Monday, November 19, 2012

"I want you to register me. I am a Bahá’í."

Graduates of Ruhi Book 6 may remember the following quotation excerpted from The Advent of Divine Justice, in which the beloved Guardian outlined several duties of the Bahá’í teacher:
Let him consider the degree of his hearer’s receptivity, and decide for himself the suitability of either the direct or indirect method of teaching, whereby he can impress upon the seeker the vital importance of the Divine Message, and persuade him to throw in his lot with those who have already embraced it. Let him remember the example set by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and His constant admonition to shower such kindness upon the seeker, and exemplify to such a degree the spirit of the teachings he hopes to instill into him, that the recipient will be spontaneously impelled to identify himself with the Cause embodying such teachings. Let him refrain, at the outset, from insisting on such laws and observances as might impose too severe a strain on the seeker’s newly awakened faith, and endeavor to nurse him, patiently, tactfully, and yet determinedly, into full maturity, and aid him to proclaim his unqualified acceptance of whatever has been ordained by Bahá’u’lláh.
The following story from a Bahá’í teacher illustrates the importance of considering a seeker’s receptivity, and then practicing patience, tact, and determination to confirm that soul in the Cause.
Carrie first heard about the Faith from a Persian immigrant in the Dallas/Ft. Worth (Texas) area in the mid 1970s. In June of this year (2012) she registered as a Bahá’í online, as did her son in Amarillo. A day or so after she declared, we spoke about the Faith, but for some time after that we only texted. One night I texted her around 9 pm, intending to ask her about a Bahá’í gathering she attended a few weeks earlier. And she called me!
She said she enjoyed the Bahá’í gathering, and that she had also gone to another gathering at a young couple’s home. She said that “you felt like you were growing” and that “it was like an oasis.” She appreciated the readings of the various world religions. Carrie is Jewish, and she thought it was pretty special that when it was her turn to read, the selection was a Jewish prayer.
But then Carrie said, “I am still Jewish.” My heart sank. I decided I would pray, and ask Martha Root, Lua Getzinger and some friends who have passed on for help. I imagined their souls circling above us. Carrie shared that she had recently celebrated Yom Kippur. It is the one day each year that all the doors and windows of Heaven are open. She also explained that Rosh Hashanah is the New Year, and that “you progress into the Throne Room.” It sounded like a big deal, but I had never heard of that. I felt helpless. What could I say? I just said, “It sounds beautiful,” because it did.
Carrie’s son Ben declared in Amarillo around the same time Carrie did. This summer they visited the Bahá’í House of Worship together, where she bought them matching prayer books. She keeps hers in her bag and it is always with her, and she likes that physical aspect of it. She also likes the physical aspect of the Star of David. When she visits patients in her nursing work, she opens her bag to get her tablet, and she sees her prayer book. It comforts her, and she knows that her deeds have an effect on those she serves. But she said, “if you believe in Bahá’u’lláh you have to agree with the teachings of all the religions. I don’t know if I can do that.” I felt a panic, but decided to stay silent. My heart sank again.
One of Carrie’s patients is in the home of a Vietnamese couple. The wife is Catholic and the husband is Buddhist. When Carrie visited them she noticed an altar with a Buddhist figure and incense burning, but in their home were also Catholic symbols. The husband said that in their family there are many religions. ”But when we get together,” he told Carrie, “We accept one another.” I could hear the peace and contentment in Carrie’s voice as she related this experience. What he said made perfect sense. It was soothing to her. It was “the way.” It was beautiful.
We had spent well over an hour talking, and it was late. I wanted to take a chance and see if she was moving towards Bahá’u’lláh or taking a step back. I wondered if she was sorting out all these religions. So the question that came out was, “Carrie, do you think the Bahá’í Faith is the organization, the religion that the world needs to unite us all?” She paused. “Yes, I do.” That gave me the confidence to ask her about how she had requested to be registered as a Bahá’í three months earlier, but then later told me she was still Jewish.
Her reply seemed random, but was profound. “My son received his Bahá’í ID card so quickly.” I asked, “Are you wondering why you have not received one after all this time?” She chuckled. I took a deep breath and said, “Well, when he registered, and I called him back, it was clear that he had read about the Faith, believed in it and wanted to be registered. When I called you, we talked for a bit, you shared your belief in Bahá’u’lláh, but then said you were Jewish. I’m not a pushy person, so I decided to just continue to talk with you. I’ll do what you want me to, if you want to register or not.” There was a pause. Then she said, “I want you to register me. I am a Bahá’í.”
Overjoyed, I shared that I wanted to sing a prayer that Bahá’u’lláh revealed while in prison, “God is sufficient unto Me.” She hummed along in a few places! It turns out that when she was at the House of Worship this summer, this was playing in the book store.
With Carrie, the spiritual signs and connections just never end. Thank you, Concourse on High!

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