Thomas Merton in his Lenten Prayer, Seeking God in All Things, says God’s presence isn’t found just in our intellectual recognition of Him, nor even in our “contemplative illumination.” God is found, as well he says, in other believers who love and serve Him – people like all of you, whom I’m coming to know in this virtual world He’s created.
God can be found in all things about us – from the smallest grain of sand to the greatest mountain, from the littlest and most wretched among us to the most worthy.
We begin to find God, Merton says, as we surrender ourselves to Him, who is “in all things and through all things and above all things.”
“Surrender” – this word, in particular, caught my attention as I was reading Merton’s meditation. What does this mean, to surrender? As I go about my day, how do I put that concept to work?
I get surrendering to the fact that I might have to stand in a long line at the grocery store or the bank. Especially if I make the mistake of leaving my shopping until after 3:00, when all the high school kids get out of school.
I can even at my better times brighten the general atmosphere around me by smiling and being understanding and cordial. And even in those times when I get grumpy, I at least know I’m feeling or, worse, acting like a ‘witch with a capital B,’ (as my southern cousin’s been known to say).
But there are other times that my sense of purpose is not so clear. What about with other drivers who, it seems, want to rewrite the ‘rules of the road’ on the spot – okay, for them, I’ll mostly move out of the way. If I’m having a particularly good day, I’ll try to exercise some degree of compassion or understanding for whatever circumstance is bringing out their NASCAR aspirations.
But what about that guy the other morning who blew the four-way stop without even a tap on the brake. Who proceeded to cut off another driver as he rounded the corner. Who then sped up a 25-mile per hour street going at least 50 mph. Whose license number, car make and model I duly noted, as we were both stopped at a traffic light?
That guy I reported to our local police – we’re a small community blessedly and can still ask the police to do this sort of thing. When I called it in, I was assured that someone would go have a little chat with the fellow. Does that count as ‘surrender?’
Or what about the doctors office, who takes the liberty of charging an extra $250 to discuss an issue my doctor coded as ‘non-routine.’ The appointment still lasted less than the 30-minutes allotted for a routine appointment – do I just pay the bill, or do I push back a bit?
You guessed it. I pushed back. But with the greatest amount of Ignatian detachment, I was able to muster. I don’t so much fault the individuals involved, as I do a truly messed up health care system within which they’re operating. What does surrender look like in situations like these?
Tomorrow’s Lenten reflection may hold a glimmer of an answer.
For today, I just want to note for the record that ‘surrender,’ for those of us living in a very noisy and broken world, is a concept that is not so very clear.
Or maybe it’s clear and I just don’t like the answer. What do you think?