This next week I am transitioning out of my Mennonite Church History and preparing to enter into an intensive January course on Thomas Merton, and monk and mystic writer out of Gethsemani in Kentucky.
In some ways, reading contemplative theology after a semester immersed in history is like jumping into a cold pool. At first, it's very different, pretty uncomfortable, and I initially wish I had stayed on the side of the pool. But after a few minutes, my body gets used to it, and pretty soon I'm out again, ready for another cannonball.
That being said, I was struck today in my reading by Merton's discussion on our slavery to our external, personal needs and wants versus the will and desire of and for God. In his book, "New Seeds of Contemplation," he wrote a few statements that are really challenging me.
"For how can I receive the seeds of freedom if I am in love with slavery and how can I cherish the desire of God if I am filled with another and an opposite desire? God caanot plant His liberty in me becasue I am a prisoner and I do not even desire to be free. I love my captivity and I imprison myself in the desire for the things that I hate, and I have hardened my heart against true love."
-Thomas Merton; "New Seeds of Contemplation" pg. 16
In my own life, I more often than not feel like I'm struggling against sin tendencies, those lusts and desires which often seem like a tangibile habit that I could just kick, if I try hard enough. But Merton is suggesting that I, we are not even struggling against those forces, but we are struggling against the struggle. We aren't even to a point where we are fighting against our own turmoils, but we are fighting the urge to fight. We can't step up to the plate because we're still sitting in the dugout.
I don't know why, but this really struck me. Maybe it's my tendency to want to give myself a self-righteous pat on the back for fighting my demons, realizing that in the end, I don't want to fight my demons. If I were really intent on this, then I would just do it! But I don't; do I enjoy being a prisoner?
There must be something in all of us that is content with complacency. We like the idea of righteousness but not the work that accompanies it. I've always been drawn to Paul's words about this in Romans.
19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
Is he talking directly to me? It sure seems like it. Well, those are some thoughts. I'm going to continue to drink my pot of coffee for the day and listen to the screeching yet beautiful tones of The Velvet Underground, thinking on these things. Am I alone in this? I think not.