Back in 1969, I lived with my dad and mom in La Porte, Texas, when a Baha’i friend from Baytown suggested we visit Austin over a weekend – so away we went in my 1955 Ford.
Soon after our arrival, our hosts for the weekend invited a college girl named Nancy Lee for a visit. In July, she had become a Baha’i, and so she and I had this peculiar-sounding religion in common – I had joined the Faith in November, 1967. We both came from Christian upbringings. That weekend, which I’ll never forget, began a beautiful life for the two of us.
In September of 2019, my wife Nancy and I celebrate a half-century since we first met. At our wedding in 1972, a friend read a very special and inspiring tablet that Abdu’l-Baha sent to a Baha’i in 1918:
The greatest bond that will unite the hearts of man and wife is faithfulness and loyalty. [They] must not let any trace of jealousy creep between them; for this thing like unto poison vitiates the very foundation of love. … They must not become ill-disposed toward each other on account of the ephemeral incidents and accidents of this changeful life. … In case any difference of opinion should arise between them, they must do their utmost to settle it by themselves, and not let its knowledge go out of the family; for people are apt to change a speck into a mountain. Again, in case a circumstance causes a real offense between them, they must not keep it in their hearts, but rather explain its nature to each other and try to remove it as soon as possible. … God has created such union and harmony between man and wife that no one can conceive in this world a greater plane of union. You must irrigate continually the tree of your union with the water of love and affection, so that it may remain green and verdant throughout all the seasons … And when God gives you sweet and lovely children, exert yourselves in their education and training, so that they may become the imperishable flowers of the divine rose-garden, the nightingales of the ideal paradise, the servants of the world of humanity and the fruits of the Tree of Life. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 6, pp. 20-21.
Now, obviously, Nancy and I have grown much older. We have three adult children and two grandchildren. The couple that originally hosted us are retired and settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In September, we plan to renew our friendship with them and commemorate in their home the beginning of our journey all those years ago.
Taking Abdu’l-Baha’s marital counsel to heart, we nurtured our love for each other and hand in hand met life’s challenges. Along the way, our children entered our lives in 1973, 1974 and 1977. We were mindful to give our children a solid moral foundation, because Baha’u’llah admonished parents of their bounden duty:
… to rear their children to be staunch in faith, the reason being that a child who removeth himself from the religion of God will not act in such a way as to win the good pleasure of his parents and his Lord. For every praiseworthy deed is born out of the light of religion, and lacking this supreme bestowal the child will not turn away from any evil … – Baha’u’llah, from a tablet translated from the Persian.
So in the years of their growing up, we strived to inculcate into their tender hearts moral as well as academic learning. Addressing the importance of learning, Abdu’l-Baha spoke of it as a command from God:
It is clear that learning is the greatest bestowal of God, and the acquirement thereof is a blessing from Heaven. Thus it is incumbent … to promote divine knowledge, culture and the sciences, that ere long [the children] will become the most erudite of all the fraternity of the wise. This is a service rendered unto God Himself, and it is one of His inescapable commandments. – Abdu’l-Baha, from a tablet translated from the Persian.
The Baha’i writings remind us that nations are merely aggregations of families: “Therefore as strife and dissension destroy a family and prevent its progress, so nations are destroyed and advancement hindered.” – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 157.
So how much of the unrest and conflict in societies can we trace back to the lack of parental oversight in the education of their children? If we want peaceful families and a peaceful society, we should exert every effort to prioritize the stabilizing influence of moral and academic education.
But that education is not a one-way street. To the children diligently trained this way by their parents, Baha’u’llah charged them to:
Show honor to your parents and pay homage to them. This will cause blessings to descend upon you from the clouds of the bounty of your Lord. … Beware lest ye commit that which would sadden the hearts of your fathers and mothers. … Should anyone give you a choice between the opportunity to render a service to me and a service to them, choose ye to serve them, and let such service be a path leading you to Me. – Baha’u’llah, from tablets translated from the Persian.
Abdu’l-Baha also addressed the importance of respecting parents:
The (children’s) prosperity in this world and the Kingdom depends upon the good pleasure of the parents, and without this they will be in manifest loss. … show kindness and consideration to thy parents so that they may feel generally pleased … for parents must be highly respected … Comfort thy mother and endeavor to do what is conducive to the happiness of her heart. … The mother is the first teacher of the child. … it is she who establisheth the character and conduct of the child. – Abdu’l-Baha, from tablets translated from the Persian.
Love and unity among parents and children builds happiness and contentment. Faithfulness and affection between married couples, and sound training of the children, form the bedrock which causes families and societies to thrive. This bedrock unity of the family protects our neighborhoods, helps our countries prosper and guards the true security of the future for everyone.