Monday, March 16, 2015
The 19 day Fast
11 Núr 127 - June 15, 1970.
I became a Baha’i on the eleventh day of Núr in the year 127. That gave me some time before my first fast during the month of ‘Alá’ that year. How I anticipated that event and wondered how I would do. I would often go for long periods without food, but even a glass of water was not allowed during the fast. Worst of all, I would have to wake up and have breakfast before dawn each day. Not being an early riser, this would likely be the greatest challenge. But I met the challenge and proved to myself that I could do it.
Over the years I gained the knowledge that fasting was relatively easy for me. At first it was meeting the challenge that drove me to do it, but that soon ceased to be a reason. I learned that I could do it. Now I needed to learn why I should do it. I was relatively isolated from other Bahá’ís and no one would know if I took a sip of water. But I wasn’t doing it for other Baha’is. I learned that there were some health benefits to fasting, but I wasn’t doing it for my health. I learned that it was a part of the Baha’i Teachings and Baha’is all over the world were fasting, but I wasn’t doing it just because everyone else did. So Why was I fasting? It came down to the fact that God commanded those who love Him to fast so it was only my love for the Almighty God that urged me to deprive myself of food and drink for 12 hours each day.
But then there was all the other commandments of God. Pray every day. Read the writings day and night. Teach, teach, teach. Was I doing all those things? If I wasn’t, what good would it do to fast? If I didn’t take time to pray as I should, then fasting was all for nothing. Would my solution be do give up fasting or would I make a greater effort to find time to pray?
Fasting is part of a spiritual life style, and in a material world it is difficult to find reasons to do it. To fast faithfully and for the right reason, we must strive to become spiritual beings. Fasting may weaken the body, but it strengthens the spirit. When the spirit deprives the body of food for a period each day it becomes a victor over self and desire. We turn our thoughts away from the material and towards the spiritual.
As I am now approaching the end of my 45th fast I am wondering what I have learned from it. Do I now pray enough? Am I studying the writings every day? Am I teaching and leading one new soul to the Truth each year? It is beginning to look like I need another 45 years to make improvements.
These things are very difficult to do in isolation. I keep hoping I’ll find another soul that would be supportive of my efforts that we may form a team to teach God’s word. Someone who would go through all the Ruhi books with me and team up with me to do all the practices. Someone who needs my help as much as I need theirs. Someone who can help me be a Baha’i.
'Abdu'l-Bahá says that “it is impossible for the loved ones of God to receive assistance unless they teach.” I desperately need assistance so I desperately need to teach.
209. O ye servants of the Blessed Beauty!... It is clear that in this day, confirmations from the unseen world are encompassing all those who deliver the divine Message. Should the work of teaching lapse, these confirmations would be entirely cut off, since it is impossible for the loved ones of God to receive assistance unless they teach.
Under all conditions, the teaching must be carried forward, but with wisdom. If the work cannot proceed openly, then let them teach in private, and thus engender spirituality and fellowship among the children of men. If, for example, each and every one of the believers would become a true friend to one of the unheeding, and, conducting himself with absolute rectitude, associate with this soul, treat him with the utmost kindness, himself exemplify the divine instructions he hath received, the good qualities and behaviour patterns, and at all times act in accord with the admonitions of God -- it is certain that little by little he will succeed in awakening that previously heedless individual, and in changing his ignorance to knowledge of the truth.
Souls are inclined toward estrangement. Steps should first be taken to do away with this estrangement, for only then will the Word take effect. If a believer showeth kindness to one of the neglectful, and, with great love, gradually leadeth him to an understanding of the validity of the Holy Cause, so that he may come to know the fundamentals of God's Faith and the implications thereof -- such a one will certainly be transformed, excepting only those seldom-encountered individuals who are even as ashes, whose hearts are 'hard as rocks, or harder still.'
[1 Qur'án 2:69 ]
If every one of the friends should strive in this way to guide one soul aright, the number of believers will double every year; and this can be accomplished with prudence and wisdom, and no harm whatever would result therefrom.
Furthermore, the teachers must travel about, and if spreading the Message openly should cause a disturbance, then instead, let them stimulate and train the believers, inspire them, delight them, rejoice their hearts, revive and refresh them with the sweet savours of holiness.
('Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 264 - 266)