The Path of Goodness

Near the conclusion of the prayer Saum, we find two lines full of movement :
Use us for the purpose that Thy wisdom chooseth;
guide us on the path of Thine own goodness.

The search for a purpose in life is one that troubles many people, because we cannot be really happy unless we have something that gives meaning to all that we do.  Without this there is a deep frustration of the soul power, and that is one of the great illnesses of our age.  From this prayer we can understand that any purpose we might ‘choose’ for ourselves will only be truly satisfying if it is guided by Divine wisdom.  For one whose faith has become a reality this is obvious, but for the one whose faith is still uncertain it is more problematic.  When faith becomes reality, all the aspects of life are seen to be related and working together, but until that moment, things remain divided or compartmentalised; a person gives a few moments to prayer, perhaps, and then goes off to the affairs of the day, fretting and pondering, trying to make decisions about what they should be doing with themselves.  But if we would listen carefully, the prayer is reminding us that there is a purpose, a Divinely guided purpose, if only we would learn to see it. What is more, we can be put to use for that purpose, if we will allow it to happen.  An image that comes to mind is that of a little child: there are moments when a child resists being picked up by the mother or father, arching the back and twisting and pushing little arms and legs in all directions, and there are moments when the child accepts the embrace, folding softly into the parental arms.  In the same way, we sometimes fight our purpose, and sometimes we relax into it.

In the second line there is also movement, although we may overlook that aspect, focused perhaps on the the attractive concept of  ‘goodness’ that concludes the phrase.  Here, the prayer is telling us something important: that there is a ‘path’ of goodness. ‘Goodness’ is not some package of nice things that is delivered one day to our door, but it is a journey that we take through life–the only journey, in fact.  Goodness is a path to be walked, and if we are attuned to the Spirit of Guidance, that journey will be good.  And not good according to ‘my’ limited agenda, but good according to the One who made us all.

In thinking about the path of goodness and how to follow it, the teachings of Zarathustra come to mind: to be attentive to every thought, word and deed.  The Zoroastrian scripture put it this way:
The first step that the soul of the faithful man made placed him in the Good Thought paradise;
The second step that the soul of the faithful man made placed him in the Good Word paradise;
The third step that the soul of the faithful man made placed him in the Good Deed paradise;
And the fourth step that the soul of the faithful man made placed him in the endless lights.

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