I’m continually surprised at the timeliness of the things I pick up to read. It has happened several times with Nouwen. Now, it is Thomas Merton. The following is an excerpt from a chapter of New Seeds of Contemplation. The chapter I got it from is titled Things in Their Identity.
Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny. We are free beings and sons of God. This means to say that we should not passively exist, but actively participate in His creative freedom, in our own lives, and in the lives of others, by choosing the truth. To put it better, we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity. We can evade this responsibility by putting on masks, and this pleases us because it can appear at times to be a free and creative way of living. It can be quite easy, it seems to please everyone. But in the long run, the cost and sorrow come very high.
To work out our identity in God, which the Bible calls “working out our salvation,” is a labor that requires sacrifice and anguish, risk and many tears. It demands close attention to reality at every moment, and great fidelity to God as He reveals Himself, obscurely, in the mystery of each situation. We do not know clearly beforehand what the result of this work will be. The secret of my full identity is hidden in Him. He alone can make me who I am, or rather who I will be when at last I fully begin to be. But unless I desire this identity and work to find it with Him and in Him, the work will never be done. The way of doing it is a secret I can learn from no one else but Him. There is no way of attaining to the secret without faith. But contemplation is the greater and more precious gift, for it enables me to see and understand the work that He wants done.
The seeds that are planted in my liberty at every moment, by God’s will, are the seeds of my own identity, my own reality, my own happiness, my own sanctity.
To refuse them is to refuse everything; it is the refusal of my own existence and being: of my own identity, my very self.
Not to accept and love and do God’s will is to refuse the fullness of my existence.
If I never become who I am meant to be, but always remain what I am not, I shall spend eternity contradicting myself by being at once something and nothing, a life that wants to live and is dead, a death that wants to be dead and cannot quite achieve its own death because it still has to exist.
Lord, help me to see and understand the work You want done in me. For even though I squirm and compulsively seek out masks to wear, I know deep down that I am free only when I become who You created me to be. Help me to differentiate between my true identity as Your Beloved and the false self I have erected out of egotism and fear. Help me, please, to live the truth of who I am! Amen.