Saturday, October 09, 2010


Merton never disappoints. Here's an excerpt from "Love and Living," a collection of individual writings collected after his death in 1968:

"Life consists in learning to live on one's own, spontaneous, freewheeling; to do this one must recognize what is one's own—be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is, and learning what one has to offer to the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering valid."

This short passage is pregnant with meaning and spiritual insight (would we expect anything less?). Let's start with the last few words: "…make that offering valid." The offering of ourselves, of our lives is our calling. We offer ourselves to assist the re-creation of Creation; the reconciling of Man to God. The validity of our offering is measured in how closely we mirror the work of God; to what extent our motivations are based on knowing who we are rather than a slavish obedience to perceived external rules and expectations.

To have something to offer, we must know what or who it is we offer to the world. Do we understand who we are in God, or do we focus on our failures? Do we give too much credence to our being sinners and fail to own our very calling as God in the world? The only people who can most authentically give themselves are those who know and accept their own inadequacies and know that those shortcomings do not disqualify but rather enhance our abilities to minister in the world. Only those who are comfortable with knowing this about themselves can let go of them and fully give themselves to others.

As we live the life we are called to live, we do become more spontaneous and freewheeling. We need not spend time checking to make sure others will agree or appreciate who we are, our calling, or our motivations. This does not mean that we willy nilly insult others, but it does mean that we come to understand more fully what life is about; what the real priorities are; what the real work of God is.

Living in this way can be scary, especially if our focus on our calling has been on keeping the right rules or of doing church correctly. In fact, as long as we see "church" as it is normally practiced as the focus of our calling, we have not fully recognized who we are.

Want to live life in a freewheeling sort of way, or does that still seem too dangerous for you?

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