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When the Divine Ocean Comes to You as a Lover

Greg Hodges | Feb 2, 2017

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Greg Hodges | Feb 2, 2017

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Many who have come to the Baha’i Faith, myself included, were not on a spiritual search for God at first.

When we became attracted to Baha’u’llah and his message, it’s as if God came looking for us, whether we were ready for it or not. The question of belief, of yes or no, then struck us through our own wonderment at the life story of Baha’u’llah, the wisdom of his teachings, and the grace of his writings.

I don’t want to get into my own story here. Instead, I just want to draw attention to some insights I gained going through it all. The most important idea? In religion and spirituality, our Creator plays the leading role, not us.

Baha’u’llah discusses this in a distinctive passage about the lover and the beloved, a common theme in the spiritual literature of so many great Faiths and so much great mystical poetry. The lover, of course, refers to the human soul, and the beloved refers to God:

For whereas in days past every lover besought and searched after his Beloved, it is the Beloved Himself Who now is calling His lovers and is inviting them to attain His presence. Take heed lest ye forfeit so precious a favor; beware lest ye belittle so remarkable a token of His grace. –Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 320.

In the Baha’i Faith, religion doesn’t only refer to a philosophy of timeless truths. Its development is inseparable from the appearance through the ages of God’s messengers, such as Moses, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and others. So the precise moment and historical context in which we exist is pivotal to the spiritual meaning of our lives—and there could be no greater privilege than to live in an era when God manifests his love for humanity through a new messenger. This is the moment when humans may not need to go out in search for God—this is when God comes searching for us.

Baha’u’llah writes about the immense spiritual consequences this brings to us all:

Hear Me, ye mortal birds! In the Rose Garden of changeless splendor a Flower hath begun to bloom, compared to which every other flower is but a thorn, and before the brightness of Whose glory the very essence of beauty must pale and wither. Arise, therefore, and, with the whole enthusiasm of your hearts, with all the eagerness of your souls, the full fervor of your will, and the concentrated efforts of your entire being, strive to attain the paradise of His presence, and endeavor to inhale the fragrance of the incorruptible Flower, to breathe the sweet savors of holiness, and to obtain a portion of this perfume of celestial glory. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 320-321.

But how can we describe God’s connection to humanity using language drawn from people’s interactions with each other? We can talk about divine love and generosity, God’s sovereignty and judgment. But these metaphors typically break down under close inspection. Human relations are characterized by limitation and mutual dependence. When I give out of generosity, I come away with materially less than I had before, but it’s not like that with God’s generosity. There is no lessening of divine power when God gives.

The sovereignty of a human king comes from the cooperation of his subjects and the taxes they pay. Empires and kings come and go. But the supremacy of God over creation is eternal. God’s ways are fundamentally different from human ways. All of this makes it hard to speak about God, and that’s because a basic asymmetry exists between God and worshipper. While human relationships are characterized by balance, exchange, and reciprocity, God’s connection to humanity is defined by imbalance, excess, and favors that are impossible to return. The scales are forever tipped.

This leads to an inspiring but unsettling truth. God has chosen to speak to us and to guide our development as a species. But how can that possibly be repaid? What could we possibly give back to settle accounts? Nothing would suffice, and yet we must trace a path through that nothing and dwell in it. This is the journey of love.

A poem by the Muslim poet Rumi speaks powerfully to that condition, and brings closure to everything I want to say:

Can you find another market like this?

with your one rose
you can buy hundreds of rose gardens?

for one seed
you get a whole wilderness?

For one weak breath,
the divine wind?

You’ve been fearful
of being absorbed in the ground,
or drawn up in the air.

Now, your waterbead lets go
and drops into the ocean,
where it came from.

It no longer has the form it had,
but it’s still water.
The essence is the same.

This giving up is not a repenting.
It’s a deep honoring of yourself.

When the ocean comes to you as a lover,
marry at once, quickly, for God’s sake!

Don’t postpone it!
Existence has no better gift.

No amount of searching
will find this.

A perfect falcon, for no reason,
has landed on your shoulder,
And become yours. – Rumi, The Essential Rumi, Coleman Barks translation.

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  • Feb 4, 2017
    I'm not original - I loved the Rumi poem, too! One of the greatest things about being a Bahai is that we have lots of contact with the Sufi poets Bahá'u'lláh loved!
  • Barbara Lachmar
    Feb 3, 2017
  • Melanie Black
    Feb 2, 2017
    You capture this mystical bond so wonderfully. And adding Rumi's poem at the end was the perfect touch. I, too, am a poet and write about this same subject.
  • Hilton McConnell
    Feb 2, 2017
    Why a Muslim poet, why not a great poet, we are all people of the earth One people not Muslim, Bahai's Canadians, white women or black man we are all people of one earth, I feel that the sooner we stop putting people into different groups, the more unified we will be come.
    I am finding that there is too much trying to label people (she is a black women or he is a white man and so on) we all feel the same, we all have happiness, sorrow, & love. We all have difficulties, not always the ...same, but they are tests to make us better, and we should share them as people of the world and help each other.
    It is always better to do something for some one else than it is to do it for your self.
    • Feb 3, 2017
      I went back and forth on what adjective to use to before "poet." I went with "Muslim" because it wasn't his Persian heritage that inspired him, or his own greatness, or the mystical content of his writings. He was fired by his Muslim faith. And I thought it was important that Islam be recognized for inspiring something as beautiful as Rumi's poetry.
  • Lorenzo Okfors
    Feb 2, 2017
    Thank you! Sooting , we , I, need this kind of soul-food
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