I'm becoming convinced that the rough patches in life are given to us to cause us to learn the lesson that all we have is God. I've been thinking a lot about the wilderness as I work on this book I'm writing. Lord knows we all have our times in the wilderness, and what has struck me as the most profound insight is Merton's statement that God intends the wilderness to always be an idyllic time with Him alone.
That has given me food for thought, and I'm hoping that I can view times of wilderness like that. But I think we need to ask God how the wilderness can draw us nearer to Him, in an idyllic way. It's not simply enough to say, "OK...I'm in the wilderness...I'm supposed to be alone with God, like Israel before the Promised Land, and I'm supposed to like it."
I went to the Allegan Antique Market yesterday and had a good day. It turned out that yesterday was mainly concerned with picking up things for my kitchen. The major purchase was an old Hamilton Beach malt maker, made with some serious cast iron. It works, and I broke it in by making malts yesterday at my fellow west-siders' house. I bought a few other things as well, including several kitchen implements that you just can't find anymore. Maybe I'll post a picture of the haul.
I went alone, which I've done many times, but there's always a part of me that wishes that I had someone to go with who enjoys it as much as I. Yesterday, I consciously tried to pray to help me view that it might be an "idyllic time with God in the wilderness." Sometimes I know that I fear intimacy with God. I think of Lewis who describes Aslan as dangerous. God isn't safe, at least in our usual understanding of the word, of being "comfortable." But I do believe that I'm single right now for a reason, and that I'm going through the wilderness and in my profound desire for a wife, God is calling me to turn to Him for all of my desires for intimacy.
I've been reading a lot of Merton lately, and his writing is remarkably insightful. As I think about a future relationship with a wife, I'm beginning to wonder how intimate we should desire to be with our spouse. That seems a strange thing to say, but in Merton's writing, he speaks of the need to respect the need for solitude of the individual in every relationship, including in marriage. It would seem that he argues that a truly intimate love for a spouse allows for their need for their truest intimacy to be with Christ, their savior. It seems an honest take on marriage: we can only become so close to anyone, even though both parties have made vows to each other. Ultimately, the role of marriage is gifted to us all to help bring us closer to God and if pursuing an unhealthy intimacy with each other (ala A Severe Mercy) we're actually distorting the true purpose of marriage.
This is a new and revolutionary way for me to think about marriage, and for that I'm grateful. I think I've viewed marriage as my life preserver, but it can't be that. It must be entered into with love, with the desire and aim to help point the other to Christ. As I think about the wilderness, and the Promised Land, I realize I'm nearing 40 years, which will come in just two years' time. My hope is that I reach the Promised Land by then and have a wife.
Here is an excerpt from No Man Is An Island:
We tend to identify ourselves with those we love. We try to enter into their own souls and become what they are, thinking as they think, feeling as they feel, and experiencing what they experience.
But there is no true intimacy between souls who do not know how to respect one another's solitude. I cannot be united in love with a person whose very personality my love tends to obscure, to absorb, and to destroy. Nor can I awaken true love in a person who is invited, by my love, to be drowned in the act of drowning me with love.
Charity is a love that fortifies the ones we love in the secrecy of their own being, their own integrity, their own contemplation of God, their own free charity for all who exist in Him.
Such love leads to God because it comes from Him. It leads to a union between souls that is as intimate as their own union with Him. The closer we are to God, the closer we are to those who are close to Him. We can come to understand others only by loving Him Who understand them from within the depths of their own being. Otherwise we know them only by the surmises that are formed within the mirror of our own soul.
And a final excerpt:
Charity makes me seek far more than the satisfaction of my own desires, even though they be aimed at another's good. It must also make me an instrument of God's Providence in their lives. I must become convinced and penetrated by the realization that without my love for them they may perhaps not achieve the things God has willed for them. My will must be the instrument of God's will in helping them create their destiny. My love must be to them the "sacrament" of the mysterious and infinitely selfless love God has for them. My love must be for them the minister not of my own spirit but of the Holy Spirit. The words I speak to them must be no other than the words of Christ Who deigns to reveal Himself to them in me.