Merton Meditation

  • Posted on Mar 26, 2014

“By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet. ”      Thomas Merton

It is easy to take the renewal of creation for granted.  And then suffering comes our way and the glory of God becomes real.  For me, two particular moments come to mind. 

First, I remember so vividly the night that my father died.  The year was 1988 and it was early in the morning of March 3rd.  My father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about six months before and, at age 80, he decided not to have treatment. He wanted to enjoy what time he had left.  On the evening of March 2, I went to visit him.  He was having a very bad evening and in a great deal of pain.  He had consented to going down to the nursing floor of his retirement community.  The one place my father always said he did NOT want to go was that nursing floor.  I knew he wouldn’t be there long.  After seeing that he was settled on the dreaded “second floor” (as the nursing wing was referred to by the residents), I went home very disquieted and despondent.  At 3 am, the phone rang and I knew before we answered the phone—my father had died.  As my husband and I drove back to his apartment in the middle of the night, I remember that the stop lights seemed more red than usual.  The green lights more green.  As I got out of the car at his building, I happened to look up at the stars.  All the stars seemed that much brighter.  I felt the precious beauty of this world at a moment of great loss. I felt comfort in that moment.

About five years later, I had another one of those moments.  I had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  I was in my first year of seminary and my children were 3 years old and 18 months.  Before the surgery, we decided as a family to go for a picnic.  Bryan would drive the children and picnic basket in the mini-van and I would ride my bike to the park.  It was a beautiful spring May day.  The cherry blossoms were in full bloom.  The trees were a bright green.  The sky was a beautiful blue.  The children ran around chasing butterflies and bees.  We all lay on the blanket together and stared at the clouds and the sky.  As I biked back home, I felt tears streaming down my cheeks.  I thought:  How beautiful and precious this life is.  Then I wondered:  Why do we not notice until we think it might all be taken away?  In the days to come, when people talked to me when they learned I had cancer, most folks didn’t know what to say.  I wanted to shout aloud:  it’s about life…it’s about living…it’s about being here now and loving one another.” 

On both those days, I felt the power of the resurrection in creation as I experienced the suffering of the cross in humanity.  It’s easy to forget this amazing gift around us when everything is going well.  I pray that I will always remember the gift that creation gave me on those two hard days.  A gift that can make us dance and sing despite the nearness of death and the grave.

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