Fasting is about aligning our will with the Will of God. During this time we are to bring ourselves to account, weigh our actions, develop a deeper and more consecrated spiritual life, and rid ourselves of our selfish and animal natures. You’ve heard the phrase “Many are called, but few are chosen,” but have you ever reflected on how the few are chosen? That is what this session will help us explore.
Our ultimate goal is transformation for the good pleasure of God. We want God to be pleased with what we have done with the precious life given to us and to daily through our prayers, meditation, and deeds, to show our gratitude for “rescuing us from the wretchedness of nothingness.” Through a humble posture of learning, we begin to understand that the ego causes us to challenge, deny, become apathetic and unhappy, or to just blatantly disobey the laws of God.
In the last few reflections, we have defined what the ego is, and have discussed the role of tests in subduing it. In this reflection, we will discuss the means by which the fitness of the soul can be realized. Did you know that everyone is tested? Did you know that the same test will return if you do not pass it? Did you know that the tests will get progressively harder each time?
We must first remember what the purpose of tests are. They are for the purpose of assessing our worthiness, exalting our stations, subduing our egos, and strengthening us; no one is exempt! Because our ego thinks it can survive without God, has tried to become partners with God, or thinks it knows better than God, the Creator sends us tests to humble us and to save our souls. These benevolent tests are to help us to remember that we are soul and to not get so attached to this earthly fleeting vanishing existence.
“Tests are a means by which a soul is measured as to its fitness and proven out by its own acts. God knows its fitness beforehand, and also its unpreparedness, but man, with an ego, would not believe himself unfit unless proof were given him. Consequently, his susceptibility to evil is proven to him when he falls into the tests, and the tests are continued until the soul realizes its own unfitness, then remorse and regret tend to root out the weakness.”(2)
Have you ever thought that remorse and regret were actually good things? That it is this realization of our errors that “roots out our weaknesses?” Because we are imperfect humans, we are as Baha’u’llah explained it, “prone to error,” we are therefore susceptible to making mistakes and errors. Tests help us to recognize the dust on the mirror of our hearts so that we will realize our condition and put energy into polishing our mirrors, and as a consequence become attracted to the light and capable of reflecting its radiance.
As stated in the Holy Quran, “Do men think when they say ‘We believe’ they shall be let alone and not be put to proof? (1) “
We all live by a set of beliefs. We say we believe. But, do our actions conform to our beliefs? When they don’t we experience cognitive dissonance, a discomfort that can cause anxiety or dis-ease until we rectify it. Either we change our beliefs, or we change our behavior so that our beliefs and actions are in sync. This discomfort when viewed from a humble posture of learning can lead to deep reflection where we realize this inconsistency or untruth in ourselves. At that point, those that are humble and sincere experience remorse and regret. This dissonance is resolved when we change our ways.
We know that we will be called to account for our final deeds, but few realize that we get quizzes and midterms along the way as a way of testing us continually. That is why our tests get progressively harder each time we fail. Spiritual tests continue until our spiritual weaknesses become strengths.
“The same test comes again in greater degree, until it is shown that a former weakness has become a strength, and the power to overcome evil has been established.”(3)
Tests provide us continuous feedback of our spiritual fitness, and if we are observant and repentant, we learn, change, and transform. Only those who make spiritual transformation a priority are “chosen.”
“In this day, everyone must be tested, as the time of the “chosen ones” to prove their worth is indeed very short. The day of attainment is drawing to a close for them. The “first fruits” must be ripened in spirit, mellowed in love, and consumed by their self-sacrifice and severance. None other are acceptable as first fruits, and all who fail to attain to the standard through the tests, are relegated to the “many who are called”.
“The more one is severed from the world, from desires, from human affairs, and conditions, the more impervious does one become to the tests of God.” (3)
Maybe, the greater the ego is, the greater the tests? We were created to reflect the light of God and our egos prevent us from receiving our portion of Divine light. Let us thank God for the tests that are sent to us that allow our true light to shine.
“Today, humanity is bowed down with trouble, sorrow and grief, no one escapes; the world is wet with tears; but, thank God, the remedy is at our doors. Let us turn our hearts away from the world of matter and live in the spiritual world! It alone can give us freedom! If we are hemmed in by difficulties we have only to call upon God, and by His great Mercy we shall be helped.” (5)
Walking the spiritual path together
Your study partner, Barbara
1. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 26)
2. (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West – 4)
5. Paris Talks