“Therefore I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear for you are ever with me. And you will never leave me to face my struggles alone.” Prayer of Thomas Merton
Today, on my way to work, I was listening to a discussion between two radio personalities about the U.S. Olympic team wearing new opening ceremony outfits that were made in China. The issue has drawn the irate attention of senators and congress members from both parties, as well as the general public, all of whom are questioning the judgment of the Olympic team committee, going so far as to suggest the outfits be thrown into a pile and burned, bonfire style.
“What were they thinking?” one announcer asked incredulously.
I remember my father asking me that question when he found out that a number of my friends had been suspended from school for exploring a tunnel they discovered linking our high school to the high school next door. No doubt I would have been among them if I hadn’t been recovering in the hospital from thyroid surgery.
I’ve also posed a similar question to more than one of my sons over the years.
“What were you thinking??” I heard myself asking, knowing full well there could be no reasonable or rational response to some quirky, irresponsible or dangerous decision, like the stink bomb in the elementary school cafeteria episode, the driving without a license fiasco, or the taking the car in the middle of night without permission, attempting to drive all night without sleep and flipping our station wagon on Route 287 nightmare that could have been a tragedy.
It is also likely a question that each of us, as adults, has struggled with at one time or another.
“What was I thinking?” falls hard on a soul riddled with embarrassment or fear, pain or ridicule, or the unpleasant consequences brought on by some foolish, impulsive decision, like the one drink too many, the relationship that never should have been entered into, or the last message posted to some social media site.
But posing the question is often the first step to acknowledging that we are not moving in sync with God’s will for us, and presents a valuable opportunity to redirect our lives.
The saints and holy ones of God have long taught that knowing and following God’s will is no easy task. It first requires the humble consideration that we cannot make the right choices without surrendering our limitations to God and saying, honestly, as in the prayer of Thomas Merton: “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. Nor do I really know myself.”
Asking questions like “What am I thinking” or “Why am I doing…” should be more than just an anxious response to decisions gone wrong. Introspection is an important part of our daily prayer and discernment, moments when we have the opportunity to say to God: “ … 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.”
Only in the quiet of prayer are we able to hear God’s response and be guided by God’s grace to respond, “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.”
Prayerful introspection is the opportunity to hear God calling us to be mindful, awake and aware so we do not travel the road “doing” without thinking.
And sometimes it begins with a question.
Mary Morrell is managing editor of The Monitor and award winning author of the column, “Things My Father Taught Me.” Her blog, “Things My Mother Taught Me,” can be read at TrentonMonitor.com.[[In-content Ad]]