Saturday, December 26, 2009

Trust in God

Earlier this week, my stepfather made the conscious decision to go off dialysis and let his body just wind down.  I'm sure it was a very difficult decision, but one that he was ready to make, and we all support him in this.  He will probably end up seeing this article from the next world, and know at that time that it is dedicated to his loving memory.

While talking with some people today, including his daughter, I was reminded of another loved one who passed away: my friend Mary.  Earlier this month we commemorated the fifth anniversary of her passing.

And both of these stories had a common theme.  OK, there are a few common themes, but one of them is not morbid: trust in God.

While starting this article, I was tempted to call it, "In God We Trust", but that just didn't seem right, with its connotation to US currency, and the obvious lack of trust in God there.  No, that's not a political statement, but an obvious fact that their currency surely isn't based on that solid of a foundation, given its recent rollercoaster ride in the international market.

But what is "trust in God"?  We see it so often in the Writings, and we hear about it so much in general religious literature, but can we define it?  Do we know what it is we are talking about?

I know that when I first began thinking about that phrase (lo those many years ago), it would have been best defined for me in the prayer by 'Abdu'l-Baha: I lay all my affairs in Thy hand.

Inevitable aside, number one: I was at a conference (not a youth conference for a change), and someone was reading that prayer.  When they got to that line, they mis-read it as "I lay my hands in all Thine affairs."  The chuckling began about two sentences later.  But, come to think of it, it may not have been an accident...  Never mind.  I won't go there.

Inevitable aside, number two: I love it when I accidentally mis-read a word in the Writings.  The error often leads to much humour, like the time I discovered that "singeth", that other form of the verb "sing", is spelled the same as "singeth", that other form of the verb "singe".  Ahh, the image that came to mind of that poor nightingale.  (If you don't get the reference, it comes from the Tablet of Ahmad: "...the Nightingale of Paradise singeth upon the twigs of the Tree of Eternity...")

Humour successfully dispatched.  And now back to the show.

"I lay all my affairs in Thy hand."

But that doesn't really describe it, does it?  After all, I could lay all my affairs in God's hand, yet be upset about it, or disgruntled.  I think contentment with God's will is an integral part of trust in God.  As you know, Baha'u'llah says, "The source of all good is trust in God, submission unto His command, and contentment with His holy will and pleasure."  So contentment seems to be a major part of it.

Of course, it's not just contentment that we should strive for, in our trust in God, but "radiant acquiesence".  Shoghi Effendi, in Payam-i-Baha'i, number 33, page 14 (in other words, if you want to look up this one, it's not in Ocean), says, "Patience and fortitude are the attributes of the steadfast friends, radiant submission is the characteristic of those near to God."

In another Tablet, Baha'u'lah writes, "Rest not on your power, your armies, and treasures. Put your whole trust and confidence in God, Who hath created you, and seek ye His help in all your affairs."  So it seems obvious to me that managing our affairs in the best way possible is not something that we can do on our own, and that we should be completely satisfied in allowing God to assist us.

But what does this all mean in our daily life?

Obviously it does not mean to abandon our family and become some sort of a hermit or recluse, as we are told that we should integrate with society and work towards the betterment of civilization.  This is not something we can do alone.

Nor does it mean that we are to completely abandon any personal responsibility in our life.  Our choices are our own, and we are, ultimately, responsible for our actions.

But it can sometimes mean taking a leap and making a drastic change when it seems appropriate.

I recall a time, shortly after I became a Baha'i, when I realized that I was unable to continue working in the job I held.  The moral stance of this company was putting me in a precarious position, given my understanding of the faith.

When this realization became crystal clear, I tendered my resignation, right then.

Of course, being fairly fresh out of university, I had no spare money, and didn't even have my next month's rent ready.  I was placing myself upon a very unsteady limb, and possibly even a foolish one.  But I said that, as a new Baha'i, I wanted to really trust in God, and here was my chance.  I would accept the first job offer given to me, knowing that this was the job I was "supposed" to take.

And besides, I wasn't really afraid of being homeless.  I had been "homeless" while walking around Europe for a while, and at least in Chicago I had family and friends.

