Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Praying to Be Free from the Need for Things to Go My Way

(Streets of Bangkok)

In one of Thomas Merton's journals he writes about life in the monastery of Gethsemane.[1] Merton struggled with the CEO of the place (the "Abbot"), Dom James. Dom James had big problems, as Merton saw it. Merton knew he had to accept this, and wrote: "I do not criticize Dom James – his nature is what it is, and he must see things as he does. And he is the Abbot God has willed for me."[2]

Then Merton had this God-given insight: "I know I will never have things exactly as I wish they ought to be – and as I would take pride in them."[3]

In that singular sentence we see a free person. God desires to free me of the terrible burden, and illusion, of always having to have things go the way I want them to go. 

Is that really a terrible burden? Wouldn't it be ideal to have everything go my way? As interesting as these questions are, they are irrelevant. Because everything in my life has not gone, and will not go my way. Indeed, everything in life should not go my way, unless I am an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God who knows the best way for the world to go. I can sing “I Did It My Way” as many times as I want. It won’t, and shouldn't, happen.

The person who needs things to be as they desire will be forever weighed down by the fact of such a non-happening. They will be everlastingly miserable, as expectation after expectation remains unmet. But the one who learns how to be, in and through whatever comes their way, is the free person, living transcendent to and content in life's circumstances.[4]

Pray to be free of the need to have things always go your way.

[1] The Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky, a Trappist monastery where Merton came as a novice.
[2] Merton, Learning to Love: exploring Solitude and Freedom (The Journals of Thomas Merton), 27.
[3] Ib.
[4] Also called “living by faith.”