It strikes me that the private destiny of each individual is something other than achieving the perfections he imagines for himself.
My first clue to this has been the fact that I’ve yet to meet a single person – of any age or level of achievement – who believes they deserve Heaven on their own merit. That is, if such were the measure of spiritual success, I have found none who would grant themselves that reward.
How can it be fair that we remain perpetually undeserving? One of the most widespread issues I encounter is people believing they are not good enough, that they do not deserve happiness in life. This mentality presents a very specific picture: That things begin in a crude state, and since this crude state must be overcome to enter a perfected state, only those efforts which bend the crude toward the perfected are acceptable. Anything else is “sin”, an opportunity for advancement missed, a betrayal of promise.
However, something in our nature rebels against this philosophy. We know that a joyful condition is better than sorrow; we see how an hour spent in joy can yield ten times its output in work. Even adults at a regular job requires breaks and diversions, lest the mind become dull.
If I put this aside for a moment: perhaps Heaven desires something other than completeness; an aspect of what we’re given – rather than what we acquire – as our key to that Place.
This became clearer for me recently because of a very strong dream. It made such an impression on me, during the dream itself, that for several dreams afterward I found myself telling different characters about what I had heard, repeating it to myself so I would remember it after I awoke.
I was in a terribly dangerous swamp. There were traps everywhere, and all kinds of fatal mistakes to be made. There were dinosaurs, and huge crocodiles, and deadly plants.
Somehow, in the middle of it all sitting on a log, was God, in the form of the actor Alan Rickman (I’d just seen the wonderful movie, “Something the Lord Made”, whose title itself is a commentary on what I learned). Anyway, when I walked up to God, He said that there was only one way to escape from my predicament and enter a better place. I asked, “What’s that?” He said, “You must bring Me something I do not already have.”
I thought about His request for a while and came up with several ideas: love, happiness, independence, virtue, etc. But I could tell that none of these were close to the mark. Then it hit me – I could tell by the feeling which came over me that I had found the right answer. It was: my limitations. My limited nature was the one thing God did not possess for Himself; and to offer this to Him was the reason I’d been created. Alan just smiled, and the dream moved on to another.
After I woke up, the realization didn’t seem quite as intense or special, but it left me with a gnawing sense there was something behind it. That is, it’s not so much the perfections I develop in this life which matter – such as becoming knowledgable, skilled, or accomplished – but the depth of my appreciation for my limits. To the extent that I discover within them a special beauty. It’s like that saying where the greatest strength is knowledge of one’s weaknesses.
This put me in mind of a prayer by Bahá’u’lláh, where He writes:
… Thou hast ordained that the utmost limit to which they who lift their hearts to Thee can rise is the confession of their powerlessness to enter the realms of Thy holy and transcendent unity, and that the highest station which they who aspire to know Thee can reach is the acknowledgment of their impotence to attain the retreats of Thy sublime knowledge…