O SON OF EARTH! Wouldst thou have Me, seek none other than Me; and wouldst thou gaze upon My beauty, close thine eyes to the world and all that is therein; for My will and the will of another than Me, even as fire and water, cannot dwell together in one heart. The Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah, pg 33, 1985 reprint.
Within the culture of the United States, being “strong-willed” or having a lot of “willpower” are admirable qualities deeply embedded in our psyches. When someone needs to lose weight, stop smoking or drinking, the advice given to the sufferer is to “use your willpower”, or “it’s mind over matter”. If the person fails to improve his or her life, it is because he or she “lacks the will to win”, or they are “weak-minded”. If a person is “down on his luck” by chronic unemployment or other circumstances, he is told to “marshal his will” or “pull himself up by his bootstraps”. However, the inference in the quoted Hidden Word does not refer to the use of one’s will in these ways. It asks the reader to forget these human resources (“close thine eyes to the world and all that is therein”) and depend upon the Almighty, whereupon His Will for a person becomes the source of guidance in life.
This is a very difficult task for the people of a will-obsessed culture. The challenge is, how does one depend upon a nebulous something that cannot be detected by sight, sound, touch or hearing?
There is no right or wrong answer for anyone seeking a closer relationship with God. One of the tenets of the Baha’i Faith is “independent investigation of the truth”, whereupon the seeker must find his or her own path to the Beloved. There is also no clergy to direct the seeker with this mission, as there has been with previous Dispensations.
However, there is one book that could offer a clue as to how to begin letting go of one’s will and surrender (also a word that has very negative connotations to most Americans) to the Will of God. It is called the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is used to help alcoholics (and many other people addicted to substances and behaviors) free themselves from not only self-injurious behaviors, but also achieve humility, serenity and acceptance of life, virtues that are acquired after surrendering the human will to the Most Healing. The wisdom shown in the words of one hundred very hopeless and desperate drunks could provide a starting point and a simple process for anyone seeking to replace their own defiant and self-centered will with God’s very patient and ultimately more satisfying Will as guidance through life. It is definitely not the only way to surrender one’s will to the Creator, as there are many.
The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way…
…Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt…
…So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the *alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we *alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help…
…This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom. Alcoholics Anonymous, pgs. 61-62, fourth ed.
O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.
O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord. —‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Bahá’í Prayers: A Selection of Prayers Revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, the Báb, and ‘Abdu’l-Baha, US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1991 edition