“O MY SERVANT!
Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge. Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world.” — The Hidden Words, Part 2, #72
I have always loved The Hidden Words, a collection of brief verses by Bahá’u’lláh that enshrine His teachings and also crystallize the teachings of the religions of the past. The Hidden Words have long served as a source of spiritual guidance for me on the path of life. Hidden Word # 72 from the Persian has played an especially important part in helping me discover my true self.
This powerful Hidden Word begins with the invocation “O MY SERVANT.” When I read this phrase, I am struck by the use of the first-person pronoun “my,” which makes me feel as if I am entering into a direct conversation with God. Bahá’u’lláh is speaking in the voice of God and calling me His servant. I often reflect on His use of the word “servant,” with its implications of one who is a devoted and submissive follower. This phrase reminds me that it is my duty in this world is to do as Bahá’u’lláh commands, which is to love and serve humanity.
In the first sentence of this Hidden Word, Bahá’u’lláh asserts the following: “Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge.” Here, Bahá’u’lláh uses an intriguing metaphor. A person, He tells us, is like a finely made sword which remains hidden inside its sheath, its value not visible to others. The question has often come to my mind: why does Bahá’u’lláh use the sword metaphor and what does it mean? A sword is a symbol of power, and here the power being referred to is that which each person can use to transform him or herself and change the world. We all possess the power to be of service to the world of humanity and to effect change, but sometimes we hide our powers in the same way that the power of a sword is hidden when it lies inside its sheath.
What is the sheath that obscures our powers? Bahá’u’lláh elaborates the metaphor: “Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world.” The sheath, then, is a metaphor for self and desire; in other words, it signifies attachment to the material world. What Bahá’u’lláh is telling us in this Hidden Word is that our value is much greater than that which we, pursuing the desires of our material selves, could ever imagine. The true value of a person, as Bahá’u’lláh makes clear, resides in his or her soul. To show that value to the world, we must free ourselves from material attachments and pursue the development of our spiritual selves.
When I read Hidden Word #72, I always feel empowered. I am in awe of all of the powers and abilities with which God has endowed each one of us. And I am reminded that in this transient world, we must be wary of self and desire, for such yearnings can become a “sheaf” or cover that conceals our true value as well as our abilities. To come forth from this sheaf, we must cleanse our hearts from all earthly attachments. And once we do, we will emerge “resplendent and manifest” for all the world to see.