To be “lost” is to be left to the arbitrariness and pretenses of the contingent ego, the self- smoked that must inevitably vanish. To be “saved” is to return to one’s inviolate and eternal reality and to live in God.
What one of you can enter into himself and find the God who utters him?
“Finding God” means much more than just abandoning all things that are not God and emptying oneself of images and desires.
If you succeed in emptying your mind of every thought and every desire, you may indeed withdraw into the center of yourself in concentrate everything within you upon the imaginary point where your life Springs out of God: yet you will not really find God. No natural exercise can bring you into the vital contact with him.
~~~ Thomas Merton (New Seeds of Contemplation)
The church is obsessed with methods, reasons, ways, times, and places to be “saved.” Conversely, the church also seems to love to point out how easy it is to be “lost.” This dilemma has led to the formation of such things as Canon Law, Church Covenants, Catechisms, thousands of denominations, and sects to instruct us how to get saved. The problem is that these are human centered rules and promise what they cannot deliver.
Merton addresses this problem in his words above. He asks us to question why and how we are approaching God and suggests a course of action that might work. Most of us are very content to approach God with ways and methods that are comfortable to us.
Most commonly we use the “rule” method. Rules are easy to create but hard to follow. In military conflicts it is a common thing to deploy a “smoke screen” so that your enemy will fail to see you. Merton asserts that we all have a ‘self-smoke’ that we believe hides us from God and frees us from the responsibility of truly getting to know the ways of God. The question is posed, how can we find our creator by looking into ourselves, His creation? He formed us and we cannot find Him in our own egos.
There are those who manage to follow the laws and rules sufficiently enough to give an appearance of succeeding. We can isolate and empty ourselves from the things of the world and really feel that we may be touching God, but we would be very delusional if we thought that God was found in emptiness. He is the God of fullness and abundance. We do not find God in the natural but the supernatural.
Jesus and his inner circle said unnatural things:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. ~~Matthew 11:29-30
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.~~ Galatians 2:20 (Paul the Apostle)
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” ~~~Matthew 8:20-22
These sayings of Jesus and others, a yoke that relieves burden, crucified, being homeless, abandoning family, giving up all that you have are not natural but supernatural(spiritual). Getting to know God requires that we give up on ourselves and turn to Him. The problem with most organized religion is that it continues to get more organized. I have been a Pastor for more than 40 years and I have learned one thing that I can say is undeniably true; we cannot find God with our own skill set. God is found outside of all the world has to offer. The best the church can offer is to give time and space for people to find God and then help them to get to know Him better. All of our rules and rituals are ways of communicating to the God that we have already found. Let me assure you, you can find God because he loves you and is always seeking you. He asks one thing-forget yourself and listen to him.
Lord, I need to put myself aside, because in all my worldly wisdom I will never truly find you. May I this day turn to the wisdom that only you possess. I am sure that you were just waiting for me to turn away from myself and turn toward you. Give me the courage to do this in a world that is so focused on what humankind can do that we fail to remember that we were created in the image of God. Help me this very day to turn to that image of God that is inside of me but hidden buy my own personality and wants. I ask you that you guide me by your wisdom and knowledge today. Let me find you today.