Posted by: Mark Nielsen | August 12, 2011

Merton On One’s Image of God

Today’s writing prompt (to use a term from my English teacher days) is borrowed from “Inward/Outward”, a service that sends out short devotional quotes for reflection:

” Every person becomes the image of the God they adore. “
Brother Thomas Merton, Trappist monk
Source: _No Man Is an Island_

I thought about this, and had to ruefully admit that while the God I adore is first of all loving, right on the heels of that love, S/He is very mysterious. Thus the closer I have followed God and His equally mysterious son Y’shua, the more mysterious and strange I have become as well. (And I started out fairly strange to begin with, lemme tell ya!)

For instance, the more open I am to embracing that “cloud of unknowing” that an anonymous 14th century English mystic refers to, the more I have been guided by intuition and emotion. This makes me mystical, creative, a risk-taker, all of which may seem weird, especially in an era that prizes rationality and science.

Nevertheless, I have come to think of human development now as a three-legged stool, where intuition (a sort of multi-modal perception) is one leg, direct experience (subjective AND objective) is the second leg, and intellect the third.

Therefore, part of “un-knowing” at times must include the “mystical” act of forgetting or ignoring even what I think I know. Because, for one thing, is my intellect entirely trustworthy? Any theology that discusses “sin” would have to admit that sometimes the mind is not trustworthy. Even if it were –and even if my measurement and interpretation of the evidence were always accurate and unbiased, as scientific objectivists would have me believe — then who’s to say that an intuitive, soul-based or holistic (emotional?) mode does not have equal relevance? Who made Mr. Brain the boss?

Is “felt” reality less real than measurable reality? Not really… It just bears the burden of being inherently vague, of being misunderstood outside of one’s self, or even BY oneself.

We are out of practice as a species when it comes to instinctive, non-ratiomal approaches to life. We have been steered away from intuition, taught not to trust our emotions, in the historical process of making the intellect into a sort of idol. A political treatise carries more weight than a poem or story. We pay lip-service to the Psalms and gospels, but then dissect the Law and St. Paul’s epistles to an almost addictive degree, preferring pseudo-scientific right/wrong arguments to actual intimacy with each other, and with the God Who Waits.

The God I adore is that weirdo, the prodigal son’s father, who loved his flaky, irrational younger son just as much as his responsible, sourpuss elder son. Carefully measured justice has its place in God’s world, but beautiful, natural, extravagant, irrational, undeserved love and mercy are what make His world even keep on spinning.

That’s the sort of mysterious God that I’m trying to emulate. What does your God look like?

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