Facilitating Grace

A story about the power of receiving 


I see the silhouette of a woman against a setting sun. She’s of child bearing age — her back’s already crooked as the scythe she slashes at patches of the earth from dawn to dusk. For her time passes in a different dimension. Distant shepherds saunter beyond the beads of sweat that line her forehead; they race to fulfill a promise before they’re vaporized among the blazing rays of a desert sun. Some of them are perhaps a mirage of desert sand. Others I perceive to be ghosts bearing a secret message.

One such man I came to encounter. At once I felt a rooster crow above the buzz of flies, felt hot tea sear my lips, felt the scream of a goat sacrificed, felt the warmth of hospitable smiles, felt grains of sand pelt my face. The shepherd grabs my hand and pulls me into a corner. He is removing dust from a dark corner in the labyrinth of my soul. His skin is rough as bark from the oldest tree in a forest. Mind tells me I am afraid — instinct tells me I am courageous. He pulls money from a pouch and for the first time I recognize his eyes are locked in gaze with my own. I’ve lost control to look away. My vision is transfixed upon a courageous masterpiece; a man mightier that any I’ve yet to cross and not mightier by mass, but of sheer authority, of unwavering action and a fiery eye.

He speaks in Farsi. The wind amplifies, recedes according to the wrinkled emotions on his face. He shoves an offering into my hands. “The heart will rest and feel relief if it is settled with Allah”.

The earth is calm when he speaks. A hawk watches from the distance. I am instructed to deliver the shepherd’s tithe to the next mosque I see. He fulfills the zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam when I complete his wish. I feel a sincere duty to complete the shepherd’s request even though I’m certain I will never see him again, even though my life is not guided by the Holy Quran.

Belief systems are unreal only when the faith in them is blind. The shepherd contains a faith so genuine that through him a devotion shines forth and enlightens a corridor of my own unrealized potential. This is what happens when you look into the eyes of another and see their soul. I deposit the zakat at several mosques along the Silk Road. Each time I feel the shepherd, each time I see the fire in his eyes burn a little brighter and my own brighten as well, for I have become the shepherd.

We are all but the source of one light, part of a bigger system, always transforming. We can reason, we can feel and we can dream in our way of life. Intention dominates our will. We can manipulate the decisions we make and therefore behold the power to alter the natural rhythms of the universe — and perhaps this is the very root of good and evil. No one says a lion is evil when he eats an antelope. We say, “That’s the circle of life.” We chalk it up to the wild world we live in.

This is why I’ve learned to trust my instincts and listen to my heart; because my mind, up here, is composed of a limited perspective. It’s a construction of linear time, spatial orientation, objective facts assumed to be ultimate truth, and has the power to obscure the great game of chess the universe is playing. Our passions, our innate sense to create a unique moral compass, our vitality when we are in touch with the untamable center of our spirits are the essence of our universal being and we are drawn to these things instinctually.

We are not at peace when we sacrifice the true self to a false reality. When we cast off our chains we are receptive to the flow of light from the shepherd and can pass it on, helping those that seek find their oasis before oblivion extracts their substance. The will is a precious thing once we understand that each act is immortal. The shepherd gave me something graceful to pass on and in receiving I gave him something too. We have the power to improve not only our own lives, but the lives of those who walk among us.

The light you shine is useless if you don’t let others shine their own on you.


5 thoughts on “Facilitating Grace

    1. That’s one way to say it! I’ve often found that many people rise to the top at the expense of others and what I was thinking while writing this was my own true measure of success — helping others seek fulfillment in accordance with the dreams I chase.

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