Saturday, January 20, 2018

Abide in Our Love

O Son of Man! Thou art My dominion and My dominion perisheth not; wherefore fearest thou thy perishing? Thou art My light and My light shall never be extinguished; why dost thou dread extinction? Thou art My glory and My glory fadeth not; thou art My robe and My robe shall never be outworn. Abide then in thy love for Me, that thou mayest find Me in the realm of glory.

As you know, dear Reader, I have been looking at the Four Valleys recently, and so I decided to also take a bit of time and look at the Hidden Words again, too. After all, they both come from the days Baha'u'llah was in Baghdad, before His declaration, and so are of a kind together.

For some reason, as I paged through the book, the above Hidden Word, Arabic number 14, jumped out at me. Why, I wondered.

Well, let's see.

It begins like most others, with the invocation of "O Son of" something.

Aside - A number of years ago, I was in a meeting and we were talking about the Hidden Words. A friend of mine asked another person in the group if he could chant "that Hidden Word". "Which one? How", he asked, "does it begin?" Before my friend could reply, I said, "O Son of..."

Anyways, this one begins with the most generic of intros, the believe-it-or-not gender neutral "O Son of Man". It really does relate to all of us. Every single person on this planet. (Talk to someone who read Arabic for an explanation. I don't, so I'm just taking their word for it.)

From there, He lifts us up, and reminds us of our inherent nobility. We are His dominion, and will never perish. He is the King, and we are that kingdom over which He rules. We are His light, and what a brilliant and magnificent light that is. Not only that, we are also His robe, that glorious vesture which God wears ever-so nobly. And really, this robe is quite remarkable, not shabby at all.

Makes us feel pretty good about ourselves, right?

Well, the next line is what really caught my attention. "Abide then in thy love for Me, that thou mayest find Me in the realm of glory."

A number of years ago I was invited by my friend Nabil to join him for an interfaith gathering at his university. This sounded like such a nice little opportunity, I could not pass it up. But, before the interfaith prayer meeting there was a student church group having their meeting in the same room. I asked if we could sit in, as I was curious. As we were warmly invited, we both sat at the table and listened. The student pastor began with a Bible quote, a good way to begin, and talked about the importance of abiding in the love of God.

He spoke at length about living in God's love, and how His love will protect us from all harm. For nearly 45 minutes he went on about this topic, seemingly saying that if our faith was strong enough, we would never suffer. Now, obviously this is not how I would see it, as Jesus suffered at the hands of His enemies, and so did all the saints. So, by their very text this is not an interpretation I would agree with.

When he was done, he asked, "Are there any questions?"

Well, as you can imagine, I raised my hand. Now, to be honest, I did this in all innocence. I really did have a question, and did not want to question his authority or anything, but was looking for an understanding of something I didn't know.

Nabil, however, looked as if he were getting ready to duck under the table. Can't imagine why.

"What", I honestly wondered, "does the word 'abide' mean?"

The pastor looked a bit confused and said, "Doesn't it mean a home?"

"No", I replied, "that's abode."

One of the students, though, had already gotten the dictionary and looked it up. "To remain with, in times of great tests and difficulties."

Well, so much for his interpretation. I mean, I really didn't mean to shoot him down like that, but it did lead to a nice little discussion about how important it is to, well not only know your word meanings, but to stick with God when the going gets tough.

And that's what really hit me with this Hidden Word. "Abide then in thy love for Me, that thou mayest find Me in the realm of glory."

After this high praise, reminding us of our noble heritage, and easing any concern we may have about our own destiny, He throws this line out to us. "Abide". In other words, life isn't going to be easy, just because we believe. Remember, even Muhammad said, "Think because ye say ye believe, ye will not be tested?"

But it is through this testing, when we remain firm in our love for God, that we get to a better appreciation of the true glory of God. It is sort of like my wife. It's really easy to be with her when life is all nice and wonderful and rosy. But when things get tough, when things around us are going to heck and gone, and we still stay strong in our love, that is when I really and more deeply appreciate her. During the nice times, I love her and enjoy her company. During those tests and trials that regularly occur in life, it would be so easy to run away, but by staying with her she shines even more gloriously in my eyes.

The same is even more true, to the nth degree, with God.

This is what I really get out of this particular Hidden Word. When things get tough, if we can just keep in mind those promises of God, how He sees us, and then keep our love for Him going, things will work out quite well in the end. Of course, it usually isn't how we expect or hope, but that's a different question altogether.

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