eNewsletter Feature Story – September 30, 2021

This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Julie Ruchniewicz,
FPCE Parish Nurse.

Dear friends,

I recently attended a wonderful presentation called “Herd Immunity and the Beloved Community.” Speakers from a variety of beliefs shared how they communicate about science, faith, and infectious disease control.

One of the members of the panel, Dr. Uzma Syed, DO, FIDSA, a board-certified infectious disease specialist, is Muslim. She spoke of the many who are waiting for God, Allah, or another higher being to save them from COVID-19. She shared the saying;

“Tie your camel and pray.”

This is an ancient Arab phrase attributed to the prophet Muhammed. It is said that one day he saw a nomad leaving his camel untethered and questioned him as to why he was doing this. The man replied that he was placing his trust in Allah and had no need to tie the camel up. He believed that Allah would look after his camel and all would be as he had left it when he returned. Muhammed replied, “Tie your camel and place your trust in Allah.”

Dr. Syed went on to say that we need to pray but we also need to do the necessary work of taking responsibility for ourselves.

Before Muhammad, Hippocrates said something similar: “Prayer indeed is good, but while calling on the gods, a man should himself lend a hand.” And the same thought is also reaffirmed in a traditional Indian proverb: “Call on God, but row away from the rocks.”

The moral of the story is faith is amazing, but it is your divine right and obligation to take care of yourself and do the work at hand.

“Tie your camel and pray.”

I suspect many of us have heard the saying “God helps those who help themselves.” Despite what some may think, this is not found anywhere in the Bible.

The image of tying the camel to its place is so powerful for me; I know it will stay in my mind as something to reflect upon time and time again. Why? As a doer, I can appreciate the part about executing the work, moving things forward and doing my best, but also how hard it is to then leave it in God’s hands. It is puzzling to me how God’s will and our will are forced to coexist. I take care of my health, protect my possessions, and plan for the future. I trust in God, but I also address the tasks that make up my everyday life. “Tie your camel, but trust in God.” While Muhammad’s saying was addressed to those who believe in God, with an emphasis on “tying your camel,” many of us don’t come from God-trusting communities. Many of us have been raised in a society that puts all responsibility on the individual, which can often lead to immense fear and anxiety.

“Tie your camel and pray.”

There is such emphasis on the individual, in our society. “I have rights,” and “I can do what I want” are phrases trumpeted everywhere right now. How frightened and anxious I would be all the time if I could only just tie up my camel. Will I get sick? Will I have enough money to retire? Will someone I love be harmed in an accident? What if there was no …and pray? The combination of both is what helps me to feel very empowered and at peace. I am forced to look at what I have control over and act (if need be); then I have to sit back and trust that God is in the process. Prayer is what allows me to balance that conflict between feeling powerless and feeling all powerful. The reality is I am neither one.

“Tie your camel and pray.”

I appreciate that we have all been facing and continue to face very difficult times. Even before COVID, life was like that, right? We can find difficulties in relationships with family or friends, in career planning, through financial hardships, experiencing grief of all kinds, and threats to our own health (pandemic or no pandemic).

First, we do our small part: eating well, exercising, saving money. But then we should try to surrender our need for control. Of course, there is anxiety associated with both the taking action and in the tolerating the unknown. We need to be gentle with ourselves, we all have metaphorical camels we need to tie up. I invite you to keep this phrase, in the back of your mind, no matter what you are facing.

“Tie your camel AND… then pray.”

Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. for our service of worship and communion. We meet in person in our Sanctuary but you can also attend online through our website.

Blessings to all of you,

Julie Ruchniewicz, RN
FPCE Parish Nurse

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