True Obstacle


Art by Henri Matisse

By: Gabriela Yareliz

“There is no evil in anything created by God, nor can anything of His become an obstacle to our union with Him. The obstacle is in our ‘self’, that is to say in the tenacious need to maintain our separate, external egotistical will.” (21) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

I feel that those of us who care about self improvement and growth, and even those who don’t, we are searching for the things that stand in our way. But, what if we realized that our greatest obstacle and spring of all issues is in ourselves and not in that which surrounds us.

In an image-driven society that cares almost solely on a mass-accepted aesthetic and popularity, a generation finds itself anxious, defeated and striving toward the illusive.

“[C]reated things do not bring us joy but pain. Until we love God perfectly, everything in the world will be able to hurt us.” (25) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

“Instead of worshipping God through His creation, we are always trying to worship ourselves by means of creatures. But to worship our false selves is to worship nothing. And the worship of nothing is hell.” (26) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

So many give up a real life for applause or a sponsorship nowadays. Which image are we trying to portray to the world? We compartmentalize our lives, and separate parts of our hearts, as if we could do that. Instead, ending up torn and confused. We are spiritual beings who need to have true spiritual growth, not some semblance of it to appease the spectators around us. We live off of false images of ourselves and others.

“The ‘marriage’ of body and soul in one person is one of the things that makes man the image of God; and what God has joined no man can separate without danger to his sanity.” (27) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

When will we learn that we must wholly seek after something. I think part of what we lack as a society is sincerity. No one takes his or her whole self to pursue something. Instead, things are sought out superficially, with ten back up plans, showing we are not wholly invested in something. Rather, we are waiting to see what serves us best. Which ultimately leaves us with nothing of value and cheap convenience.

So, as spiritual beings, how do we find God?

“The only One Who can teach me to find God is God, Himself, Alone.” (36) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

In scripture, God promises simply that when we seek Him with all of our hearts, we will find Him.

“Our discovery of God is, in a way, God’s discovery of us. […] We only know Him in so far as we are known by Him.” (39) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

Getting to know God requires vulnerability. It requires us to put all of our eggs in one basket and leave it at His feet, so to speak. It requires true worship.

Thomas Merton described a sincere seeking of God in the following way:

“This is then what it means to seek God perfectly: to withdraw from illusion and pleasure, from worldly anxieties and desires, from the works that God does not want, from a glory that is only human display; to keep my mind free from confusion in order that my liberty may be always at the disposal of His will; to entertain silence in my heart and listen for the voice of God;

to cultivate an intellectual freedom from the images of created things in order to receive the secret contact of God in obscure love; to love all men as myself; to rest in humility and to find peace in withdrawal from conflict and competition with other men; to turn aside from controversy and put away heavy loads of judgment and censorship and criticism and the whole burden of opinions that I have no obligation to carry;

to have a will that is always ready to fold back within itself and draw all the powers of the soul down from its deepest center to rest in silent expectancy for the coming of God, poised in tranquil and effortless concentration upon the point of my dependence on Him;

to gather all that I am, and have all that I can possibly suffer or do or be, and abandon them all to God in the resignation of a perfect love and blind faith and pure trust in God to do His will.” (45-46) New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

I pray that we can each take a moment, on this quiet, rainy, NYC Sunday, to reflect. To see that the obstacle standing in the way of who we were created to be and who we are is our “self” and not the erroneous things we seek, but that it all stems from our hearts. And once we go to the root, perhaps we can sit in stillness and decide to wholeheartedly seek after God. For once that happens and you’re all in, God promises He will be found. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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