Standing Beneath the Plum Tree | How I Found God

Standing Beneath the Plum Tree | How I Found God February 15, 2019

standing beneath plum tree found God
Photo by dan carlson on Unsplash

As I was deeply moved
As I stood beneath the plum tree
And watched it slowly bloom
And within the stillness of the crescent moon
Within each small white petal
I have blossomed with it

From the very beginning of civilization, man yearned to know why he existed. He had an awareness of the environment that he was born into. In the beginning, man could not rationalize a lot of things around him and his knowledge was very limited.

From the beginning, man searched for the God that created everything. Every living thing and every inanimate object was divine and sacred. Man asked why he was born and what happened after death. Soon he began to develop a conscience, a sense of what was right and wrong, what was good for society and himself. Adam and Eve developed consciousness when they stole the apple from the tree of knowledge. They became aware of their nakedness and sexuality.  They could no longer enjoy the innocence of paradise and were thrown to earth.

God gave man free will after casting Iblees (Satan) down to Hell because of his ego and pride.  All that happens in the world from genocide and the evils in the world is because we did not choose God over our own importance and ego. Some say that God just walked away. But He is very much there; we can see this in the fact that the universe exists with all its complexity and beauty around us, including our own selves.

We walked away from Him. He did not walk away from us. If we live within our true nature, with our true ideals and a life without ego, we can find Him.

Hesitantly as a child taking its first steps
For I have been touched by winter’s darkness
Beneath the Earth
By a crushed heart
The earth felt my tears
Now I feel the Light surging in me
I have become reborn

I wrote this poem, “Standing beneath the Plum Tree.” This poem tells the story of how, for many years, I had been emotionally buried. How I was actually mentally dead to the presence of God. I could not see God. I almost gave up on Him and myself.

When I was very young, though, I knew God. I found Him in the refuge of nature and found the oneness of God through the woods. Because of many situations of my life, I had questioned my own sanity. As a young person, I had never lost my faith in God. I loved God in nature, as well as in the arts. If I had not had faith in God, I would not be here telling my story.

One night and through certain situations, my faith was taken from me as well as my innocence. I was a victim and living a sub-standard life. God was taken from me. I did not realize it at the time. I lost my innocence, and nature was closed off to me, mostly out of fear.

Although I eventually converted to Islam, I had a hard time and struggled with trusting or submitting to anything. I deeply struggled. I realize now that it was because I had been deeply scarred, and I had placed a dark cloud of depression and grief between myself God until He was no longer in reach.

As I stand beneath this plum tree
The blossoms fall like souls
To the Earth to be resurrected again
Petals like snow dusting
The fresh, verdant dew-laced grass
But between the moist ebony branches
Within the predawn sky
I see Venus
The Morning Star
Brilliant, poignant
Piercing my heart
Against a yellow, glowing, brightening sky

I lived a winter of a life, a shadow of a life. On the outside, I seemed to function well. I maintained a marriage and brought up children. I was very involved in the mosque. I traveled all over the world and had close friendships.

On the inside, though, I could not escape the deep scars and violations that made me live in a grave of despair. Everything was colored gray and had no depth. I tried Sufism to get me closer to God and allow me to be an artist. I tried hard not to feel that I was insignificant. I had no meaning to my life and thought that I was the worst hypocrite. I would work hard as an artist and do volunteer work until the point of mental and physical collapse.

I was religious, in that I practiced, but I did not find God. One night, I wanted to end my life. I thought that surely, I had lost God and I was nothing. But I did not want to hurt my family.

I then met a God-oriented therapist who came into my life, who was more like a spiritual teacher. He taught me so much about the Mercy of God. That God was always looking out for me and helped me to survive and make good choices in my life. I was punishing myself more than God was punishing me.

What happened to me was not God’s fault. We all have a responsibility for what we do in this life, but some things are not our fault. We become victims, and there is no one to take it out on or blame but God. One has to learn forgiveness, but forgiveness is God-given and the hardest thing in the world, and the hardest thing is to forgive oneself. Gradually, the clouds started to break apart after 40 years.  I realized I knew nothing about God or who He really was.

Within those hours
I am moving towards the Light
Aware of the clouds lifted above me
The beauty, the suffering
A kaleidoscope of existence
A cycle of long seasons
Crushing the stones within me

I stood beneath my ornamental plum tree, and could see Venus the morning star, and the orange color of the upcoming dawn. There at that moment, I could feel in me the walls breaking, and the light of God seeping through. Everything gray had become luminous. I once again felt the oneness of God.

Beloved, I am moving towards you
Moving towards the Light
Whispers of You calling my name
Within the secret corners of my life

I had found Him. I felt I had reached some type of Enlightenment and it was given through Grace. I had suffered deeply my whole life, and it was a spiritual journey to find God again. He was always there waiting for me. I worked hard for it my whole life. It was a spiritual awakening. I wanted to love everything. The cloud was no longer there; it was replaced by a brilliant sunlight.

Like the petals that fell from the plum trees, gone were the superficialities of my life. For years I had felt very insignificant. I felt the more I produced as an artist or writer, or became a religious person, or the more I engaged in volunteer work, and the more friends that I had—things that took a lot of my time—the more I had meaning.

I was so desperate to be significant in other person’s life. I had a desperate need to prove myself. But that also fell like the petals of the plum trees that fell like snow upon the ground. I knew what awe was. I valued deeply what I had. I knew what gratitude was. God was always there, like a bright sun. I was significant, by the fact that I existed. Gone were the labels of a would-be Sufi, under which I felt like a failure, or a Muslim by another’s definition. My own path would define my faith.

I did not want recognition anymore, or fame. All I wanted to be was myself in the moment. Many things I knew were true for myself, and I understood many things. Beyond the strait jacket in many roles that we play throughout our lives to please others.  I knew it was true what one person said many years ago to me. That the world can be a horrible place, but you have to make your own corner bright.

I saw a real Muslim in my father-in-law, a prominent doctor, so humble, who prayed five times a day, then went out to create clinics for poor people and treated patients who could not pay. Many were touched by him and deeply grieved when he passed away. He mentored many people.

I thought I had to prove myself as a good Muslim. At one point, I was told I could not be an artist. That almost killed me. I had to be a creative person, because that is how God made me. To be a Muslim is not to prove yourself to others, but to live with great compassion and mercy. If we are to reflect God in our character, we have to be Merciful like Him. Nothing mattered anymore; I did not care what others thought of me. All I cared about was my vulnerability and nakedness before God. I strove to have a conscience, to not hurt myself or anyone else, to live in awe, and to be grateful. That is all that matters.

As the sun rises
I feel the warmth of Life on my face
The sweat beading on my forehead
The plum tree’s golden leaves sway and fold
In the soft breeze
The shadows are deep blue
A cosmic dance
I am whirling
I am alive, I am valid
You are Real to me
Yes… I lift my head
And I am blessed

Photo by Stephenie Bushra Khan

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About Stephenie Bushra Khan
Stephenie Bushra Khan is a converted Muslim, a poet, and local artist in Temecula, California. She is originally from Winchendon, Massachusetts. You can read more about the author here.

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