Reflections on Khidr

As I pondered the story of Khidr again (search for “Khidr” here if some background is needed), a new thought came to me:

The actions of Khidr are used to demonstrate the full reach of God’s wisdom whenever He undertakes an action. However, the Prophets of God – who represent His Vicegerents on Earth – never act in a manner similar to Khidr. That is, Khidr does as He does because God’s wisdom is deeper than we can fathom; yet the doings of the Prophets of God fall mostly within the limits of man’s comprehension: They by-and-large refrain from acts which would seem unjust to our eyes.

Why does Khidr appear to act as a free agent – his actions framed only within God’s understanding – while the Prophets follow a pattern of action mostly in conformance with our own understanding?

My first thought was that we wouldn’t listen if They did otherwise: if They acted beyond our grasp. But then again, we don’t really listen anyway. And moreover, we’re repeatedly warned against judging Them according to our own moral standards, because such judgments can only confirm as truth the same truths they were founded on to begin with. Such a cycle simply does not allow for the entirely new.

It’s quite a puzzle, actually. We develop a model of life based on the hodgepodge we were brought up with, knowing full well it’s riddled with holes by the time we’re teenagers. We patch it up with our own experience, we mend it and sew the tears, trying to reach an acceptable compromise with our fellow beings by the time we’re adults.

Then a Messenger comes with something completely new – however much the core principles might remain the same. It’s too dangerous just to replace everything we’ve worked on, because who knows what the end result will be? So we cautiously compare note by note, to see if the effects of the new teachings will be profitable or damaging. But here lies the problem: our understanding of what is profitable or damaging is a key concept of our own morals! We’ll only let through what we can recognize as good – even though “recognition” requires that what we’re looking at not be new at all. The end result is that nothing really new can enter our lives until we accept a bit of madness and try it, damn the consequences.

Yet not every “Messenger” is what they claim to be. Arbitrarily substituting moral codes, without fully knowing the merits of the author, can be worse than never accepting anything new in the first place. It’s quite a risk, causing many to avoid the problem and go neither route: just stick with what mostly works – even if that something is barely suitable for the ever-changing times we live in.

Were Khidr to cross our paths at some point, He would forcibly insert the good, acting in ways to defy every code we know that God’s Will might work toward some unseen benefit. We would have to reject Khidr, constantly, in direct proportion to our faith in our private credo. Only a faithless man would laugh no matter the outcome.

The Messengers, however, cross our paths but do not forcibly insert Their Teachings. They craft them into a pill we can actually swallow – if we put a will behind it. But do we? And how do we ferret it out from what everyone else would love to shove down our throats? Having the freedom to override moral codes would be the fantasy of any despot.

So maybe the Messengers act within our bounds, not because the Will of God is constrained by us, but in order to make it possible. Perhaps the truths we receive are in direct proportion to our willingness to be offended by the pursuit of them. We may all be standing at the Ocean of Life, but each has his own straw.

O Son of Beauty! By My spirit and by My favor! By My mercy and by My beauty! All that I have revealed unto thee with the tongue of power, and have written for thee with the pen of might, hath been in accordance with thy capacity and understanding, not with My state and the melody of My voice. – Bahá’u’lláh