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 that I think I am following your will
does not mean I am actually doing so.
But I believe
the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire
in all I am doing.
I will never do anything
apart from that desire.
And I know if I do this
you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
for you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
After graduating from college, I worked as a telemarketer for my college alma mater. Took a day off one summer, and planned a little bicycle pilgrimage. The night before, I sadly noted the next day’s high would approach 100, but I went ahead anyway, waking at 6AM and getting on the road early. From Rochester, it’s not far to the Genesee Abbey — only about 35 miles, but the more daunting aspect when you’re not riding powered are the nine hills to climb to get to Piffard, NY. I had been to the Genesee Abbey many times by car, and was sure I could find the way there and back, and get it done before the sun got too high. Amazingly enough, I made it, arriving in about 3 hours: well in advance of midday prayer, facing a mostly downhill ride home in the afternoon heat.
About 11:15AM, I headed for home. Here’s where the hubris sets in. Not to mention a bit of heat exhaustion. Took one early wrong turn out of the abbey neighborhood, but I was so intent on getting back to Rochester by one o’clock, I convinced myself I was on the right track. This, despite the facts I was not riding downhill (tougher ride than I thought), I didn’t recognize the countryside (I never stopped to smell the roses before; why would I think I had Mother Nature’s Upstate New York memorized?) and one little green roadsign going the other way read “Geneseo 12,” which would have meant I was approximately that many miles off course. I assumed that not only had the town planners put the sign on the wrong side of the road, but that some screwball had turned the marker around to fool people.
Needless to say, when I pulled into Canandaigua at 1PM, it was not Rochester. Bought a quart of orange juice at a convenience store, and after downing the container in about as much time as you can say the 117th Psalm, I assessed my new reality. I spent another hour and a half cooling off in a sub shop with half a sandwich and a drink about three times as big. Then, time to hit the road, galling as it was to retrace my steps back to the wrong turn. I thought about calling my dad once, but the house I picked to solicit had loud barking dogs all over. And thankfully, it was mostly downhill once I got back to my “favorite” turn. So I pedalled on.
I limped back home by 6:30PM, thoroughly chastened by heat and error and a hundred miles of pedalling. Did I learn anything? I plumbed new depths of personal stubbornness and I never went back to the abbey by bicycle.
As Thomas Merton said, “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.”
Isn’t it the truth?