Monday, February 14, 2011

Tests and Tribulations

Last night, my wife and I were getting ready to head off to sleep when I noticed that she seemed a bit out of sorts. Now I knew that there had been some problems she'd been facing recently, so I asked her if she needed some extra prayers. Of course, the answer was "yes", and so I grabbed my prayer book and flipped open to the section called "Tests and Difficulties".

She closed her eyes and listened intently while I read a prayer from Baha'u'llah, and I then I noticed something at the end of it. I made a comment, and she looked a bit puzzled. She leaned over and read the passage in question and we spent the next twenty minutes talking about it. It was a fascinating discussion, and I feel I came away so much the richer for it.

This was the prayer:
Glory be Thee, O my God! But for the tribulations which are sustained in Thy path, how could Thy true lovers be recognized; and were it not for the trials which are borne for love of Thee, how could the station of such as yearn for Thee be revealed? Thy might beareth me witness! The companions of all who adore Thee are the tears they shed, and the comforters of such as seek Thee are the groans they utter, and the food of them who haste to meet Thee is the fragments of their broken hearts.

How sweet to my taste is the bitterness of death suffered in Thy path, and how precious in my estimation are the shafts of Thine enemies when encountered for the sake of the exaltation of Thy word! Let me quaff in Thy Cause, O my God, whatsoever Thou didst desire, and send down upon me in Thy love all Thou didst ordain. By Thy glory! I wish only what Thou wishest, and cherish what Thou cherishest. In Thee have I, at all times, placed my whole trust and confidence.

Raise up, I implore Thee, O my God, as helpers to this Revelation such as shall be counted worthy of Thy name and of Thy sovereignty, that they may remember me among Thy creatures, and hoist the ensigns of Thy victory in Thy land.

Potent art Thou to do what pleaseth Thee. No God is there but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.
It is a beautiful prayer, and that second to last paragraph jumped out at me.


Well, let's take a quick look at the beginning of it first, and then I'll point out my question, as well as some of our thoughts that came up from discussion. Of course, I'm sure you've already found far more in this prayer than I have, but I'm only sharing what little I have found. I hope you'll share your insights, too.

As you can see, it begins a lot like the Fire Tablet, contrasting a difficulty with a bounty. The tribulations allow the lovers to be recognized. The trials reveal their station.

Then comes an interesting triad: those who adore, those who seek, and those who haste to meet. It seems that He is speaking to those who adore Him. Out of those people, there are some who will seek Him out. Of course, there are those who seek Him for curiosity's sake, but Baha'u'llah responded to that with "If thine aim be to cherish thy life, approach not our court; but if sacrifice be thy heart's desire, come and let others come with thee. For such is the way of Faith, if in thy heart thou seekest reunion with Baha; shouldst thou refuse to tread this path, why trouble us? Begone!" Finally, out of those who are seeking Him, only a small few will actually hasten to meet Him.

The trials associated with each step get harder and harder. It is one thing to weep tears, but it is much more painful for the test to actually elicit groans. Then, as if that wasn't hard enough, the next step will actually break your heart. And not just break it, but smash it into fragments. What imagery he is conveying.

In that second paragraph, He shows how everything is seen in a new light when done in the path of God. Death, when suffered for His sake goes from being bitter to sweet. The shafts of the enemies become the most precious thing when encountered in the promotion of His Word.

This whole paragraph is all about renunciation and detachment. It is about being content with the Will of God. It is not about going out and seeking this persecution, but, instead, about recognizing the bounty of facing it when it happens.

None of this is new. It abounds in the Writings. And not just in the Baha'i Writings, but the Writings of many Faiths.

But then in that third paragraph, I noticed something I had never seen before. It says, "Raise up... as helpers... that they may remember me among Thy creatures, and hoist the ensigns of Thy victory in Thy land." I only edit it to make it easier to see what I am referring to. I had never noticed that the "me" is not capitalized. I had always presumed that this was referring to Baha'u'llah, but if that were the case, then the "me" would be capitalized, and it isn't.

Then when I re-read the entire prayer, I realized that the whole prayer is in the first person. It is me who is speaking (and maybe you, too, dear Reader). Baha'u'llah, through His grace, has given me the words I so dearly wish to say. My soul rejoices at being able to speak its desire.

And here, near the very end, He knows what is going on in my very heart. I know that I am not worthy of this trust. I know that I am not worthy of representing His Name to those who are seeking His truth. With all my flaws and problems, it is not possible that God could want me to do this. And yet He does. He wants me to go out and teach, even though I know how flawed I am.

My ardent prayer is that others who are far more worthy will arise to do this. As it says in the recent message from the Universal House of Justice, I am gratified with "the certain knowledge that victories will be won" by those who are currently "wholly unaware of Baha'u'llah's coming".

Finally, it finishes with a reminder of some of the attributes of God, and in particular those same attributes that conclude the short Obligatory Prayer. Perhaps that is a reminder of the importance of that prayer, and how it can help raise us to make us closer to being worthy of this great bounty.

Yeah, Marielle really helped me see a little bit more in this prayer, and I am so grateful for that.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. I really needed to read this blog post, and that prayer tonight.