“God wants for you ease…” Qur’an 2:185

Yesterday I stood in front of the open frig for a moment, then the cupboard of sweets, the freezer, the canned goods…I laughed at myself when I saw my old habits returning on my day off from fasting. It was that regular time of day when I returned home from work and my conditioning from W A Y back kicked in (from the years when my sister and I would raid the house for sweets after school each day before Mom got home).

In frustration before my circuit of searching for the perfect morsel I said to myself, This craziness NEVER happens when you’re fasting, LeAnn. Your mind’s habits just go to sleep.

The verse (ayah) in the title above reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This, of course, has nothing to do with promising that life will not be filled with challenges, heartbreaks, nightmares, or difficulties of one kind or another. Suffering is simply the stuff of life. But I believe the point of these words in both the Qur’an and the 2nd Testament (New Testament) in the Bible is to say that however we find our way into following God’s Law (Ways) of Love in our lives, participating in/surrendering to that Law of Love will help us to navigate the hurricanes of life with greater ease. 

I just learned that I am a “muslim” in a technical sense of the word, since the word means “one who surrenders [to God].” Asad Tarsin says in his book, Being Muslim: A Practical Guide, that it more generally means “those who followed the message sent by God throughout history and surrendered to Him. So, in the Islamic view, those who followed Prophets Jesus, Moses, Noah and others, were muslims.

I’m fascinated to learn that Islam (which means “to surrender, to submit”) actually has 3 elements or dimensions that are designed to assist the follower in letting go of one’s ego attachments:

  1. The first is The Five Pillars of Islam. These external requirements of conformity are for the body (stating the testimony of faith–just once, praying at scheduled times each day, giving alms, fasting for Ramadan, making pilgrimmage).
  2. The second dimension is called iman “to believe.” These are the convictions of the mind and heart that followers of the Prophet are taught to affirm (about the nature of God, the angels, the books, God’s messengers, and the Last Day).
  3. Lastly, there is the ihsan, which means “to make beautiful or good.” It refers to the spiritual state or God-consciousness of a person. Christians might refer to this as following the directive by Paul to “pray without ceasing” from 1 Thessalonians as a part of “working out our own salvation” (Philippians 2). This last dimension is spoken of by author Tarsin this way: “So, to attain a particular spiritual constitution, that of complete awareness of and reverence for God, is an indispensable component of the religion, the one that gives it purpose.”

I’m thinking back to my first days in seminary when I learned that there are also different elements or dimensions to the Christian faith, which also move from the more external to internal processes. I don’t know Latin, but I love pronouncing these 4 words!

Noticia: to know the facts of the Christian faith

Assensus: to give intellectual assent to the Christian faith

Fiducia: to place one’s trust in God’s sustaining Life and Love, not just trusting a set of statements to be true ABOUT God

Fidelitas: to commit one’s deepest self in loyalty to the Life and Love of God’s Ways in the world

For me, religion is at its best when it is about giving us tools for pulling our minds, hearts, wills, and bodies into a place of connection and trust in the divine to find the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). For when we can allow ourselves to be carried by God we don’t so easily get whiplash from the hurricanes of life—or even just indecision about what to eat from an overstocked refrigerator.

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