles Maneck and Farzad Nakhai:
At the corner of the lip, a single beauty mark and two black tresses,
Alas, for the bird of the heart, a single grain and two snares
A constable, a shaykh and I; the talk is of love.
How can I reply to them; one boiled and two raw?
From the face and the locks of the Idol my days are as nights.
Alas, for my days; day is one, night two …
14. Should I Unveil? — Translated by Farzaneh Milani:
Should I unveil my scented hair
I’ll captivate every gazelle
Should I line my narcissus eyes
I’ll destroy the whole world with desire
To see my face, every dawn
Heaven lifts its golden mirror
Should I chance to pass the church one day
I’ll convert all Christian girls
15. Arise — Translated by Farzaneh Milani:
O slumbering one, the beloved has arrived, arise!
Brush off the dust of sleep and self, arise!
Behold the good will has arrived,
Come not before him with tears, arise!
The mender of concerns has come to you,
O heavy-hearted one, arise!
O one afflicted by separation,
Behold the good tidings of the beloved’s union, arise!
O you withered by autumn,
Now spring has come, arise!
Behold the New Year brings a fresh life,
O withered corps of yesteryear, up from your tomb, arise!
18. If Anyone Walks In My Path — Translated by Edward Grandville Browne:
If anyone walks in my path I will cry to him that he may be warned
That whoever becomes my lover shall not escape from sorrow and affliction
If anyone obeys me not and does not grasp the cord of my protection
I will drive him far from my sanctuary, I will cast him in wrath to the winds of “NO”
I am Eternal from the Everlasting World; I am the One from the Realms of the Limitless;
I am come [to seek for] the people of the Spirit, and towards me do they advance.
 Tahirih in History, Edited by Sabir Afaqi, published by Kalimat Press, 2004, p. 257-264.
 Tahireh did not give titles to her poems. For easier identification, each poem here has been given an arbitrary title taken from the text of a translation.
 Browne’s footnotes are taken from his publication of this poem in E.G. Browne’s comp., Materials for the Study of the Bábí Religion, (Cambridge University Press, 1918), p. 249
 See Qur’an vii, 171. The meaning is, “If you claim to be God, we will all accept your claim.”-E.G.B.
 There is a play on the word bala, which means “yea” and also “affliction” – E.G.B.
 Salá, which I have translated “hail,” means a general invitation or summons. –E.G.B.
 ie. the Imám Husayn, of whom several of the Bábí leaders claimed to be the “Return”. – E.G.B.
 ie. Thou art a mere tiny scale on the smallest fish on the Ocean of Being, and even the Leviathans of that Ocean can but proclaim their own insignificance and non-existence. –E.G.B.
 Browne’s footnotes are taken from his publication of this poem in E.G. Browne’s comp., Materials for the Study of the Bábí Religion, (Cambridge University Press, 1918), p. 249
 This poem is presumably addressed to the Báb.-E.G.B.
 i. e. the religion of Islam, which, having survived the terrible Tartar invasion of the thirteenth century, fell before the Báb.-E.G.B.
 “Love and wine” are to be understood here in a mystical sense. – E. G. B
 Alexander the Great.-KG.B.
 A Qalandar is a kind of darwish or religious mendicant.-E.G.B.
 Though not included among the poems quoted in this volume, the following fragment was translated by Browne and is worth including here. He attributed the poem only doubtfully to Tahirih, however.
 Or Saintship, for Wilayat has both meanings. Amongst the Arabs, he who would seek the protection of some great Shaykh or Amir catches hold of one of the cords of his tent, crying Ana dakhiluk! “I place myself under thy protection!”—E.G.B.
 Not-Being, or Negation, or Annihilation.-E.G.B.
Some people say: “Man plans and God laughs”, but have you ever wondered about God’s plans for you? Have you ever thought that the plans you had for yourself were better? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us:
Can humanity conceive a plan and policy better and superior to that of God? It is certain that no matter how capable man may be in origination of plan and organization of purpose, his efforts will be inadequate when compared with the divine plan and purpose; for the policy of God is perfect. Therefore, we must follow the will and plan of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 127)
The following story was sent to me in an email titled: “The Tablecloth”. It is supposedly a true story – submitted by Pastor Rob Reid. Whether it’s true or not, it certainly illustrates that God has a plan and we sometimes don’t see it for many years. Hope you enjoy it!
