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 will I 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, Catholic theologian and author, 1915-1968

In these uncertain times, Merton’s words are especially poignant. The pandemic has reminded us that we cannot see the road ahead our health, our schooling, the welfare of those we love, the normalcy of life, all of the  factors we ve come to rely on as constants, are uncertain. Merton centers us with a faithful reminder that we can t overcome fear, uncertainty, or isolation on our own. We are called to surrender our fear to something beyond ourselves, trusting that when “we are lost and in the shadow of death,” we are not alone. God will never leave us to face our perils alone, even as the certainties that give our life meaning are threatened.  

In uncertain times, fear, hatred, or prejudice can rise exponentially—Merton reminds us we can intentionally counteract this through our daily practice of surrender, of reaching out to others, or just “showing up” in community spaces. We must be vigilant in our daily practice to remember what Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes as being “made for goodness.” In one such example, a pastor I know described coming home to find hopeful sidewalk chalk messages all across her driveway. The child who created them called her and said: “We joy-bombed your driveway, did you see it?” 

In another example, a student described to me why she attends online chapel every week. She said, “I come because I want to be part of the community and support the chapel speakers, so they know they are not alone.” Likewise, our Tuesday chapel speaker reminded us “don t be the one waiting for something to happen but be a creator” and stay connected with family, friends, and mentors. Whether we are “joy-bombing,” showing up, or becoming creators, by taking positive action, we help to counteract fear, division, and despair. Surrendering our lives to God, to others, or to the greater good of community grounds us in the notion that when we are “lost and in the shadow of death,” we need not “face our perils alone.”   

-- The Rev. Katie Solter, St. Mark’s School


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