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.
Not 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 your 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 (published in 1958)
Thursday’s Theme: Prayer
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. This first line from Thomas Merton’s prayer has been echoing down through the years. It speaks so well to this past year. It speaks well to this Advent journey. Early on we were invited to slow down, to pay attention and to wait. Over these past months, I’ve felt like my heart is willing, but my head just does not seem to be up to the task. As I move through this Pandemic, I find myself emotionally and mentally rushing through my days. Truthfully, “what’s the hurry? And where are we going?” It reminds me of one of Dad’s favorite jokes (he used an Italian accent when he told it): An airplane pilot’s voice came over the intercom, “Folks, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. First the bad news, we’re lost. Now the good news, we’re making pretty good time.” How I wish I could hear Dad’s interpretation now of how that joke plays out for these days.
Most days I have this overwhelming sense of feeling lost and disoriented. Merton’s confession of “not knowing where I am going,” rings true. I’m grateful for his words because it matters that they are spoken and not left stuffed down deep within me. It matters in 2020, it matters with our praying. It matters that we move in and through that first line. If we stop at that first painful, vulnerable and sometimes terrifying sentence then we stop. Full stop. This prayer gives us hope for continuing on. This prayer gives us space and place to not-know, and yet, and still continue on.
We are not alone, you and me. Even though so many of these blustery, December days can feel so isolating. We are not alone. This ageless prayer reminds us of that. I can hear my grandmother Bobbee’s voice reciting it. My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. Can you hear your grandparents’ voices? Can you imagine their grandparents speaking this same first line of Merton’s prayer?
Thomas Merton’s prayer companions our hours and our lifetimes. As we move in, through and beyond these unsettling, topsy-turvy Pandemic-experiences, may we continue to pray Merton’s as well as our own prayers. These are the words that gather us up, embrace us for a bit, dust us off and send us on to what will be next.
Thanks to Susie Gentry for her beautiful glass nativity
"Time is different here," I heard my Mom's voice say a couple months after her death. Journeying through these Covid-19 days, remind me of the gift of those words. You are invited companion me on this 2020 Advent journey to Bethlehem, as we seek Emmanuel, God who promises always to be with us.