Love and Atonement: A Second Dialogue between the Student and Mentor

A painting by Victor Eeckhout (1821-1879)

“My dear Master Irfan, I thank ye for the wisdom you had bestowed upon my troubled soul a few days past. Yet, I return with more trouble…”

“Ah, my student Talib! Time is riddled with endless inquiries and trials in all aspects of life. It fills my heart when a student continues to question and seek wisdom. Mark it well that thou may not find the answers you seek.”

The student sat a few feet in front of his teacher. His eyes were red, and his entire body shows the misery that he carried.

“Master Irfan… I… I had committed a most terrible sin… I feel naught but guilt. I know our God has forgiven me. Yet, I can’t seem to forgive myself. Under the sun I try to press on with my work, yet my mind brews upon thy wicked act. Under the moon, I lie restless in a pool of tears with no hope of sleep; for the mind is as unstable like a ship caught in a storm.”

“I understand, Talib. May I ask what hast thou done to be blamed for?”

Talib sat in silence for several minutes with his gaze switching from the ground of stone, to the surrounding garden, and the clouds above. The teacher, Irfan awaited patiently with his eyes fixed on his student, until Talib finally meet him with his. This, he confessed:

“I cannot say exactly, Master… It was not an action that I had carried out physically, but highly considered within my heart. It was all a test from the other party, and now I’ve been shunned out from them. The relationships I held with this family has been severed. Excommunicated has been a word that I’ve used to describe it, all though I do not partake of the sacraments with them. Regardless, that’s how much it hurts! Above all, what haunts me greatly is that I saw a dark truth of myself. A sort of evil that I never want to see again. It hurts more than a blade which was thrust into my side during the war. It seems worse to me than any other sacrilege that I had made. There have been times where a part of me just wants to cease from existence. To die in an unmarked grave. To be cast out into the void; with my memory being wiped from all those who knew me. I… I am exhausted, Master Irfan. My intention here is not to gain pity, nor the grace to loath in self-pity. Yet, how can I continue to live when thine heart is too weak to even see what evil I should avoid when it’s before my eyes? How can I be forgiven of this, let alone forgive myself? Why am I so naive with kindness, that I’m even willing to bend low to the lake of sin to obtain such recognition? Forgive me, teacher. For I am in palms of chaos.”

Tears began to slowly fall from Talib’s eyes while he turned his whole face toward the earth, as if he felt unworthy to face his master. Irfan knows the pain all too well. He was brought back to a point in his life as he watched his most astute and humble student slouched in front of him resembling pieces of broken pottery.

“Beloved student, what thou are facing is without a doubt a most tiring battle. Remember the teachings of the great Apostle, “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God”. You sought knowledge and how to execute proper wisdom under my wing, though I know so little, and I continue in improper decisions everyday. Know that he who increase in knowledge, increase in sorrow also. Above all, the Law of God does not justify us, nor make us greater than a beggar, rather it reveals to us the sin we all inherit. As Paul also said unto the congregation of Rome, “For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” That by recognition of our treacherous hearts, we come to know the Lord, and lean on Him for all our hardships. It is vain to keep the law by way of external practice, without keeping it in one’s heart. By this we then know that any good that comes from us, comes from the Father alone. And to face our spiritual enemies, is only to be managed and won by Him alone as well. We have no strength or fortitude to face ourselves and our enemies. Which is why one needs to seek God in order to surpass the self, and if we do not seek to surpass ourselves then one can not seek the knowledge from Divine Creator.

Further more, you know that the Holy One has forgiven thee. Therefore, forgive yourself also, for the Almighty is merciful. For to be able to forgive others, you must forgive thyself. After, you must continue to keep the Law within thy heart, as well as external practices. Ask the punishing questions, seek the Knowledge of heaven and earth, give thanks to Lord, pray without ceasing, do not give into selfish desires, learn to love your neighbor and your enemy. Do not neglect to love thyself, for it is the love of God to which this is possible, and to recognize this, you must also deny thyself. With such grace, one can continue to battle in order to mortify sin. Finally, if this family does not forgive thee, then let it be so. Do not concern yourself with them. For we shall all stand before the Righteous Judge and answer for all our iniquities. If one can not show mercy unto fellow man, how can one expect mercy from God? You must continue to work on thyself. Better yourself, and love those who love thee, for they, by grace, have received the salvation and love from the Savior. And to those who despise you because of your wrong doing, still act in love upon them. For by this recognition, do not think thyself to be more enlightened or righteous then they. For they have their own strengths and weakness, and if the love of God runs through them, it does not necessarily mean they will approach thee and forgive thee. However, they may come to establish peace and forgive at least within their hearts. In the end, keep your eyes upon the Lord, and seek the sanctification of your own soul.”

Talib’s tears turned from sorrow to joy, for the smile of peace and understanding made it’s transformation from his previous state. This too also brought a smile to Irfan. The mentor and the student sat together until nightfall; drinking tea, enjoying the pleasure of a hookah, and discussing various topics to ease the student’s heart. Until the student thanked the teacher for having him, and returned home. For he must finally sleep a peaceful night, so that he can function properly for Master Irfan’s class the following morning.

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