Over 20 years ago, a friend and co-worker at Serenity Lane, Carleen Reilly, introduced me to the writings of Thomas Merton. I’d never heard of him, but in the years since as I’ve incorporated contemplative prayer and the pursuit of social justice into my faith journey, he has become a favorite of mine. The arrogance of my youth has been replaced (I hope) with wisdom, maturity, and gratitude in large part because I have taken to heart the writings and reflections of others who have sought to walk humbly with their God.
The following is an excerpt of Merton’s “Thoughts in Solitude” and a prayer I often turn to in the early morning hours before I “get busy”. These words quietly bring my heart and my head together so they’re on the same team, lest I jump headfirst into old habits that frequently pit me against myself. They allow me to recognize and accept my smallness, my frailties, my shortcomings and my humanity with gratitude and peace.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Life is a road best travelled together.
So before I walk the dog, before I check my cell phone for texts and emails, before I put the key in the ignition, before I interact with the public, and before I map out my “plan of attack” for the day ahead, I breathe in the words of a Trappist monk who also sought Grace for the journey.
And then I begin …