Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Strong Home

I find myself sitting at my sister-in-law's desk this morning, looking over the rolling hills of Wisconsin. My family and I are visiting my brother and his family, and this has, of course, gotten me thinking.

On the multiple-hour drive here, I read the line "Be a home for the stranger", from the longer piece found in Gleanings (number CXXX), that begins "Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity."

In this piece, Baha'u'llah exhorts us to "be a home", not just to provide one. As a guest here, for a few days, the difference caught my attention. Oh, this is not to imply that my brother isn't either, for he and his family are exemplary hosts, but just that there is a distinction between the two, and I had never noticed it before now.

For some reason, as I was meditating on this single phrase, another one popped into my mind. It is when Baha'u'llah said that marriage was "a fortress for well-being and salvation".

Then, to top it off, as I was thinking about the relationship between these two quotes, a few more came to mind. "Hast thou ever heard that friend and foe should abide in one heart? Cast out then the stranger, that the Friend may enter His home." "Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent."

These various quotes have made me wonder what is a home? As you know, dear Reader, I am a big fan of the dictionary, and, as you can probably guess, that is where I first turned to see if I could discover a definition. One dictionary describes a home as "any place of residence or refuge", while also including the various synonyms such as "house" or "dwelling place". Another says, "an environment offering security and happiness", or "the native habitat; the place where something is discovered, founded, developed, or promoted".

Prior to looking it up, I had really only thought of it in terms of a building, or a place of residence. But I think I like "refuge" and the implication of safety. Any building, after all, can be a house, but only one in which you feel safe can be considered a home.

Then there are those last couple of phrases "the native habitat; the place where something is discovered, founded, developed, or promoted".

I have never thought of my heart in this manner, in relation to God. Of course, I was well aware of the many quotes that speak of God within, and investigating our own self in order to better understand our Creator, but "the place where something is discovered"? "Founded"? "Developed"?

How can I begin to convey my wonder and awe at this?

It seems like Baha'u'llah is drawing us along a significant path of development here, although I never thought otherwise for a moment. I had just never seen this particular one in this way before.

Now, as you know, dear Reader, this is only my own interpretation, and is not authoritative in any way. Please take it or leave it, as you will. I promise not to be offended.

It seems like we are to first recognize that the "beauty and glory" of God dwells within our own heart, and, as Baha'u'llah says, "sanctify it for (His) descent". Or perhaps I should say that He would like to dwell there, for, as He says, "thou didst give My home and dwelling to another than Me; and whenever the manifestation of My holiness sought His own abode, a stranger found He there, and, homeless, hastened unto the sanctuary of the Beloved".

Here I must pause and ponder on the state of a homeless wanderer. First, I weep at the thought, at the very plight of those who are homeless. And then to consider the "beauty and glory" of God in that state? To be the one who has forced this sacred essence to have "hastened unto the sanctuary of the Beloved"?

I am tragically reminded of Iran, who had the bounty and blessing of the presence of the Glory of God, Baha'u'llah, and cast Him out, leaving Him a wanderer. And here, He is saying that we have done the same thing in our own heart. It really calls to mind the extreme importance of sanctifying my own heart.

Baha'u'llah, Himself, says, "Sanctify thine heart, that thou mayest remember Me" and "mayest perceive the sweet accents of the Birds of Heaven and the melodies of the Doves of Holiness warbling in the Kingdom of eternity, and perchance apprehend the inner meaning of these utterances and their hidden mysteries". There truly can be nothing more important than this, can there?

And yet I think this is only the first step, for as I mentioned earlier, He tells us to "Be a home for the stranger". Now, I'm not really sure, but to me this seems to say that, as I find the "beauty and glory" of God dwelling within my own heart, the stranger will also find that comfort of a home with me, too. They will be able to feel my love for them, trust me, and perhaps even confide in me. By doing this, they may be able to sense some of that divine light shining within my own heart, like the mirror of which 'Abdu'l-Baha speaks, and find it within their own heart, too.

This, to me, is the essence of true teaching. We sanctify our heart, allowing the "beauty and glory" of God to enter, and show others what that looks like, so that they can begin to do the same thing. Of course, as we do this, we are careful to ensure that they see it is the Writings, and not ourselves, to which they must turn for this to happen.

So now what do we have? Hopefully a few people who have this light of God shining within their hearts.

From there we will be able to continue our spiritual growth beyond the confines of our own self as we find a marriage partner, and begin the work of developing that institution of marriage into a "fortress for well-being and salvation".

Now I need to ask, "What is a fortress?" Again, the dictionary comes to my rescue: any place of exceptional security; a stronghold; a place of survival or refuge.

My wife and I have often noticed that we have friends, and sometimes strangers who quickly become friends, who come to us when things are getting tough. Now this is not unique to us, of course, for many of our friends with strong marriages have this happen, but I am speaking from my perspective, so I speak in the first person.

These friends ask our advice on matters that are spiritual in nature, or our guidance in preparing for an upcoming marriage. On a baser level, we have had some youth knock on our door late at night, asking if they could come in for a few minutes, as there were some people outside that were making them uncomfortable. These youth, by the way, had been part of our children's classes in previous years, and even though we hadn't seen them for some months, they still felt comfortable enough to ask for refuge. I still get tears in my eyes recalling that moment, and pray for these dear souls.

You see, as the distractions and disasters of the world pound at our walls, we all find ourselves in need of a safe place. By actually being that home to the stranger, and allowing the marriage to develop into "a fortress of well-being and salvation", we truly can help others in the way that is most helpful.

And, of course, it all begins with our own heart.

Now I have taken enough time away from my brother and his family. I must go back to them and express my thanks, once again, for their hospitality and love.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Mead. Beautiful. Enjoy your time together with your brother and family.