Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Accepting the pace life wants

Sometimes, as one friend has described, we’re simply “riding the donkey”.

Decades ago, this was how one got from one place to the next and in many places, it still is. It could be tedious. It can be tiresome, taxing of heart and testing of patience — even of confidence and faith, when the going is especially slow.

Eventually, inevitably we all face such biding and abiding (ask any pregnant mother). Ideally, we make peace with it, yield to receiving what it brings – what our own ideas and designs often chafe against.

mjackA heroine of mine, Marion Jack, learned a lot about this. When I need inspiration for staying the course, going the distance, perhaps when I most want to quit, I remember what her life demonstrates about accepting this price of some of life’s most valuable outcomes, even though our urge may be to flee, dodge, or fight.

 Marion stayed the course, consciously, willingly in very trying times, and places. One was Nazi-occupied, and filled with treachery. She could have left – she had opportunity. She chose to stay for others’ sake, and for commitments she’d made.

“As I have the capacity of suffering much, so I also enjoy much,” she once observed. She also noted with real pleasure, “It seems wonderful, what one can do without.”

Other words of hers hit close to home: “Each one has his own little work to fill in the great scheme of things. Mine seems to be to work quietly in new fields or in assisting the real [workers]. So I always think it wisest to try and do one’s own work and not think of attempting the line of other people.”

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Photo: David Campbell / GBC Tours

She was well-experienced with riding life’s donkey. I imagine her as thankful for the steps it covered on her behalf, however much the movement may have sometimes seemed backward. Or, at best, like treading in place.

She didn’t forget that, whatever circumstances felt like around her, she was being carried, moved — even led. And no matter what she could or could not see, things were advancing.

Often, the biggest of those was love, just as the real means of their advance was love, too. She knew from experience that the pace that took, even when it resembled a donkey’s, was always exactly right.


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We will all, verily, abide …

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Thirty-five years ago this week, my husband and I, on one of the coldest nights of our lives, faced each other and declared, “We will all, verily, abide by the will of God.”

There were seven other people in the room with us that night, two of them the witnesses required for our Bahá’í marriage to be legal.

Most of the evening is a blur, quite frankly, though I do remember one especially poignant moment when my mother read a prayer, and these words stood out: “Cause them to become the signs of harmony and unity until the end of time.”

These were still echoing in my head when, as we drove toward Canada for our wedding trip, Jon remarked that he had also noticed the spirit of what those words evoked when he felt a whole new significance about the vow we’d each spoken. The essentials of a Bahá’í marriage ceremony can seem so simple that it’s easy to overlook their depths. Iceland and Mexico and Spring 06 Germany 130

“I realized,” he told me, “that when I said, ‘We will all, verily, abide by the will of God’, I was referring not just to the two of us, but something we were committing to with every one there with us, supporting our marriage, and our future children, and every soul that we’ll know. THAT was the commitment we are making. And our marriage itself is WHERE we’re committing to do that.”

And indeed, the spiritual resonance of that vow has been with us ever since, though we had no idea where it would take us. As another Year of the Horse opens, we’re naturally remembering the last one, 12 years ago, which we spent in China. The spirit of our marriage vow was and is a foundation for us as parents, accompanies our every shared decision, our many travels, the bonds we forge with others, even our reconnection with our mutual childhood home of Germany.

EB pix Germany and more 182In this past year, I finally had the opportunity to dedicate two books to this partner, this soul mate, who abides with me at the very center and core of my life and being. What I recognized as I wrote those dedications is that our marriage is a means by which we help each other learn to be encouraged about the potential in our truest selves, and kind about the struggles and confusions of our very human ones. I’m coming to believe that this is the essence of what that vow we said is pointing to.

There are some things we cannot know or understand without the passing of time, and the accumulation of experience, as well as reflection on that experience. What I feel more deeply each day is that the commitment of our marriage, the fortress for well-being that it is designed to be in the advancing – and spiritualizing – of civilization, seems a little-understood jewel. But it is unquestionably an ever-revealing treasure that illuminates my life, and my heart, each and every day.