As I was flipping through a couple of my old Thomas Merton books the other day, I came across this prayer that he wrote. I remember printing it out a couple years ago and giving it to my students who were about to graduate from high school (it was a parochial school, so no separation of church and state issues there). It seemed especially relevant to their situation in life, but it also seems relevant to just about every situation in my life so far:
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 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 I will 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.
from Thoughts in Solitude
Merton’s prayer is at once the most disturbing and most comforting prayer I have ever read or heard. His insights into the human condition have a searing honesty, the kind I spend most of my time avoiding out of fear. Paradoxically, only someone so firmly grounded, so deeply rooted, could acknowledge how adrift he is. It’s just a hunch, but I’m guessing that what grounded Merton lies somewhere in those last three lines.
This entry is a radical departure for me, as I rarely discuss matters of personal faith with close friends, let alone the whole worldwide internetworking public, so I’m posting it with a fair amount of trepidation. In case you were wondering, my intention here is neither to proselytize to those who aren’t like-minded nor to ingratiate myself with those who are. I’m just putting it all out here on this website because it’s the
only way I have at the moment to engage my mind in any kind of sustained reflection.