The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn , arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve. They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc, and on December 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished.
On December 19 a terrible tempest – a driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days. On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.
The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity, so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.
By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area.
Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet. “Pastor,” she asked, “where did you get that tablecloth?” The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.
The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten “The Tablecloth”. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria . When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. He was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again.
The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home. That was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.
What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return.
One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving.
The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike?
He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested andput in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years between.
The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier.
He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.
I’d like to end with another quote about our plans and God’s:
The working out of God’s Major Plan proceeds mysteriously in ways directed by Him alone, but the Minor Plan that He has given us to execute, as our part in His grand design for the redemption of mankind, is clearly delineated. It is to this work that we must devote all our energies, for there is no one else to do it. (Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, p. 133-34)
Here’s a great story about the power of prayer, taken from John Ortberg’s book: “If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat” (p. 91-93). I thought it was too good not to share.
One of my favorite adventures in prayer involves Doug Coe, who has a ministry in Washington, D.C., that mostly involves people in politics and statecraft. Doug because acquainted with Bob, an insurance salesman who was completely unconnected with any government circles. Bob became a Christian and began to meet with Doug to learn about his new faith.
One day, Bob came in all excited about a statement in the Bible where Jesus says, “Ask whatever you will in my name, and you shall receive it.”
“Is that really true?” Bob demanded.
Doug explained, “Well, it’s not a blank check. You have to take it in context of the teachings of the whole Scripture on prayer. But yes—it really is true. Jesus really does answer prayer.”
“Great!” Bob said. “Then I gotta start praying for something. I think I’ll pray for Africa.”
“That’s kind of a broad target. Why don’t you narrow it down to one country?” Doug advised.
“All right. I’ll pray for Kenya.”
“Do you know anyone in Kenya?” Doug asked.
“Ever been to Kenya?”
“No.” Bob just wanted to pray for Kenya. So Doug made an unusual arrangement. He challenged Bob to pray every day for six months for Kenya. If Bob would do that and nothing extraordinary happened, Doug would pay him five hundred dollars. But if something remarkable did happen, Bob would pay Doug five hundred dollars. And if Bob did not pray every day, the whole deal was off. It was a pretty unusual prayer program, but then Doug is a creative guy.
Bob began to pray, and for a long while nothing happened. Then one night he was at a dinner in Washington. The people around the table explained what they did for a living. One woman said she helped run an orphanage in Kenya—the largest of its kind. Bob saw five hundred dollars suddenly sprout wings and begin to fly away. But he could not keep quiet. Bob roared to life. He had not said much up to this point, and now he pounded her relentlessly with question after question.
“You’re obviously very interested in my country,” the woman said to Bob, overwhelmed by his sudden barrage of questions. “You’ve been to Kenya before?”
“You know someone in Kenya?”
“Then how do you happen to be so curious?”
“Well, someone is kind of paying me five hundred dollars to pray…”
She asked Bob if he would like to come visit Kenya and tour the orphanage. Bob was so eager to go, he would have left that very night if he could. When Bob arrived in Kenya, he was appalled by the poverty and the lack of basic health care. Upon returning to Washington, he couldn’t get this place out of his mind. He began to write to large pharmaceutical companies, describing to them the vast need he had seen. He reminded them that every year they would throw away large amounts of medical supplies that went unsold.
“Why not send them to this place in Kenya?” he asked. And some of them did. This orphanage received more than a million dollars’ worth of medical supplies.
The woman called Bob up and said, “Bob, this is amazing! We’ve had the most phenomenal gifts because of the letters you wrote. We would like to fly you back over and have a big party. Will you come?”
So Bob flew back to Kenya. While he was there, the president of Kenya came to the celebration, because it was the largest orphanage in the country, and offered to take Bob on a tour of Nairobi, the Capital city. In the course of the tour they saw a prison. Bob asked about a group of prisoners there.
“They’re political prisoners,” he was told.
“That’s a bad idea,” Bob said brightly. “You should let them out.”
Bob finished the tour and flew back home. Sometime later, Bob received a phone call from the State Department of the United States government:
“Is this Bob?”
“Were you recently in Kenya?”
“Did you make any statements to the president about political prisoners?”
“What did you say?”
“I told him he should let them out.”
The State Department official explained that the department had been working for years to get the release of these prisoners, to no avail. Normal diplomatic channels and political maneuverings had led to a dead end. But now the prisoners had been released, and the State Department was told it had been largely because of…Bob. So the government was calling to say thanks.
