Walking Our Faith: Hope is a verb
In his book “No Man is an Island,” Thomas Merton wrote, “If instead of trusting in God I trust only in my own intelligence, my own strength, and my own prudence, the means that God has given me to find my way to him all will fail me, nothing created is of any ultimate use without hope. To place your trust in visible things is to live in despair. And yet if I hope and God I must also make confident use of the natural aids which with grace enable me to come to him if he is good and if my intelligence is his gift then I must show my trust in his goodness by making use of my intelligence… Some who think they trust in God actually sin against hope because they do not use the will and the judgment, he has given them.”
Last weekend I enjoyed four days touring the beautiful island of San Juan and the town of Friday Harbor located off the northern coast of Washington state. I even went to mass there on Sunday morning. Friday Harbor is where I would like to move in two months when my lease is up in Breckenridge. The question is a matter of affordability. It seems I have expensive taste in hometowns.
That reminded me of other first steps I have made when moving to a new home, such as when I moved to New York, when I moved to Lake Tahoe, and even when I moved here to Breckenridge. I was also reminded of these moves when I read the quote above by Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk and mystic.
In each of these cases, nothing happened until I first took the plunge and stepped forward to begin the journey. From there things fell into place. Hope is just wishful thinking until we act. As Thomas Merton writes, we must use the tools that God has given us, whether it is our intelligence, or our skills, to work in concert with God to realize our hope.
This morning I spent 30 minutes reading the Psalms and praying before I left for mass. It occurred to me that reading The Bible and praying were also an example of Merton’s passage on hope.
I hope for a deeper walk of faith and a more intimate knowledge of God, but those things will not happen by sitting in a church pew on Sunday and listening to my priest or pastor feed me the same Bible passages and prayers as I passively listen.
My deeper walk with God can only happen as I spend time using the gifts of intelligence and study God has given me to pursue him. Perhaps pursuit is not the best word. Perhaps a better way to frame it is to commit oneself to a daily practice, a journey of indeterminate length which may on some days seem to take us without direction through dark woods and on other days through gentle sunlit meadows. But it is both the darkness and the light and our willingness to move through both that ultimately move us closer to God.
Hope then, like faith, becomes a verb as we act and open ourselves to God’s guidance. We are assured that we are ultimately moving in the right direction. At this moment in time, I don’t know whether October will find me in Washington state or Maine. But my hope becomes trust in God’s good plan for my life as I continue acting and moving forward. Again, from Merton’s book: “Of what use is it for me to hope in grace if I dare not make the act of will that corresponds with grace? …if I trust in God’s grace, I must also show confidence in the natural powers he has given me, not because they are my powers but because they are His gift.”
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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