Since I’ll be making retreat to Gethsemani Abbey this week, I thought it’d be appropriate to share the following prayer, one of my favorites.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. –Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

I love this prayer for the same reason I love U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”—that is, its wonderful sense that things are still in process and unfinished. If we’re honest, we admit that we really don’t see the road ahead. This is not to say that we don’t trust God or believe that God is even now working to bring about the future, only that the road to that future may take us through some dark or unexpected places.

Merton’s prayer represents one possible response to the world around us. In our attempt to drive out the fear of the unknown, we can veer toward extreme certainty and cling so tightly to our own opinions that we demonize anyone who doesn’t share them (think fundamentalists, of whatever religion). Or, like Merton, we can live believing that God will lead us down the right path even if we don’t see the path. This way leaves us in a kind of creative tension in which we trust in God even as we admit that our own knowledge and opinions about God and what God is up to are so very limited. In this case, then, we are led toward humility about ourselves and thus open to others, believing that in our common humanity, journeying down roads that sometimes converge and sometimes diverge, we can love each other as neighbors and God as the creator of us all.