That is Not the Road I Chose!

I just attended the adult ed class at my little Presbyterian church and the speaker was a young man in his 20/30’s who vulnerably shared his “faith journey.” He several times mentioned how “figuring out” where God was leading him was a constant focus of his spiritual energy.  I kept thinking to myself, “Thomas Merton would say to this young man, ‘Join the Club – that’s what we humans are regularly trying to figure out, and that’s why I wrote the prayer!’”

Choosing which fork in the road to take is our constant dilemma and we make those choices repeatedly, perhaps even daily. In my life I have had very many such decisions to make; most were made “pre-Merton” which is so interesting for me to use the “hind-sight” of the rear view mirror and, voila  — there is The Merton Prayer.  In the book I quote Merton from his autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain as he rode the train from New York to Kentucky just three days after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.  He said, in essence, “I am at a fork in the road and have no idea which road is ahead of me:  either the military or the monastery.  And God, who is leading me, knows that I will be fine with either since You are with me!”  Ironic, right?  Merton was himself “pre-Merton” since his famous prayer had not been written yet!  It is easy for us to see the seeds of his famous prayer in his vulnerable train-ride contemplation!  [For his actual words see page 14 of The Merton Prayer: An Exercise in Authenticity.]

When I finished my PhD doctoral exams and sent out my resume to a dozen schools to teach Biblical Hebrew, I felt “Mertonian” confidence that God would lead me on the right road to the right university where I could teach Semitic languages and finish my PhD.  But instead, God slammed that door closed!  I got 2 job offers to schools I had not even applied to:  the Universities of Alaska at Sitka and Wisconsin at Baraboo, both of which were offers to teach undergraduate political science!  I screamed at God, “That is NOT the road I chose!”  Recovering from my devastation was made more difficult when one of my professors who had written a glowing recommendation letter for me said, “So sorry Steven, you picked a bad two decades to try to break into this field.  None of the current professors are retirement age yet, so no openings for you!” 

With the “road” of being a bible scholar closed, God led me to a position in a large Chicago hospital which clearly was “the right road.”  From there I got a free ticket to law school and now have had a wonderful 36-year career as a trial attorney representing the “little guy” who was injured by someone else’s negligence!  One client posted a review where he said, “Mr. Denny sees his attorney work as a calling, not just a job!”  Greater confirmation I could never receive that God did indeed lead me on the “right road.”  May The Merton Prayer keep you focused on God rather than self.

Leave a comment, if you wish, regarding this post or how you found The Merton Prayer and why it is important to you.  Thanks for visiting!

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