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The Importance of Conquering Myself

 

I want to say a few words now about the Guardianship.  “And when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ passed away, the whole world became dark for him (Shoghi Effendi). All light had gone out. And when he came to the Holy Land, he had in mind, from the things ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ had said to him, and I am telling you what he said, that ‘I had in mind that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ would give me the honor of calling the great conclave together which would elect the Universal House of Justice. And I thought in His Will and Testament that that was probably what He was instructing be done.’   ” ‘But,’ he said, ‘instead of that, I found that I was appointed the Guardian of the Cause of God.’ He said, ‘I didn’t want to be the Guardian of the Cause. In the first place, I didn’t think I was worthy. Next place, I didn’t want to face these responsibilities.’ ” ‘I didn’t want to be the Guardian. I knew what it meant. I knew that my life as a human being was over. I didn’t want it, and I didn’t want to face it. So as you’ll remember, I left the Holy Land. And I went up into the mountains of Switzerland, and I fought with myself until I conquered myself. Then I came back and I turned myself over to God, and I was the Guardian.’ ” ‘Now,’ he said, ‘Every Bahá’í in the world, every person in the world, has to do exactly that same thing. Whether you’re a Hand of the Cause, whether you’re a Knight of Bahá’u’lláh, whether you’re a member of a national Assembly, whether you’re a teacher, whether you’re a pioneer, whether you’re an administrator, regardless of what you are, with anything in the Cause, every Bahá’í must fight with himself and conquer himself. And when he has conquered himself, then he becomes a true instrument for the service of the Cause of God. And not until then! This is what every Bahá’í in the world should know.’  (A Talk by Hand of the Cause of God Leroy Ioas Transcribed from a recording made in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 31, 1958)

This is one of my favorite stories and the part that has always resonates with me is “I fought with myself until I conquered myself” and “every person in the world, has to do exactly that same thing”.

I’m sure I first heard this when I was a new Bahá’í, and God knows, I tried!  But here I am, 40 years later, with a much deeper appreciation of what exactly that means.  The older I get, the more I understand myself and my motives, and the better I see the veils between me and God; the more I have to “fight with myself till I conquer myself”.  As I set the bar higher and even higher with every Writing I read; and every letter from the House of Justice I strive to understand; and every Ruhi book I tutor, I often collapse under the weight of so mighty an effort.

Recently I watched the new movie the House of Justice commissioned on the occasion of the Centenary of the passing of `Abdu’l-Bahá (Glimpses of a Hundred Years of Endeavor),  and what stood out for me was that all the progress of the Faith stands on the shoulders of those who came before us, and as we die, the progress of the Faith will stand on our shoulders.

I get inspired by stories of the early believers, and long for my service to match theirs, but I’m not them.  As important as they were in their day, they alone were not responsible for establishing the Most Great Peace, nor am I.  I just need to keep conquering myself, one day, one decision at a time.

Knowing that the more I struggle to conquer myself, the more I become a true instrument for the service of the Cause of God, and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

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Waiting on God’s Direction

However, relying upon God, we conducted ourselves with the utmost patience and submission, resignation and calmness; so much that if one did not know anything about these matters, he would have thought that we were in perfect ease of soul, enjoying the tranquility of heart mind, and were engaged in happiness and felicity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 45)

It’s hard for me to rely on God when I’m impatient for something to happen or a quick decision to be made and I’m learning that it’s at these times I need to hold tight to His cord even more.  Test number one!

It’s even harder to do it with patience, let alone “utmost patience”.  Test number two!

It’s harder still to submit to God’s will, especially if I have to be “utmost patient” for years, as I’ve had to do with several important issues that apparently, it’s not within my power to rush.  And even harder when God’s given me a disappointing NO!  Test number three!

It’s also hard to be resigned (or worse yet, radiantly acquiescent) in the face of so many tests.  Test number four!

And calm?  Really, God?  On top of everything else, you want me to be calm, when so many emotions are churning around inside me? Test number five!

And finally, to not let anyone know I’m struggling, to wear that “Feast face”, so that everyone around me would think that I’m “in perfect ease of soul, enjoying the tranquility of heart mind, and were engaged in happiness and felicity”.  Test number six!

So many tests embedded in that one quote.

Knowing that reliance on God comes with other things I have to consider, and that all He wants is for me to strive, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

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Have Hope. This Too Shall Pass

Thou wert created to bear and endure, O Patience of the worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Fire Tablet, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 317)

Remember My days during thy days, and My distress and banishment in this remote prison.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Tablet of Ahmad, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 210)

Have hope. It will not always be so.  (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2015)

As we were entering into our 4th (this time semi) lockdown, with the rapid spread of the Omicron virus, I began to despair.  Not this again, I thought.  I can’t bear it.  But of course, I can, and I must and I will.