Several months later, the president of Kenya made a phone call to Bob. He was going to rearrange his government and select a new cabinet. Would Bob be willing to fly over and pray for him for three days while he worked on this very important task?
So Bob—who was not politically connected at all—boarded a plane once more and flew back to Kenya, where he prayed and asked God to give wisdom for the leader of the nation as he selected his government. All this happened because one man got out of the boat.
How about you? What are you praying for? Give it six months. I’ll make you a deal—I’ll give you the Bob Challenge. If you pray every day for six months and nothing extraordinary happens, write me. I won’t promise you five hundred dollars, but I will give you a refund on the cost of this book. To the contrary, if something extraordinary does happen, you have to write and tell me about it.
Walking on the water is not about some great thing you will do. In fact, by yourself you can do nothing of lasting value. It is about what God longs to do with you by his power and grace. But first you have to get your feet wet.
Now that I’ve been inspired by this story, I will be praying for my compilation on Violence and Abuse, https://susangammage.com/Abuse-and-Violence-Reasons-and-Remedies and my blog to make a difference in the world.
What will you be praying for? To post your comments, click on the title (above), then scroll down to the end of the page.
Sometimes it’s hard for us to know what God’s will for us is. Sometimes we try to take on things before it’s time. Here are some of my favorite stories on waiting, being patient, and staying close to God, so we can know what He wants for us.
The following came to me in one of those emails that have been forwarded so many times, that the originator is anonymous, but it spoke to me and I thought you might enjoy it too. It was titled “God’s Rosebud”.
A new minister was walking with an older, more seasoned minister
In the garden one day. Feeling a bit insecure about what God had for him to do, he was asking the older preacher for some advice.
The older preacher walked up to a rosebush and handed the young preacher rosebud and told him to open it without tearing off any petals.
The young preacher looked in disbelief at the older preacher, trying to figure out what a rosebud could possibly have to do with his wanting to know the will of God for his life and ministry.
But because of his great respect for the older preacher, he proceeded to try to unfold the rose, while keeping every petal intact. It wasn’t long before he realized how impossible this was to do.
Noticing the younger preacher’s inability to unfold the rosebud without tearing it, the older preacher began to recite the following poem…
“It is only a tiny rosebud,
A flower of God’s design;
But I cannot unfold the petals
With these clumsy hands of mine.”
“The secret of unfolding flowers
Is not known to such as I.
God opens this flower so easily,
But in my hands they die.”
“If I cannot unfold a rosebud,
This flower of God’s design,
Then how can I have the wisdom
To unfold this life of mine?”
“So I’ll trust in God for leading
Each moment of my day.
I will look to God for guidance
In each step of the way.”
“The path that lies before me,
Only my Lord knows.
I’ll trust God to unfold the moments,
Just as He unfolds the rose.”
Let go, and let God unfold your life.
To add a Bahá’í perspective: Sometimes we want something before it’s the right time, and it’s best to remember:
There is one season to harrow the ground, another season to scatter the seeds, still another season to irrigate the fields and still another to harvest the crop. We must attend to these various kinds of activities in their proper seasons in order to become successful. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Consultation, p. 7).
Which reminds me of another of my favorite stories:
One day a man found a cocoon, and brought it home to watch it turn into a butterfly. As the butterfly inside matured, it struggled to get out of its cocoon, but couldn’t quite get free of it. One day, the man became tired of waiting and decided to help the butterfly. He removed the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly was pleased, but it had a swollen body and small, wrinkled wings. As a result, the butterfly never succeeded in flying and spent its entire life crawling around.
What the man didn’t understand was that the struggle required for the butterfly to break out of its cocoon actually forced fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom. It is the struggle that causes the butterfly to develop its ability to fly.
And this one:
There was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and God appeared. God told the man He had a job for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. He explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might.
This the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.
He started to have thoughts such as; “You have been pushing against that rock for a long time and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it?”, thus, giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure.
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man even more. “Why kill myself over this?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time, giving just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And that he planned to do until one day he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to God.
“God” he said, “I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock a half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”
To this God responded compassionately, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven’t moved the rock.
But your calling was to be obedient, to push and to exercise your faith and trust in my wisdom. This you have done.
I, my friend, I will now move the rock.”