This morning I was peeling a batch of Brussels sprouts, then putting them in a slow cooker for soup. Each sprout was covered with dirt — and probably mildew and insect droppings. But no matter how grungy each sprout was, after I had peeled away enough outer leaves, a beautiful, clean and edible miniature cabbage emerged, which I then plopped in the slow cooker.
Sikh writings tell us over and over that God’s own self pervades all creation. My spiritual teacher, Yogi Bhajan, used to say, “If you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all.” God in all creation; God in the best; God in the worst; God in the grungy Brussels sprouts.
As the perfectly beautiful and edible Brussels sprouts emerged from the dirt and gunk covering them, I remembered a time I had the privilege of seeing the divine emerge from a particularly grungy man. It happened this way: My husband and I once had to get rid of a bunch of books from his grandmother’s estate. She had lived just outside Tigard, so we took the unwanted books to a large bookstore in downtown Portland. We dropped the books off and headed back to the car, with me hustling to keep up with my husband, an ex-track star who can walk faster than some people can run.
As I was struggling to keep up, I spotted a couple of homeless men on the sidewalk, covered in filthy blankets. I didn’t want to gawk at their misery so I kept my eyes resolutely turned straight. But as I passed, one of the men began to yell. Clearly, he was upset that I wasn’t looking at him. So I turned, gave him my best smile and projected out the thought, “I see God in you, too!”
First the man’s face reflected a horrified comprehension, then he bowed his head and said in a normal human voice, not a screaming crazy one, “May God forgive me! May you never be where I am now!”
Scratch the surface and God was there, the second word out of the man’s mouth.
God is always there. The one person I don’t like may be the one person forcing me to be a better me, the one person pushing me out of the situation I need to leave in order to fulfill my destiny elsewhere. The pain I undergo may be just the ticket for me to travel the path of compassion. The painful circumstance may open the door to divine opportunity. It’s true for me. I think it’s true for everyone who chooses to see it.
OK, it’s true that I was forcibly turning those Brussels sprouts into what I wanted them to be. I don’t advocate that we should do that with people. True decency with our fellow humans is to accept them as they are — dirty blankets, dirty words and all. But beneath the surface, the goodness of God always shines out.
Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa is a member of the Sikh community in Eugene, and is an author and founder of the Oneness Coalition, an interfaith organization in Salem. This column is coordinated by Lane Interfaith Alliance to offer inspiration, share personal spiritual experiences and bring a deeper understanding of individual faith perspectives. For information, visit www.laneinterfaithalliance.org or call 344-5693.