O My Servant! Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge. Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 47.
This all sounds good and well in principle, but what does finding one’s “worth” really mean in practice? There are many passages in the Baha’i writings calling humanity to renew its spiritual birthright – to understand and value that we are fundamentally spiritual beings. I get that, and strive to avoid the excesses and illusions of a materialistic life. But, I’ve still struggled sometimes with what I am supposed to do vis-à-vis my own singular contribution to the world.
On that point, I wish I were one of those people who knew that they wanted to be a doctor or a pilot from, say, the age of five. I’ve always been very envious of those directed people. By comparison, I have largely waffled through life, and grumbled because I wasn’t given clearer/better instructions in the beginning! Or, maybe I was, but I just haven’t listened carefully enough.
Beyond the call in many faith traditions to a more spiritual life, I still largely adhere to the belief that we are each sent to this earth with a particular mission and aspiration and purpose that is ours alone to fulfill. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s worth repeating because, unfortunately, so many get lost along the way with all the distractions, especially in a modern age. Or, we fear that we will die “with our music still in us” as the popular phrase goes.
And, like me, perhaps you’ve often wondered whether you aren’t meant to do something bigger, something better, or something more meaningful with your life? I think many people feel this way, perhaps shortchanged somehow because life circumstances—or excuses—have limited their possibilities. A gnawing anxiety that something is missing probably hits everyone at some point (or at several points) in their lives.
Maybe this anxiety wouldn’t be there if we didn’t hear a deeper call of the soul—perhaps a call that shows up in serendipitous events, or dreams, or moments of inspiration.
On this theme, I’ve recently gotten reacquainted with Joseph Campbell, an eminent scholar of comparative mythology and religion. He had many fascinating things to say about not living a “programmatic” existence, but, rather, listening to the inner call of one’s spiritual life. Michael Meade, another expert on mythology, offers similar insights on finding the “unique path our souls would have us walk.”
Both of these individuals–and the Baha’i writings–claim that we have a pre-ordained spiritual dimension to our lives. But, perhaps part of the journey, as well as the test, is to figure out what our own specific “marching orders” actually were. Maybe some of us find it easily. For others, it may be a lifelong challenge.
For those of us in the latter category, there is some comfort in knowing that we don’t necessarily have to walk this path alone. Making space for meditation and reflection is fundamental, but we also have guidance along the way. As the Baha’i writings note:
The holy Manifestations of God come into the world to dispel the darkness of the animal or physical nature of man, to purify him from his imperfections in order that his heavenly and spiritual nature may become quickened, his divine qualities awakened, his perfections visible, his potential powers revealed and all the virtues of the world of humanity latent within him may come to life. – Abdul-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 466.
Therefore, it is evident that the confirmation of the Holy Spirit and impelling influence of a heavenly power are needed to accomplish the divine purpose in human hearts and conditions. – Ibid, p. 251.
In short, we do have a power source to plug into to help us to find our soul path. Ultimately, I like how the Persian poet Rumi puts it all together. He addresses the one thing we must never forget to do in our lives, but he also connects this process to a divine love.
So human beings come to this world to do particular work. That work is the purpose, and each is specific to the person. … Remember the deep root of your being, the presence of your lord. Give yourself to the one who already owns your breath and your moments. If you don’t, you will be like the man who takes a precious dagger and hammers it into his kitchen wall for a peg to hold his dipper gourd. You’ll be wasting valuable keenness and forgetting your dignity and purpose. – Rumi, The Illuminated Rumi, Broadway Books, pg. 22.