Seldom am I inspired by authors who are alive. That’s not to say there aren’t any good living writers out there. Of course there are…and I do read them…but the most impacting, for me, are the dead ones. Thomas Merton was such a writer. A Trappist Monk who died unexpectedly in 1968, Merton was most known for his journals. In fact, I learned to journal by reading Merton’s journals. On May 26, 1963 he wrote:
“I have certainly not been a model of priestly virtue. It does not seem that I have willfully sinned, i.e., with my eyes wide open, in a serious matter. But there have been repeated failures, failures without number, like holes appearing everywhere in a worn-out garment. Nothing has been effectively patched. The moths have eaten me while I was confusedly intent on what seemed to me to be good or important or necessary for survival.”
In pastoring one does not lack “good or important or necessary” things to focus on. Merton said he was “confusedly intent” on these things. I wonder what he meant? I do know that we can think something is more important than it really is. I also know that it’s easy to invest time in church stuff rather than soul stuff, and all the while, moths can be eating away at our hearts and we’re totally unaware. Nothing big, just little holes that make our garment less than what it could be.
“Nothing has been effectively patched.” The only way to patch the moth-holes is to set aside adequate time for quiet, reflection, and prayer. These three: quiet, reflection, and prayer nurture a sensitivity and discernment in our souls that enable us to know what really needs our focus and what we confusedly think needs our focus. Does your garment have any little holes? What decisions could you make to patch them up?