Persevering with faith

Just sent this to a friend – an excerpt from a letter Thomas Merton wrote to Dorothy Day. I think it covers well why sometimes our wanting to control our experience of God, or have God meet our expectations, it doesn’t work…why the more we struggle to control faith the less we actually get of it. Only Merton puts it much better than that.

Perseverance – yes, more and more one sees that it is the great thing. But there is a thing which must not be overlooked. Perseverance is not hanging on to some course which we have set our minds to, and refusing to let go. It is not even a matter of getting a bulldog grip on the faith and not letting the devil pry us loose from it – though many of the saints made it look that way. Really, there is something lacking in such a hope as that. Hope is a greater scandal than we think. I am coming to think that God (may He be praised in His great mystery) loves and helps best those who are so beat and have so much nothing when they come to die that it is almost as if they had persevered in nothing but had gradually lost everything, piece by piece, until there was nothing left but God. Hence, perseverance is not hanging on, but letting go. That of course is terrible. But as you say so rightly, it is a question of His hanging on to us, by the hair of the head, that is from on top and beyond, where we cannot see or reach. What man can see the top of his own head? If we reach it – this we can do – we stand a good chance of interfering with God’s grip (may He forgive us).

(On a lighter note, why is it that none of my emails to people contain such profound zingers as Merton’s letters? ‘Hope is a greater scandal than we think’? ‘Perseverance is not hanging on, but letting go’? Yeesh. Maybe if I become a hermit my correspondence will improve.)

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