Silence, Work, and Suffering

008.JPGLast year a friend of mine, Adam Walker Cleaveland, the CEO of Pomomusings, gave me the book “A Year With Thomas Merton”. It’s a collection of entries from Merton’s journals that are broken up for each day of the Year. When Adam gave me the book I knew of Merton but had never read any of his writings. I must say that I am very much in debt to Adam for sharing with me this wonderful collection of insights from Merton. Even though Green Day tickets might have had a higher monetary value than a Thomas Merton book, Adam certainly got the short end of the stick in this instance. I read this entry this morning and it confronted me in a very strong way:

November 14 – Truth in Silence, Work and Suffering

We talk of God when He has gone far from us. (We are far from Him and His nearness remains to accuse us!) We live as if God existed for our sakes, figuring that we exist for Him. We use grace as if it were matter handed over to form according to our pleasure. We use the truth of God as material for the fabrication of idols. We forget that we are the matter and His grace is the form imposed upon us by His wisdom. Does the clay understand the work of the potter? Does it no allow itself to be formed into a vessel of election?

The truth is formed in silence and work and suffering—with which we become true. But we interfere with God’s work by talking too much about ourselves—even telling Him what we ought to do—advising Him how to make us perfect and listening for His voice to answer us with approval. We soon grown impatient and turn aside from the silence that disturbs us (the silence in which His work can best be done), and we invent the answer and the approval which will never come.

Silence, then, is the adoration of His truth. Work is the expression of our humility, and suffering is born of the love that seeks one thing alone: that God’s will be done.

–November 12, 1952

This entry reminds me very much of Richard Rohr’s fantastic book “Everything Belongs” in which he suggests that when we engage in prolonged, silent prayer and meditation, our agenda and selfish desires begin to evaporate. After about twenty minutes of silent prayer and reflection, we will begin to run out of our own material, our spiritual laundry list for God to deal with. Only when our agenda begins to subside are we then able to hear God’s voice. To do this is often a painful yet illuminating process of emptying ourselves of our selfishness and insecurities. The greatest hope of all in this life and the next is the promise that God will meet us there and fill that emptiness with his acceptance and everlasting love.

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8 thoughts on “Silence, Work, and Suffering

  1. I’m reading “Everything Belongs” right now at the suggestion of the leaders of a spiritual direction group at my church. “A Year With Thomas Merton” sounds like another good one to ask for for Christmas.

  2. I’m catching up on your recent post. This one struck me at first…not that I expect the worst from ya but you typically have a critical tone. Thanks for this post it was convicting and thought provoking.

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