Well, it turned out that the first job offer was working in the Baha'i Temple gardens in Wilmette.  Oh, and twenty minutes after that call came in, I was offered another job at a much (and I mean much) higher salary.  (Please don't tell my Mom.  I'm not sure she'd ever forgive me.)  But I accepted that job, and decided that I was going to thoroughly enjoy my time outdoors in the gardens, even though it was far below my salary and educational level, or so I thought.

From there, however, I went to one job after another for the Faith for many years, and life has never been the same since.  In fact, if it weren't for accepting that job, I wouldn't be writing this blog.  I wouldn't be living in Canada.  I would not have married Marielle, and Shoghi would never have been a part of my life.

It was at that moment that my life truly changed.  When I say that the course of my life changed, I don't just mean a slight veering in generally the same direction.  It was thrown off its original course and into an entirely new direction.

Then there was the time that my wife and I were at a ropes course.  On the last day we had to jump off a very high pole and let the ropes carry us to the ground.  Terrifying as it was, there just came a time where we had to let go and trust.  Now admittedly it could be said that we were just trusting in the ropes, but we felt that what we were doing was really trusting in God.

And all this leads me back to Mary and Harold (that's my step-father.  I didn't mention his name earlier.  Sorry.)

While Mary was breathing her last breath, I was holding one of her hands, and Marielle was holding the other.  I spoke of both these experiences, and Marielle told a story of when she was in boot camp (she's a sarge, in case you're wondering).  We spoke at length of how difficult it is to just let go, but how exhilirating it is when you do.

You don't just fall: you fly.

And today, I told Harold's daughter about all this, because she may be able to tell him a bit of it, just in case he needs it.

You see, trusting in God is not just about letting go.  It's letting go with wisdom, knowing that you cannot always make the best decision for yourself.  When I applied for a job that one time, money was the main concern for me.  But I was not given the job with the highest pay (in fact, I don't think the pay could have been lower), but I was given the one that I needed for my own growth (and I always joke that the benefits were awesome).

Trusting in God means that you know you are not always aware of where you need to grow, and what skills you need to develop for the benefit of your own spirit.

Trusting in God means not thinking you are in charge of your own life, but not just letting your life fall to the wind.

It means keeping your eyes open to possiblities, taking paths that you might not normally consider.  It sometimes means making a bargain and keeping it, like when I said that I would take the first job offered, no matter what.

It means living your life fully, even unexpectedly, and accepting what comes your way.  Even if what comes your way may not be what you want.  Especially if what comes your way is not what you want.

Right now, Harold is trusting in God, letting go of the science that has kept him alive for so long, and trusting that something better is waiting.  And you know, I trust in that, too.

Now, final aside for the day:  I was at a conference (ok, this one was a youth conference), and I was talking about trusting in God, and how this is what I do when I give a public talk.  When I'm up there talking, I am usually nervous, with hordes of rabid butterflies doing air-raids in my tummy, but still, I talk.  I may not be able to eat for a few hours before a talk (hey!  Maybe that's why they always schedule me after lunch.  Saves on costs), but still, I do it.  And as I was explaining this, one of the youth said, "Aren't you concerned that you may fall flat on your face?"

"Sure," I replied, "but if I do, at least it's forward movement."


  1. This is the second back-post I randomly clicked and I have goosebumps and tears!

    Your blogs are inspirational and as a true-blue sign I was meant to read these two random blogs.

    I have a friend who is psychic and he always tells me...'Why do you insist on shutting yourself off from your Creator whenever you have a question, problem or feel stuck?'...God is waiting for you to let go and be. Ask, just ask!

    So, yeah, now you see how this blog was a reminder? I'm smiling gotta love those little pokes and nudges.

    Take care!

  2. I needed to read something like this. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Stumbled upon your blog while searching for devotional material on the topic of trust in God. So grateful for this post- just what I needed to hear about today. Thankyou

  4. very helpful comments and post. Thank you.

  5. Beautifully worded. Thank you for sharing this. Especially the quote from Baha'u'llah.