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November 16, 2010

My Own Seven Storey Mountain

My resolution for 2010 was to write a short reaction to every book I finished, as a way to reflect more fruitfully on it and hopefully to retain more of what I read and speak about it intelligently in the future.  I have been writing these short pieces for myself, but this one seems fitting to share today.


I’ve just left my job, in order to fully devote myself to raising the little Peanut man and the brothers and sisters that, God willing, will follow.  From months of prayer and conversation—with God, with John, with friends and family, and with myself—I know this is what’s right for our family.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though.


At the same time, I know God will put me where He needs me and that He always gives me what I need to do His will, if I’ll open my heart to it. One of those tools is The Seven Storey Mountain, a book I came across in college, but didn’t read.  Before we were married, I had a great desire, almost a need, to read it, without any idea of the peace and grace it would offer me. God moves in mysterious ways.  And thank goodness for the way He has moved me closer to Him through this book.




After more than a year, I have finally finished The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton.  This is a beautifully written book, and the subject matter—Merton’s life, conversion, and entrance into the priesthood—is at once dense and light; it is intense, and full of truth and wisdom.

Merton lived the first thirty years of his life very much rooted in this world.  He was a brilliant man, a teacher and a student, a brother, a son, and a friend.  Yet he spent much of his early adult life pining for something more. He wanted desperately to discern his vocation, and struggled to hear God’s call to the priesthood and life in a Trappist monastery. The majority of the book is devoted to his life before his conversion, and he was gifted with incredibly clear perspective as to how God led him to this new life.  It is a great story of faith, hope, and joy in God’s promise of life.

During my own journey with Merton’s story, I often wanted to read, but found that it took a long time to get through just a couple of pages.  As intrigued and at home as I felt while reading, this is the kind of book I could read only when my mind and heart were really primed for it.  Although my edition is a paperback, because of the thickness of the spine, I can’t hold this book in one hand; I need two, and intellectually and emotionally, my experience is mirrored in this physical description.

I finish this book as I enter a new stage in my life—one I know God has been calling me to for a long time, step by step, guiding me with His hand and offering me His grace at each obstacle.  At times I accepted His help more readily than others; often I wasn’t sure where He was leading me.  With various degrees of faith, I trusted Him as best I could, and asked Him to take the lead when I couldn’t let go of something I wanted, my own agenda.  I believe that God put a desire for a family in my heart a long time ago, and as it became more and more of a reality, sometimes I thought I wasn’t ready, that the timing wasn’t quite right.  Who am I to doubt God’s timing—when He needs this other person, this little boy, to be in the world?

With the inspiration of Merton’s story, made more powerful by the beauty of his prose, I have been more able to accept the ways God is choosing to work through me.  The loneliness I feared in my new role has been replaced with friends, and the doors I thought were closing are opening to so many more opportunities. God’s love is tangible in our home, in our family and friends.  It’s never going to be entirely easy to take the path God has planned for me, but I am happy, I am at peace.  With Merton’s story fresh in my mind and heart, I see more clearly that a precious light is streaming into my life.

  1. […] sort of intuition led me to read The Seven Storey Mountain, one of the most influential books I’ve ever read, and now it’s led me to My Life in France by Julia Child, which has had a similar effect.  I […]

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