Sunday, January 22, 2006

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.
- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"

This prayer of Merton's is one of my favorites. I have a copy of it, in fact, tucked into my wallet, for easy reference when I'm feeling particularly confounded.

It's an apt metaphor for my life these days.

An anonymous medieval mystic wrote a treatise called "The Cloud of Unknowing." I feel like I'm in that cloud a lot. The good news is that it's all right, indeed appropriate, to be in the cloud.

I say "I don't know" a lot these days.

"Are you going to stay in the area after seminary?"
"I don't know."
"Are you thinking of a parish ministry?"
"I don't know."
"Would you like to work in a big church or a small one?"
"I don't know."
"Are you [insert any question here]?"
"I don't know."

For someone who's a control freak, this isn't easy.

I like lists.
I like knowing what comes next.
I like Mapquest and Quicken.

I don't love not knowing what comes next.

And yet, my greatest spiritual growth has come at times when I've been in the cloud, not knowing what was going to come next - during my divorce, when I was in between jobs, when I was traversing the rough waters of congregational conflict as a church's lay leader. I had no choice but to give up control and hand it over to God.

The comforting part of that surrender of control, as Merton says in the prayer, is knowing that God will be there for me, even (perhaps especially) if I misstep.

I still don't know where this journey will lead, but I do know I am not alone. I trust Him. He hasn't always led me where I thought I was going, but He's always led me somewhere interesting.

And so, once again, I step on to the path, not seeing the endpoint, except to know that I'll know it when I get there. I think.


reverendmother said...

As the mother of an unpredictable three-week old, who will sleep 8 hours one night and 4 hours the next, who will eat every 3 hours predictably one day and cluster-feed all day the next--I really needed to read this!

While I was pregnant my primary spiritual connection to God was the awareness of being a co-creator with God, if that makes sense. Now I need to let go and let God do what she needs to do with me.

Thanks so much.

Songbird said...

Let go? Let go?!?!!
It's hard to do. Discernment, especially as you approach seminary, is an unfolding. Good for you for telling people you don't know, mibi.

Marie said...

I'm so understanding this post. My metaphor is going down stairs in the dark. I just keep feeling for the next one.

Sophia said...


I am right there with you, believe me!

I like Marie's metaphor about the stairs in the dark.

I usually feel like Frodo creeping along a tunnel with that little light Galadriel gave him...