By Roshan Shah, New Age Islam
01 May 2018
Now in his early 80s, Cheyn often spent time reviewing his long and eventful life. His mind would travel to his college days, when, as an energetic social activist, he thought that he and his friends could transform the world—yes, nothing less than the whole wide world, if you please! He believed that the world was full of problems, which he and his comrades would, through protests and denunciations, completely change, thereby ushering in the Utopia—a veritable Heaven on Earth—that he had read about in books. Sometimes—but this was rare (because his colleagues thought belief in God was silly)—he would think of God and would pray thus: ‘Lord, this world is full of evil people. Please change them.”
But no matter how much Cheyn protested against this and that and prayed to God to mend the world, he didn’t think that the world and its denizens were becoming any better. In fact, he believed that things were only going from bad to worse. And that, in turn, made Cheyn into a very unhappy and cynical person. This was hardly surprising, because if you see the world as full of negativity, that’s how you’ll land up becoming yourself. The only thing Cheyn could talk about was what he saw as the misdoings of others and all the many problems that he thought the world was beset with. In his zeal to reform others and change the world, he became completely blind to the ample goodness in people and in the world at large. This made him so bitter that everyone, even those who had once been his close friends, tried to avoid him at any cost.
Now in his old age, Cheyn would also reflect on how his life had taken a completely different turn when he got married and became a father. It amused him to think of how after becoming a ‘family man’ he all of a sudden lost his passion for the plight of the whole world: his sole concern was now narrowed down to just his family.
Life as a married man and a parent was far from easy, Cheyn had soon discovered. He found it very difficult to adjust to his wife’s ways and to the seemingly endless demands of his children and what he saw as their lack of respect for him. Instead of trying to ‘reform’ the whole world, he now set about trying to ‘reform’ his family. “God, please make my wife and children listen to me and do as I say. It’s for their own good, Lord”, he would pray.
But despite his efforts to change his family and his ardent prayers to God for this purpose, Cheyn didn’t feel his family was improving one bit. In fact, he thought they were becoming only more mean, rebellious and self-willed. And that made Cheyn even more bitter. He would snap at his wife and children every time they did or said something that he didn’t like—which was very often. By constantly needling them about their faults (real and imaginary) in the hope of thereby reforming them, he had turned his own home into a battlefield.
Now that he was well advanced in years, Cheyn knew that he had little time left in the world. It pained him to think of how he had so much of his life trying to reform others but with no success. One day, tired of these haunting memories, he turned to God and poured out his heart: “Lord, I’ve wasted my entire life! Trying to change others while never once thinking of changing myself only made me a very bitter person—and it didn’t help make others any better. My desire to change others made people avoid me, and it completely ruined my family.”
“Lord,” Cheyn continued, his face soaked in tears, “From the mistakes I’ve made, I now understand that there was just one person I could have changed: and that was myself. Had I become a better person, and had I prayed to You to help me in this, not only would I have been contented and happy today but I could also have been a channel for making the world a happier place.”
Cheyn wept bitterly at the thought of his wasted life. But then, after he put himself together, a thought came to him: “Cheer up! It’s never too late, dear! It’s never too late as long as you are alive! With God’s grace, you can become a changed person right now if you wish! And I you become a transformed person, radiating love and joy, you can help people you come into contact with become more loving and joyful too. In this way, you can do your bit to make the world a happier place—which is something that you always wanted.”
No sooner had the thought passed through Cheyn’s mind than he fell to his knees and prayed: “Lord, please help make me a better, more loving and kind person. Right now, Lord—before it is too late!”
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