The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
A number of years ago now, my husband, his family and I attended the Baha’i World Congress, held in New York City at Jacob Javits Convention Center.
And I heard Ruhiyyih Khanum speak. And when she came up to the stage my mother-in- law, who is a Baha’i, elbowed me.
“This is Ruhiyyih Khanum,” she said. “She is very precious to the Faith.”
And here was this sort of lovely woman, who races up to the mike and plops her pocketbook in the center of the podium and takes off her white gloves and proceeds to tell this story about her husband, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, the great-grandson of Baha’u’llah. How one of the first things Ruhiyyih remembered after they were married, was moving in with her husband and having diplomats from around the world stopping by at the drop of a hat and how once that happened and they didn’t have anything in the house except six eggs and how horrified she was, that maybe she and her husband should just have these people come back on a better day when they could adequately receive them, until Shoghi Effendi told her they would just cook what they had and so they all sat with the Archbishop of Something or other and Prince What’s-His-Name and they each took one tiny bite of omelet and then passed the plate around again and again and again.
A simple story. Not earth shattering per se. But a story of love and generosity on such a human level that it left me refreshed. It left me surprised. It wasn’t a sermon. It wasn’t a meeting stratified by the status of its participants. It was a simple gesture. I liked these Baha’is.
And so there were the beautiful, art-filled Writings, which I had come to love. And there were the powerful tenets of the Faith. And there was also a miracle.
There was the birth of my son, who came into the world in a dangerous and traumatic way. In the middle of the night. In blood. In an emergency room. In a crowded hospital with no bed. In the presence of nurses who didn’t know how to turn on the fetal monitors and oxygen machines.
And when, at last, the doctor on call arrived and I was lying there, the doctor ordered everyone else to please leave the room, and the anesthesiologist bent over me and said: “Ma’am, we are about to perform an emergency cesarean section, which will be performed regardless of whether your baby is alive or dead.”
I had a vision, before the needle turned everything black, of Baha’u’llah’s and Abdu’l-Baha’s hands on my stomach keeping guard over the baby.
And I remembered this prayer from Abdu’l-Baha that I recited each day while I was pregnant. This prayer for my son.
My Lord! My Lord! I praise Thee and I thank Thee for that whereby Thou hast favored Thine humble maidservant, Thy slave beseeching and supplicating Thee, because Thou hast verily guided her unto Thine obvious Kingdom and caused her to hear Thine exalted call in the contingent world and to behold Thy Signs which prove the appearance of Thy victorious reign over all things.
O my Lord, I dedicate that which is in my womb unto Thee. Then cause it to be a praiseworthy child in Thy Kingdom and a fortunate one by Thy favor and Thy generosity, to develop and to grow up under the charge of Thine education. Verily, Thou art the Gracious! Verily, Thou art the Lord of Great Favor! – Baha’i Prayers, p. 66.
And when I awoke and my son was alive, when I saw him in his little knitted cap, wrapped in his little blanket, I knew I wanted to give him some sense of spirituality in his life — something that he can experience and question and leave and ultimately, if he so chooses, return and be welcomed.
I will do the only thing I can. I will offer him exposure to faith. I will show him that it’s difficult sometimes and confusing. That I constantly struggle with it. I will show him that it is harder to accept something, to have faith in something even part way, than to reject something completely.
I will try to tell him, as I am trying to do now, how I came to faith, out of a series of events, out of a series of surprises, not necessarily in any order.