Friday, August 19, 2005

You Think You Get Your Way, Then God Laughs

In October of 2003 I made an agreement with the Director of the Lay Degree Program at my Gradual School. If he fixed it so that I didn't have to take a class on Thomas Merton, I would buy him lunch. We had just spent the entire morning setting up my program of study for the next four years, and in order to graduate on time it appeared that I would have to take a class on the Spirituality of Thomas Merton.

Don't get me wrong. It isn't as though I have any personal aversion to Thomas Merton. I have read The Seven Storey Mountain, and Thoughts in Solitude, and Spiritual Direction and Contemplation. I had even gained a lot of insight about my spiritual journey from them. I just didn't think that I wanted to study Thomas Merton in a Masters Level class.

My mistake came when I made my feelings about this known out loud to another person, namely the director of the Lay Degree Program. God took that as His opening, as is His way -- at least in my life -- to make sure that no matter how carefully I tried to avoid taking the class on Merton I would have to take it.

Lucky for me, I guess the Gradual School doesn't pay the Lay Director enough, or he doesn't have enough to keep him busy, because he rose to the challenge and was determined to earn that lunch I had dangled before him. He set out to find another class that I could take, or some other way for me not to have to take the Merton class.

Fast forward a few years, and due to a circumstance that neither of us had imagined or even considered, the Nun who had taught the class on Merton was reassigned by her order and left the teaching staff of the Gradual School. The Merton Class was withdrawn from the Schedule.
Oh Happy Day
I was free! And more than happy to pay up my debt of a free lunch to the Lay Director on the first weekend of class this fall, which will be September 9-11.

Yesterday I got the Syllabus for the class I will be taking this fall. It is a class called Human Development and Christian Maturity, taught by one of the Monks at the Monastery, that is connected to our Gradual School, who also happens to have a PhD in Psychology. What a shock it was to my system to read it, and all the time hear God's great belly laugh from heaven as I saw, and I am cutting and pasting these word for word from the syllabus:

1. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton (1998 Harcourt Brace edition)
2. Selected articles and book chapters (copy fee will be assessed)


7-12 page written project: Identifying aspects of human development and
Christian maturity in the life of Thomas Merton

Okay God, I get it, You are in control of my life. I surrender. I give up. I submit to your Divine will.

You can stop laughing now, really.

If the Lay Director thinks he is getting his free lunch he has another think coming.


~pen~ said...

i had picked up merton a bunch of times over the years and thought "waaay too deep for me."

then i "remet" my father after a 23 year absence, but just before he passed away. he was a huge merton fan and had been reconciled to the Church he had been away from for 30 years, so i guess i shouldn't complain about the 23.

he sent me a lot of his books and i have found that i fell in love with merton because of my father's love for him. go figure. the man i couldn't bear to hear the name of was the one who introduced me to (who is now) one of my all-time favorite authors, mystics, poets.

i have merton envy. i'd buy your lay director lunch anyway, just out of Christian charity :)

Heather said...

How very God-like of God! It always seems that God gets the last laugh in all things. I remember very well thinking, "There is no way I could ever preach," and look at me now, a lay-speaker and wondering if my ministry path may actually involve becoming a pastor myself.

Once again we are forced to give in and say, "You win God...again!"

Dave said...

God does have a sense of humor, doesn't he?

Personally, I like a lot of Merton's writings - particularly the early writings (Mountain, No Man Is an Island, Sign of Jonas, some of the poems, etc.) but I think his later writings are a mixed bag. You might find this article by Bob Royal about Merton to be of interest. Regardless of what one thinks about particular writings of his, he's a fascinating personality.