March 04, 2012

fasting reflections..suffering

the plant i look at each day while sitting at our dining room table
this flower looks to me as if it is praying.  it has opened itself up to the sun, beseeching and praising the sun for its energy and sustenance.  its beauty symbolizes the Beauty of God.  it is majestic and full of astonishment.  it is in this spirit that i raise my hands in supplication to the Almighty One and draw upon the mysterious forces at work during the Baha'i fast.

outside of the days of the fast, i am usually zipping around the house, constantly doing something, even if it is sitting down preparing a lesson for a children's class.  i carry joy in my heart, with a quiet gratitude for everything that God has chosen for my life -- including the bugs, humidity and our kids' conflicts. :)
my energy during the days of fasting shifts to an inward, reflective mode and outwardly i slow down.  i call God consciously to mind as much as i can, emptying my mind of anything i consider petty and material.  i tap into and depend on the spiritual forces derived from prayer and detachment from the things of this world to sustain me, inspire me, cleanse me of impurities and strengthen me to overcome my many weaknesses.

this weekend (the 2nd and 3rd days of the fast) we hosted a friend who spent about a year in the northern region of ghana.  she shared many stories of great difficulty -- extreme heat, giant locusts, no electricity or water sometimes, many types of insects and geckos finding their way to her bed, silt from dirt roads in the air and constantly settling in her home, rashes from the water stored in tanks, never a clean or accessible toilet when traveling, etc.

just listening to these stories -- the most creepy being when she woke up to a giant ant burrowing itself in her open wound by her knee when she fell the night before -- flooded my being with awe at how people have great capacity to endure the difficulties of this life.  i have had my share of hardships, pain and sufferings but it feels like nothing compared to the daily experience of living in extreme hot temperatures without modern conveniences (including something simple like bug repellent) -- every aspect of life is difficult.  the body doesn't get to shower away the never-ending presence of perspiration; the food one prepares is without running water to simply rinse rice and beans or clean vegetables; the clothes one wears requires handwashing and hanging (on which invisible eggs are laid by bugs that make the skin itch when worn); the time of menstruation must be indescribably difficult without enough water to wash oneself or any linens that become soiled..

tests and difficulties are blessings in disguise.  they are the means by which we, as souls on this journey we call life, grow nearer to God -- we must choose to respond to them using the virtues of God with which He has endowed our souls, no matter how excruciatingly difficult.  sometimes we are tested in ways that feel beyond our capacity.  but God never tests a soul beyond its capacity.  those who suffer the most attain the greatest station in the sight of God.  with God's inscrutable wisdom, there is recompense in the world beyond for the suffering in this world..
"It is only through suffering that the nobility of character can make itself manifest...It is transformed into fortitude, steadfastness and magnanimity. The lives of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá are the best examples for this. Sacrifices in the path of one's religion produce always immortal results, 'Out of the ashes rises the phoenix'."

    (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 603)
in my silent reflection today, i realize that i haven't been tested in ways that i perceive as very, very difficult to endure.  i do not know how i would be facing their circumstances.  i trust their suffering -- which is primarily a result of the body politic not having true love and unity which it needs to care for everyone -- will be recompensed according to God's inscrutable wisdom in the worlds beyond this physical life.  in addition, i know that we are all tested by God, each according to our own unique role in God's Will.  there is no comparison.  each soul has its own suffering to face or struggles of self to overcome.  there are many ways in which God tests His servants:  money, other people, natural disasters, disease, poverty, death, materialism and many other changes and chances of this world.
"... Suffering, of one kind or another, seems to be the portion of man in this world. Even the Beloved ones, the Prophets of God, have never been exempt from the ills that are to be found in our world; poverty, disease, bereavement - they seem to be part of the polish God employs to make us finer, and enable us to reflect more of His attributes!.."

    (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 603)

i will continue praying to remain steadfast in my love for God, no matter what He chooses for my path to grow nearer to Him..i don't want to be ensnared by materialism, frozen with lethargy after a natural disaster, or frustrated with cockroaches.. we are each like that flower whose beauty is revealed gradually through opening itself up to the Creator and submitting to whatever forces of Nature come its way.

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