Peace, one and all…
October’s Threshold Society theme for reflection is a beautiful saying of Imam Ali (as), freely paraphrased by Kabir Dede:
‘Only when distress turns to remembrance and blame of others is erased, is pride extracted from our egos, humbleness settles in our hearts, and the door of grace opens’.
Eyvallah! I feel the truth of these beautiful words deep inside my heart. They speak to my own experience and offer a way through the difficult situations I face in my own personal life.
Distress turns us towards God, at first in panic, in a kind of pleading with the Divine to put our life back in its former order, not knowing, of course, that in most cases, we are the author of our own problems. When this doesn’t work, we are eventually invited to reflect on deeper causes: in what ways have I contributed to the distress I am feeling? How can I align myself with the moment to my own betterment? How can I surrender to God’s message hidden within my distress? These deeper questions are themselves a form of remembrance.
When distress touches us, we first turn to religious observance, prayer and zikr in a selfish manner, as if to say: ‘O God! If I say x amount of prayers, read x amount of tesbihat (rosaries), then could You please put my life back together in the way I want it’. Although this is a form of zikr, it remains a very self-centred one. In spite of our selfishness, God’s mercy rushes towards us, pulling us onwards. Thanks be to God for His gracious acceptance of our counterfeit coin, as a beautiful hadith reminds us:
‘And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a cubit, and if he draws near to Me a cubit, I draw near to him a fathom. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed…’ .
If the difficulty remains, we are drawn more deeply into ourselves, to the inward source of our discomfort. Eventually, our selfishness can dissolve and a deeper, purer form of remembrance can open out. Our remembrance becomes a real turning towards God at this point, as the distress we feel begins to lift us away from our unhelpful attachment. A joy exists hidden in the heart of such moments, as the reality behind our distress moves more clearly into view. Blame for others ceases, because we come to realise that this distress is God’s healing justice at work, bringing us back into equilibrium, and that it’s not the action of a hostile outsider. We are not being attacked or punished by God, we are being invited to overcome a stumbling block. This is not to take away from our hardships, but simply to acknowledge that our attitudes towards difficulty can limit our actual response to it.
Pride begins to be extracted from ourselves, because we see our own part in our distress, which leads to a living humility. Humility allows us to accept our distress as a lesson, as an opportunity to learn, all the while understanding that the deepest context is divine mercy, compassion and loving kindness. This is the opening of the door of grace.
And our last prayer is in praise of God, Sustainer of All the Worlds.
Ask olsun! May love increase!