The desert

I am reading Thomas Merton’s autobiography ‘The Seven Storey Mountain’. His mother died when he was very young and his father died when he was a teenager, after suffering a long illness. In his mid-twenties, Thomas Merton converted to Catholicism, from a life that had been up until then without religion and without many guiding values. He was to eventually become a monk. He writes the following about his life after being received into the church:

I had come, like the Jews, through the Red Sea of Baptism. I was entering into a desert – a terribly easy and convenient desert, with all the trials tempered to my weakness – where I would have a chance to give God great glory by simply trusting and obeying Him, and walking in the way that was not according to my own nature and my own judgement. And it would lead me to a land I could not imagine or understand. It would be a land that was not like the land of Egypt from which I had come out: the land of human nature blinded and fettered by perversity and sin. It would be a land in which the work of man’s hands and man’s ingenuity counted for little or nothing: but where God would direct all things, and where I would be expected to act so much and so closely under His guidance that it would be as if He thought with my mind, as if He willed with my will.

It was to this that I was called. It was for this that I had been created. It was for this Christ had died on the Cross, and for this that I was now baptized, and had within me the living Christ, melting me into Himself in the fires of His love.

This was the call that came to me with my Baptism, bringing with it a most appalling responsibility if I failed to answer it. Yet, in a certain sense, it was almost impossible for me to hear and answer it. Perhaps it demanded a kind of miracle of grace for me to answer it at once, spontaneously and with complete fidelity – and, oh, what a thing it would have been if I had done so!

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