Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. – Carl Jung
A loving heart is the truest wisdom. – Charles Dickens
Open the doors of your hearts. He Who is the Spirit verily standeth before them. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 10.
Last week my wife’s heart stopped.
The surgeon stopped it on purpose, so he could work on it. He planned to remodel it with four arterial bypasses and something called a Dor Procedure. A massive heart attack, just six weeks prior, had left her cardiac function compromised, and left her susceptible to more infarctions, a stroke or sudden death. Her doctor told us, the day before the operation, that there was a chance she wouldn’t survive the surgery.
So, for about three hours during a nine-hour series of procedures, Teresa’s tender, loving heart stopped beating. They kept her alive with a heart/lung machine, which pumped and oxygenated her blood while her heart stood still. When you really love someone, it rarely gets more frightening than this.
Later, when she woke up, I kissed her, looked at the light in her eyes, felt the beating of her pulse, and cried.
After that emotional reunion, we read some of the Baha’i writings and said some prayers together. One of them, this short passage from Baha’u’llah’s The Hidden Words, seemed to fit my feelings exactly:
O son of justice! Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart’s desire? To the true lover reunion is life, and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart hath no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his beloved. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 23.
I’ve found that often in life, coming to understand a heartfelt truth can lead to an even bigger and more profound realization. Has that ever happened to you?
In my case, here’s how it worked: I never felt very lovable as a kid, growing up with a violent father and consequently believing that I wasn’t worth much. When you’re raised that way, you learn that real love is a rare and precious thing—and you yearn for it. As a child, I found that kind of selfless love in my grandmother, one of the most loving people I’ve ever known; and much later in life, as an adult, I found it in my wife Teresa. She has one of those hearts that contains an overflowing fountain of love, that mysteriously and constantly replenishes itself from the waters of life, that never seems to run dry. It’s miraculous to me, and such a wondrous gift.
Her love helped me understand a larger truth—the love of the Creator for the creation. In the past, I never could comprehend that God, who seemed so distant and impersonal to me at the time, could actually love any one, undeserving individual—or vice versa. I suspected that God loved humanity in general, in sort of a detached and objective way, but I couldn’t imagine God’s heart actually having any space in it for me, personally. As a result, my own heart seemed stunted, broken, unable to love. I saw myself as unlovable, and therefore couldn’t reflect it.
But my wife taught me that love didn’t have to come from that place of pain and injury. Instead, her ability to love unconditionally and purely showed me that I could try to do that, too. Gradually, it taught me that I could return the love of the Creator, as well:
Unity is love. It cannot be established without love. Therefore try, as far as possible, to be filled with love. Love is perpetual life, the most perfect vitality…. The highest love is independent of any personal advantages which we may draw from the love of the friend. If you love truly, your love for your friend will continue, even if he treats you ill. A man who really loves God, will love Him whether he be ill, or sad, or unfortunate. He does not love God because He has created him–his life may be full of disassociations and miseries. He does not love God because He has given him health or wealth, because these may disappear at any moment. He does not love Him because He has given him the strength of youth, because old age will surely come upon him. The reason for his love is not because he is grateful for certain mercies and benefits. No!
The lover of God desires and adores Him because He is perfection and because of His perfections. Love should be the very essence of love, and not dependent on outward manifestations.
A moth loves the light, though his wings are burnt. Though his wings are singed, he throws himself against the flame. He does not love the light because it has conferred some benefit upon him. Therefore he hovers round the light, though he sacrifices his wings.
This is the highest degree of love. Without this abandonment, this ecstasy, love is imperfect.
The lover of God loves Him for Himself, not for his own sake. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Fortnightly Review, quoted in Star of the West, Volume 5, p. 122.