Hidden in the Love of God
by Thomas Merton
EVERY ONE OF US IS SHADOWED by an illusory person; a false self. . . .
My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God's will and God's love -- outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion. We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves -- the ones we are born with and which feed the roots of sin. For most of the people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist.
All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus, I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge, and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.
But there is no substance under the things with which I am clothed. I am hollow, and my structure of pleasures and ambitions has no foundation. I am objectified in them. But they are all destined by their very contingency to be destroyed. And when they are gone there will be nothing left of me but my own nakedness and emptiness and hollowness, to tell me that I am my own mistake.
The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God. . . .
Ultimately the only way that I can be myself is to become identified with Him in Whom is hidden the reason and fulfillment of my existence.
Therefore, there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him, I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.
But although this looks simple, it is in reality immensely difficult. In fact, if I am left to myself it will be utterly impossible. For although I can know something of God's existence and nature by my own reason, there is no human and rational way in which I can arrive at that contact, that possession of Him, which will be the discovery of Who He really is and of Who I am in Him.
That is something that no man can ever do alone.
Nor can all the men and all the created things in the universe help him in this work.
The only One Who can teach me to find God is God, Himself, Alone.
Taken from Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 1972, Abbey of Gethsemani, 1961) 34-36.