Contemplative experience is not arrived at by the accumulation of grandiose thoughts and visions or by the practice of heroic mortifications. It is not "something you buy" with any coin, however spiritual it might seem to be. It is a pure Gift of God, and it has to be a gift, for that is part of its very essence.
I have been thinking all morning about these words from Merton and how they speak to me right now.
There is nothing like fatherhood to ruin one's spiritual life. Really, I mean it. There is no time to pray or think or write. There is no time for contemplation. I have to be at the pediatrician's office instead.
For four months now I have been wrestling with this and I have found myself becoming increasingly bitter about it all. I carve out a little time when I am going to be intentional and, what do you know, the kiddo just won't stop crying and Irie is having a breakdown and if I don't help then I'm a dead man.
But Merton's words gave me pause this morning. Maybe I'm too consumed with making contemplation. Maybe becoming a true contemplative means learning to let God make it happen instead.
Learning to view life with God as a gift, rather than something that can be manufactured, means learning to see it as we see the dress of the birds of the air. The cardinal neither toils nor spins for his crimson. It was his from the beginning and will be his in the end. So too is our portion of God - ours in the beginning, ours in the end, and ours right now. If we would only receive it.
Somewhere in his journals Merton uses the imagery of the cup as a metaphor for life with God. We are drunkards and we swing wildly at the cup in impetuous desperation. The wine spills everywhere. The object of our desire lost to the avarice of the human heart. If we would only be still and open our mouths and close our eyes and the drink of life would be ours.