Getting older is getting freer

“Why bother.”

“You’re only going to fail.”

“No one will support this.”

Being obedient to God can be daunting.  For one thing, if I am honest with myself, even when I sense very strongly that God is calling me to do some new thing, there is always that little voice of doubt.  There are no guarantees.

Spring arrived in my backyard last month -- but here's to Spring!

People often say that the older we humans get, the more risk averse we are.  Perhaps.  But I am finding the opposite to be true.  The older I get, the less time I have to waste waiting for certainty or guarantees, waiting for absolute clarity and a full picture to materialize.  With growing awareness of the finite number of days I have left — even if I live well into my 90s or later (my Aunt Katie is approaching her 104th birthday!) – comes a willingness to get on with it.

When I begin to move ahead, to live into new areas into which God seems to be drawing me, I always fall back on what has become known as The Merton Prayer.  Of particular comfort are the words, “I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” When I remember this and check my motives, then I am good to go.  No matter what happens – even if I fail miserably – I find that God is present.  Even if I can’t see it at the time, I find that none of my “failures” are wasted, that God uses all for good.

Below is the Merton Prayer in its entirety.  May it bless you as it continues to bless me.


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”
© Abbey of Gethsemani

About Mother Beth Tjoflat

Episcopal priest, urban contemplative, playwright, lover of hounds, American of Chilean-Norwegian-Moravian descent. Interests include transformational ministry with the forgotten and marginalized; church planting and congregational development; 12-step spirituality; Hispanic ministry; radical hospitality, and spending time with dear friends.
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2 Responses to Getting older is getting freer

  1. Betsy Free says:

    Believing the words of this prayer, why is it still so hard to trust God completely?

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