I was contemplating these three quotes and trying to elevate my thoughts and overcome my despair, when I came across the following perspective from a someone on Facebook.  I’m not sure how it popped up on my feed, as I don’t know him, and don’t have any mutual friends, so I can only believe it was the hand of God, trying to reassure me.

For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900. When you are 14, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday with 22 million people killed. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until you are 20. Fifty million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

When you’re 29, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, global GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy. When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet.

When you’re 41, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war and the Holocaust kills six million. At 52, the Korean War starts and five million perish.

At 64 the Vietnam War begins, and it doesn’t end for many years. Four million people die in that conflict. Approaching your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, could well have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening.

As you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends. Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that? A kid in 1985 didn’t think their 85 year old grandparent understood how hard school was. Yet those grandparents (and now great grandparents) survived through everything listed above.

Perspective is an amazing art. Let’s try and keep things in perspective. Let’s be smart, help each other out, and we will get through this. In the history of the world, there has never been a storm that lasted. This too, shall pass.

It gave me such hope, that I posted it on my own Facebook page, and my cousin reminded me that our grandmother had been born in 1900 and moved on a horse-drawn covered wagon from Nebraska to Edmonton, in western Canada with her family, for the free land grants.  Not only did she endure every one of the calamities above, but her entire world also changed in that move.  Could I withstand so many ordeals?  I really doubt it!  Leaving my “severe mental tests” from childhood trauma aside, all I have to deal with is “stay home to stay safe”.  It seems like such a small thing, in comparison with everything she suffered.

I have a hard time relating to Bahá’u’lláh’s suffering, but I can certainly understand my grandmother’s.  If she can do it, it’s in my DNA and I can too.

Knowing I have resilience built into my DNA, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you when you read this passage?  Please share your thoughts below.

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The Truth About Unbearable Tests

No one should expect, upon becoming a Bahá’í, that faith will not be tested, and to our finite understanding of such matters these tests may occasionally seem unbearable. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 341)

This Plan will test their stamina, their willpower, and the strength of their love for those who dwell alongside them. (Universal House of Justice, to the Bahá’ís of the World, 4 January 2022)

I’ve just been reading 19 pages from the last 3 letters arising from the meeting between the Counsellors and the Universal House of Justice, outlining the upcoming 9-year Plan, including the most recent letter which came out today.  Needless to say, it’s overwhelming!

Several things stand out in my mind – the focus seems to have gone from community building to society building, which is really exciting!  And there will be more focus on developing LSA’s again, when so many have been lost.  International pioneering will again be a focus.  Ruhi will be revising but not creating new branch courses – that will be the responsibility of the institute boards.  And more than any plan I’ve thought I’ve understood before, the focus seems more than ever, on the working in groups of people.

So where do I fit in?  This seems to be answered on page 6 of the 30 December 2021 letter to the Conference of the Continental Board of Counsellors:

The challenge facing the friends serving at the grassroots is essentially the same in every place.  They must be able to read their own reality and ask:  what, in light of the possibilities and requirements at hand, would be fitting objectives to pursue in the coming cycle or series of cycles?

As an isolated believer in an inactive cluster, serving an online community and loving to serve the Faith from behind my computer screen in my pajamas, where does that leave me?  Don’t expect not to be tested!  I may have to give up my comfort zone and detach from the things I hold most sacred, in order to enable the Faith to grow according to God’s will and not my own.

Ya Baha’u’l-Abha!

Seeing the end in the beginning, through the vision of the House of Justice, I am grateful!

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Days of Blissful Joy 

O my servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will no doubt attain.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 69)

Funny story: In the early days of my recovery, I wrote to the House of Justice for guidance, and they sent me this quote without attribution, so for a very long time, I thought it was written by them, just for me! Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was written by Baha’u’llah for the whole world! My ego was crushed, probably a good thing!

When I first studied this quote in the context of healing from my abusive past, it gave me great comfort knowing that better days were to come.  Since then, I’ve had what seems to have been a lifetime of “things contrary to my wishes” happen to such an extent that I’ve stopped hoping and dreaming.

It’s possible I could be alive for another 30 years and I want the rest of my life to be different.  I don’t want to spend any more days waiting to die, so I can have a better life.  This quote promises that I can have days of blissful joy in this world, so I want to hold onto that hope and look for these days.  It’s possible they may have come (and be coming) in ways I didn’t anticipate.

I might never get anything I pray for, but if I approach life with radiant acquiescence, I might find the joy in the tests and struggles and spiritual growth.

Finding solace and confirmation that I won’t always get what I want, I can accept life on life’s terms 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 Be Happy

 

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