Signposts: Daily Devotions

Monday, January 19

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water
and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

—Psalm 114:7-8

This psalm reminds me that I can change. While it is hard to admit that our hearts or minds have become hardened, for most of us this is true. We may be so passionately sure of our opinions that we cannot hear another point of view; we may be so hurt that we close our hearts; we may be in such grief that no one can touch us.

Thomas Merton wrote about hardness of heart, and suggested that in order to change we first must face whatever in ourselves makes us unable to love OR unable to receive love.  What is it that makes me so stubborn, or so afraid to be vulnerable? What closes me up and hardens my heart? 

Merton speaks about an ancient monastic concept—compunction. This is the experience of being touched or pierced by the awareness of our true states before God. At the heart of compunction is a sense of pain, being pricked, and ALSO of being pricked or stung into action, so that we want to change.

Merton was intimately acquainted with the power of God through Christ to soften human hearts, beginning with his.  Merton is a wonderful guide for those of us who long to change, to soften. I think he would tell us to be still, to be honest, and to ask God to help us face ourselves. 

With the warmth of God’s love breaking down our coldness and hardness of heart, we understand what Merton meant when he wrote:

Fear has been turned into fortitude. Anguish has become joy, without somehow ceasing to be anguish, and we triumph over suffering not by escaping it, but by completely accepting it. This is the only triumph, because there is no victory in evasion.*

*Much of this meditation comes from the book A Seven Day Journey with Thomas Merton by Esther de Waal.

Save us, O Lord, from hardness of heart. Give us courage to admit our faults, and the grace to accept the healing power of compunction. Amen.