In the little Baha’i book called The Hidden Words, there is a passage that I often recite on my afternoon walks. It attracts me endlessly because it highlights a spiritual paradox. The words nudge me out of my limited sense of self. Yet they also pull me into a deeper reality that is more “me”, more intimate, than anything I’ve known. I believe these words offer a glimpse into the soul’s true potential, as endowed by our creator:
O Son of Man! If thou lovest Me, turn away from thyself; and if thou seekest My pleasure, regard not thine own; that thou mayest die in Me and I may eternally live in thee. (The Hidden Words, No. 7)
This verse opens me to all the possibilities beyond my own cares and desires. And I feel a profound peace, a spiritual expansion. Yet it is also a challenging experience, because there is a part of me that wants to hold on to what I know, that resists letting go and following God wherever he wants to take me.
This is true for many of us, I believe, especially in a world where we are taught to relentlessly pursue a narrow, materialistic version of personal happiness and success that disregards our spiritual nature and growth.
The goal of The Hidden Words is to bring us back to the profound spiritual truths of our inner nature, truths that many of us have forgotten. The book was written by Baha’u’llah, the Prophet and Founder of the Baha’i Faith, and is a distillation of the spiritual teachings common to all the world’s great religions.
One of these spiritual truths is the concept of turning our inner life over to our creator, letting him remake us in his spiritual image, as in the Christian New Testament verse, Ephesians 3:17:
That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
“The fullness of God” calls our spirits back home. We feel the joy of being saturated with love and goodness, leaving no space for our lower human qualities, such as fear or selfishness.
It sounds simple — to let God in and to be released from all the small, limiting parts of ourselves that we would rather be without anyway.
But what about releasing our pleasures? The Hidden Words state that if we desire God’s pleasure, that we should “regard not” our own. This is much more difficult, because we naturally seek pleasure and avoid pain. So how do we take this step in our spiritual development?
I believe it comes down to a matter of knowledge and trust. Can we trust that the pleasures of God are greater than the pleasures of man? Can we become like a caterpillar and give up our limited experience to become a glorious butterfly? I believe the answer is yes, and that God helps us with this transformation if we ardently seek him, and gives us the knowledge and courage to become our true selves, the reflection of his divine being.
He assures us that he created us out of infinite love. The Hidden Words say:
I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love me, that I may name they name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life. (The Hidden Words, No. 4)
When we love God and welcome him inside, he calls our spiritual name, revealing us more fully to ourselves. We become more intimate with our unique essence created in love, and our spirit awakens. We more clearly see the reflection of God within ourselves and others, and our greatest desire becomes to grow closer to him and to share our unique gifts in celebration, love, and service.
It is the kind of profound pleasure we all need. The pleasure of God that transcends our superficial desires, and takes us beyond the world that we know to a place of real transformation. It isn’t always an easy journey, but it is the path of our spiritual growth and fulfillment. It begins by inviting God home, into our hearts created by love:
O Son of Being! Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for my descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for My manifestation. (The Hidden Words, No. 59)
O Son of Being! With the hands of power I made thee and with the fingers of strength I created thee; and within thee have I placed the essence of My light. Be thou content with it and seek naught else, for My work is perfect and My command is binding. Question it not, nor have a doubt thereof. (The Hidden Words, No. 12)