It takes radical trust to live a life based on love rather than fear. It takes a freefall dive off the Cliffs of Insanity (I do love my Princess Bride references) into the flowing waters of God’s mercy, not knowing for sure whether you will ever surface again.
When Big Change is happening — as it is in my personal life and as it is happening in the world — it is easy to live in fear. It’s all around us, almost in the air we breathe. The world encourages us to feel that there is no security, either for ourselves or for our children.
It doesn’t help that life seems to be arranged so that we can only see a step or two ahead of us. We can’t see what will happen, and no matter how hard we try to control things, life often refuses to cooperate with our plans. One of my favorite prayers, written by Thomas Merton, acknowledges this truth:
MY LORD GOD,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and 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.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
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.
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 perils alone.
- Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”
The fearful honesty in this prayer is both frightening and comforting at the same time. Frightening, because in order finally to admit that we don’t know where we are going, a part of ourselves has to die. Comforting, because once we do accept that truth deep in our bones, we find that we are held and supported in ways that are unseen, yet tangible.
A year and a half or so ago, My Guy and I were driving back from the Bay Area to Southern California, with Little Bird sleeping in the back seat. We talked about how we wanted to live a life that was more aligned with nature. We wanted to grow at least some of our own food and have some outdoor space for a change. We wanted to be closer to family in the Bay Area. It seemed impossible.
Now comes the part that will make my non-religious peeps cringe: we prayed about it. We asked for help. We let go of the idea that we could make this happen. And now here we are, getting ready to move to a house in the Santa Cruz mountains with a third of an acre of usable land, a chicken house, and solar panels. It defies belief.
I know a lot of people who are going through some dark times. I have gone through some dark times myself, and have wondered when the light would shine again. Right now, however, the sun is shining, and I simply want to shout out from the other side, “You can trust in the goodness of life.”
I know that everything could change tomorrow, but that God would be with me still. And because I know that, Hildegard of Bingen’s reassurance rings true: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”