We are on day 14 of Lent and I find myself that I need to be reminded that this is a Spiritual Journey and a Spiritual quest. I read the work of Thomas Merton from time to time. I always find myself revisiting him each and every Lent. A Trappist Monk, Merton took seriously the need for constant renewal of the spirit. I stumbled on these words of Merton earlier today; "I cannot make the universe obey me. I cannot make other people conform to my own whims and fancies. I cannot make even my own body obey me."
That may not sound like much on the surface, but as a sentence goes, this one is impregnated with insight and is saturated with spiritual advice. When I spent time reflecting on my own place on this journey, I am often frustrated at the state of things in life – I want things to better reflect my idea if perfect. How about you? Do you ever just wish people would come around to your state of being? Do you find yourself wondering how great things could be if everyone understood how it should be? I can admit that I find myself in that place because I have confidence in this Lenten practice of honest self-evaluation.
Now it is not at all as intentional as it sounds. If you are like me, you might be able to see this frustration in yourself after the fact but be unaware of why you are discontent while in the midst of a moment of disquietude. In those moments we often feel that we must change everyone else but ourselves. Sadly (or not), people do conform to our wills, our fancies, or our agendas. Truth be told, Merton is right when he asserts that we often cannot even get our own bodies to obey our wills. How many times have I willed to stop eating the wrong foods? How many times have I asserted that I would exercise? Have you tried to convince yourself that you are going to change some behaviour and been less than successful in achieving your goal? It is not easy to have our bodies obey our wills. That is nothing next to the difficulty we have with carrying out our spiritual disciplines. It is hard sometimes to do that which we know God is calling us to. How many times have we felt that little nagging feeling in the pit of our stomach because we have kept silent in a situation where we should speak for justice for instance? These things should serve as reminders for us that we cannot expect others to conform to us when we fight with doing that which we want for ourselves.
At this point, I am hoping that as each day of Lent goes by, I might get closer to obeying that which God has called me to. At the same time, I am praying that I might be able to convince myself to do the little things that I wish for myself each day. Perhaps together we can pray that we stop worrying about having the world obey us, but instead we can pray that we can obey the Lord of Love and Light.
It is not all about me, it is not all about you – it is about our common humanity.I finish with this reminder from Merton:
To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell.