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I first heard about the Baha’i Faith in 1968 while still in high school, then heard about it again in 1973. A few months later, one month before graduating from university, I decided to become a Baha’i. Something in my soul responded strongly to the Baha’i teachings. But at the time I was an alcoholic, and I kept right on drinking after becoming a Baha’i. Even though I believed in Baha’u’llah and accepted all the Baha’i spiritual teachings, laws, and concepts, I didn’t want to change the path I had set for myself — which involved lots of self-destructive partying. That lifestyle didn’t include ‘religion’ (in the familiar sense), because at that point in my life I only had vague notions of what religion was. Even though I called myself a Baha’i, I didn’t yet understand the life-changing, transforming power of the Baha’i Faith.
So several months after signing my Baha’i enrollment card, I withdrew from the Faith and became inactive. I still believed in Baha’u’llah as the Manifestation of God for today, but I just didn’t want to give up drinking, drugs, or my partying lifestyle.
Then gradually, over the next 15 years, I began to mellow. I quit my heavy drinking but still had a glass or two of wine each day. I became a teacher in the Alaskan bush and eventually married. I had my one and only child, my son Spencer, when I was 36 years old. By then I was an aging, fairly mature, and devoted mother — who had avoided thinking about the Baha’i Faith for 15 years.
That all changed when my darling son was 9 months old. He was diagnosed with craniosynostosis (a fusion of two of the plates in the skull) which would require fairly immediate surgery, called a craniotomy. The surgery was done in Anchorage by a neurosurgeon and took about 7 hours. His skull was cut with a saw and various changes were made to the skull’s anatomy.
The endless hours Spencer was in surgery were horrible, and I was terribly afraid he was going to die. I was so scared I finally turned to God. I went into the chapel at Providence Hospital (a Catholic facility) and prayed very fervently and sincerely, begging God that if Spencer would survive and be alright, I would return to the Baha’i Faith and try to follow the laws. Up until this point I had spent very little time thinking about the Baha’i Faith and why I was avoiding it. But when I was confronted with this crisis — when the plane was actually going down — I suddenly understood what was true, what I had been avoiding and why, and what I was supposed to be doing with my life.
Spencer recovered and went on to be a healthy, happy child. I contacted the Baha’is in Anchorage shortly after his surgery, explained my history of inactivity, and they warmly welcomed me back into the Baha’i community. My husband became an active Baha’i shortly after. I have been an active, engaged Baha’i for the past 25 years. That crisis marked the true beginning of my spiritual life.
The Baha’i Faith is all about capacity building in the individual. I now attribute any growth I’ve made as an individual to my involvement in trying to put Baha’u’llah’s spiritual principles into action.
By the way — Spencer is now a bright, handsome 26 year old who has graduated from university and leads a productive, service-oriented life.