Thoughts about God's Commandments

I have Nikhil Ravi from the blog The Quest for Certitude to thank for the inspiration for this post. I had read this passage before, but as always, I was "shut out as by a veil" in my spiritual understanding. I'm not claiming that I completely understand Baha'u'llah's Words now. But as I slowly let go of my distractions i.e. addictions (also known as idle fancies and vain imaginings), I can see meaning where there was previously confusion. Or even worse, I had pride-fogged disregard of the words because I felt that they pertained to others, not me. The ego plays such subtle games with the mind.

"O YE peoples of the world! Know assuredly that My commandments are the lamps of My loving providence among My servants, and the keys of My mercy for My creatures. Thus hath it been sent down from the heaven of the Will of your Lord, the Lord of Revelation. Were any man to taste the sweetness of the words which the lips of the All-Merciful have willed to utter, he would, though the treasures of the earth be in his possession, renounce them one and all, that he might vindicate the truth of even one of His commandments, shining above the Dayspring of His bountiful care and loving-kindness.

From My laws the sweet smelling savour of My garment can be smelled, and by their aid the standards of victory will be planted upon the highest peaks. The Tongue of My power hath, from the heaven of My omnipotent glory, addressed to My creation these words: ‘Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty.’ Happy is the lover that hath inhaled the divine fragrance of his Best-Beloved from these words, laden with the perfume of a grace which no tongue can describe. By My life! He who hath drunk the choice wine of fairness from the hands of My bountiful favour, will circle around My commandments that shine above the Dayspring of My creation.

Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power. To this beareth witness that which the Pen of Revelation hath revealed. Meditate upon this, O men of insight!…"

-- Baha'u'llah

As someone who grew up in the Baptist church and taught that God's Laws were to be obeyed or one will burn in the eternal fires of hell, I've come to realize that God does love us in ways that are rather difficult for human beings to fully comprehend and appreciate. What I experienced in my early religious training was that if I obeyed God's Laws, I will be rewarded with a good life. In my "idle fancies and vain imaginings" state, I thought this meant God was like Santa Claus--I would get toys and treats for being good.

This belief extended into adulthood, which compounded my disappointment when things went bad, or more precisely, I perceived them that way. In my opinion, I was "good". Where was my reward? Why did "bad things happen to me" when I was being "so good"?

I put these questions to the various preachers of the churches I attended over the years, and their answers seemed vague, abstract. "We must all suffer through life; our reward is in heaven"; "We don't know God's Will"; "It says in the Book of (insert Old or New Testament book, chapter, verse)...." I never understood what they were talking about. I clung to my ego-driven vision of a Christmas god who handed out presents to good kids like a kindly, yet physically and emotionally remote vending machine. And of course, my view was "correct". After all, "good" begets "good" and "bad" begets "bad". And I ignored the rhetorical arguments about the relative meanings of those words.

What caught my attention in the selection from the Baha'u'llah's Writings was this:

My commandments are the lamps of My loving providence among My servants, and the keys of My mercy for My creatures.

What is a lamp? It is an instrument to provide light so one can see when surrounded by darkness, thereby enabling better vision. To me, these commandments are so much more than "If you follow these rules, you will be rewarded for being good. If you don't follow the rules, you are bad and you will be punished."* Being in this physical world of distracting influences is such an overload of stimulation for me that I get overwhelmed a lot. All of these thoughts, actions and experiences can take me away from the primary focus of my life, which is to know and love God. Everything else is secondary to that purpose. These commandments illumine the Way to that Holy Purpose, through all of the darkening confusion and distractions. The Writings do not say that nothing "bad" will happen to me. Instead, God is promising that the way through the "bad" will be illumined for me. And of course, it is my choice to follow the Light.

And what does a key do? It opens doors. By abiding by the commandments, doors leading to the Ancient Beauty are opened. I had erroneously believed that God shut the doors leading to Him because everything in my life seemed to be so bad. It wasn't, of course, but that was my perception. And that very perception is what closed the doors. By obeying the commandments, I can open the doors to what is possible in both this world and the world to come.

I can't figure any of this out on my own. by the way. What little awareness of meaning that I have is due to studying the Writings, participation in Ruhi study circles, prayer and consistent participation in 12 step groups so that my "idle fancies and vain imaginings" have less effect on me, "one day at a time". What I have learned is there are steps that I need to take as revealed by Baha'u'llah, and those steps are The Commandments of God. When I do this, I can walk through life with faith and assurance that I can survive life's tests. God never burdens anyone beyond capacity. I need to remember that, and have faith that all of life's events are temporary passages which will lead me either closer to God, or away from Him. However, even the difficulties lead me closer to Him, if I would open my eyes fully to the Light and see this.

*Addendum: The idea of "good/bad" and "punishment/reward" is often paralleled with the concept of "perfection", which is, if I, as fallible human being, make the slightest mistake in anything I do in life, I am not "perfect". And I'm supposed to be "perfect" because that word is synonymous "good". I am unworthy of God's love, grace and mercy, therefore any "rewards" if I am not "good", i.e., "perfect". If I am "bad", then I am already shut out of the race for "rewards". So I might as well "enjoy" being "bad" because I've messed up beyond redemption. Such thoughts are the basis of countless addictions/obsessions/vain imaginings and idle fancies.

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