I want to start this blog with a prayer by Thomas Merton. It is from his book “Thoughts in Solitude.” I have now come across several other sources quoting this prayer. I will mention my reasons for reflecting with you on this prayer after you read the prayer and reflect on its meaning for you. “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I cannot 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 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 I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost 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.”
There could be possibly three responses to this prayer among the men who read this blog. The first one would be one of dismay, that a man such as Merton would be praying a prayer which seems to reflect such doubt and uncertainty in the midst of desire to know God. A second response would be, “Wow.” He is describing the condition of my soul at this stage in my journey. A third response is that of someone who has gone through “the tunnel of darkness.” The man is saying “Yes I know what he is talking about. I’ve been there and have learned the blessing of the “dark night.”
I have a thought for each of these responses. For the first response I have a concern. Why! That is where I was in the early days of my journey. It was at a time when I had “God in a box.” Things needed to be black and white. I wanted to have a solution and an answer. There were plenty of people who could offer their solutions. The result was I would get “stuck in the familiar.” I wanted some control. If this is you, I strongly encourage you to let God out of your box. You will not grow in maturity when you are in charge of your spiritual self improvement projects. I know – I was there and can still slip into that pattern.
As for the second response. Merton’s prayer will bring you hope and encouragement. There is no answers or solutions to where you are on the journey. You know you are in a tunnel where there seems to be no light. What is critical is the desire of our heart. That is what God sees. You know in your heart is your desire is for God. That was Merton’s prayer. “I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.” So I encourage the man that is in that dark place. Hang on to Jesus with the faith He has given you, no matter what. I promise you that you will see light at the other end of the tunnel.
The third response. One of praise and thanksgiving. There are men who can say “yes.” They have been in those dark times. There was stress, anxiety and even doubt. But they hung unto Jesus and came through the tunnel. I like to think of the words of Ps 18:19, “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” This is a God created space, that bring more authenticity, peace, joy and freedom. I know because I have come through several tunnels of darkness. I know it will happen again. But I believe I have learned that this is the way the God grows the male soul. There does not seem to be another way, except through “tunnel of darkness.”