In my next few letters I want to explore with you the Sufi concept of the spirit of Vanity. A spirit that Sufis believe runs through every human being. I hope you’re able to help me work through this. First in how I recognize this in myself, how to see it is both a positive and negative virtue, and finally how I can purify and train this spirit toward a good result.
But first let me tell you that I went through a spell of doubt this weekend. It probably was just frustration in having to deal with my latest health hiccup, and my Razorbacks getting a true butt-kicking. When I played sports, there were moments where no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get my block right, or the ball over the plate, or my free throw to fall, or my putts to sink. I was over thinking everything and trying too hard. I’d have to use the technique of visualizing in my mind the time I got it right. The time I pan caked the defensive tackle, or blazed my fastball down the pipe, or swished a shot from down town, or drilled a twenty footer. That technique enabled me to see when I did it right, when I was in a zone, and reminded my muscles how they worked when that occurred. I had to relax and let my memory take over.
In my life I have those moments where I’m tired of trying to make my life work. There are times when I’m bored, frustrated, feel under-appreciated, alone or afraid. We all have those moments, and I think it’s partly because we have experienced moments in our life when we’ve felt the shattering love of God. Once that has happened, we can never rest easy again for trying somehow to set that love forth not only in words, but in our lives. Just like throwing the blazing fastball over the plate for strike three to end the game, we want to relive that moment over and over again. So we keep trying to find again that experience with God.
And like the golfer who tries different putters trying to get his stroke back, sometimes the solution is found by going back to the putter we learned with in the beginning. God tells us to back off, quit trying so hard, and remember how it was right before the encounter that brought us that shattering love. It still resides in us like a muscle memory, we just have to get everything else out of the way, relax, and let the memory of God take over.
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