ncertaintyThe following is a prayer by Thomas Merton found in his book entitled Thoughts in Solitude. Thomas Merton was an influential 20th-century Catholic author, popular spiritual writer, poet, author and social activist. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, in Kentucky, Merton was a prolific writer penning over 60 books and many essays. Born in January of 1915, he died at age 53, when he was electrocuted stepping out of his bath.
This particular prayer has become important to me. I find that as I mature in my faith, and that maturity dispels the dualism and black and white of a childish faith - I find myself less certain - kind of a blind faith. The more I mature and learn the more I realize how much I really don't know.
Some may question whether this is maturity, but I am discovering the more I learn, the bigger God becomes, the more mysterious He becomes. The reality that even my best thoughts about God cannot begin to contain or adequately describe the mystery that is God. This can be disconcerting and unsettling for those of us who equate certainty with faith. Truth be told the kind of certainty many clamours for, is not faith at all. I am finding my faith shift from what I know about God (and the correctness of those thoughts) to trusting that God is God regardless of whether I understand Him. It is a shift from faith in what I know about God to faith, to use a metaphor, in the person of God Him/Herself.
So here we have, by many accounts, the prayer of a spiritual powerhouse and his confession that he too isn't sure of where he is going. He is confessing his own uncertainty. That even though he desires and thinks he is following Gods will for his life, he confesses that he's not entirely sure. This is not anti-faith at all. Merton is expressing that he is doing his best to follow the leading of God and accepts that he might be mistaken. He expresses his sincere desire to please God, even if he makes a mistake. In faith, he trusts that God is honored by his honest effort to please Him. Having faith that this is enough for God to get him where he is supposed to be and that through it all, right turns or wrong, God is with him always.
You see, this puts our faith back in the hands of God and not in our ability to understand, or perform. This frees us from all sorts of religious obligation. This speaks to me of a genuine faith in the love of God and God's work in us rather than our ability to "get it right." I think authentic Christianity is not about what we can do for God and has everything to do with what God does for us. Faith is not the commercial exchange of a commodity of faith for a commodity of blessing. Rather it is the simple acceptance of this gift of God. Genuine acceptance will manifest the kinds of fruit in our life we are seeking.
Some seasons of life, we will see a little more clearly than others. Sometimes we can't discern our hand in front of our face, and it is in a very real way blind faith. It is in these seasons that I find Merton's words especially comforting.
“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.”