Saturday, February 21, 2009

Seeker or Pursuer?

In my blog-tag interview responses on 2/19/09, I answered the question below as follows -

Recently you have rediscovered Thomas Merton. What does this modern monk have to teach you that speaks to your life right now?
Merton’s writings about living in and appreciating the present moment mean a great deal to me, particularly in light of his early and sudden death. He wasn’t waiting for a relationship with God, he wasn’t waiting for something to make him worship, or search, or find out who he was. He went after the gift of his life with a vengeance and gave himself over to his findings. He did not expect to die young, nor to be remembered as a theologian, he just went about what he felt was his purpose in life and when he was called sooner rather than later from his mortal life, he might have been surprised but I don’t believe he was unprepared. His lessons of just “being” are very comforting to me....

As many of you know, I'm away from home right now. In an e-mail regarding my spiritual formation group's activity this week, 3 words were quoted to me as words relevant to the rich discussion that took place in my absence. The words are "seeker or pursuer?" Upon reflection, I find these words so apt to the study of Merton's life and to the examples to his fellow Monks and laypersons.

At some point in Merton's young adulthood, he was definitely a seeker. He knew there was something more than just living life as a mortal being - aimlessly, without purpose. Although not raised in a church-going family, his parents apparently had Christian roots and pursued church and worship in some manner from time to time, Merton and his younger brother were never "schooled" in worship or religion. Yet, in young adulthood, Merton began to question God's existence and to seek God and what it meant to be a child of the Creator.

Although I have been using Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours, for prayer time the last six weeks or so, and have touched on Merton works and reflections in the past few weeks, I have just begun reading his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. In the first few chapters, it is clear to me that Merton was a "seeker" and yet, without jumping ahead in the autobiography, I also know enough about him from earlier study to state his philosophy (declared in my first paragraph above) was as one who sought and found God. I believe at some point, probably very clear to Merton himself, he left the role of seeker and took on the cloak of pursuer. He was not happy to sit on the sidelines and play with the niceness or fierceness of God's presence. He became the pursuer knowing full well that what he sought was present and waiting for his pursuit.

In my present life, this dominance of Merton's examples makes me ponder my own existence as seeker or pursuer. Have I passed the seeking stage? Perhaps. Am I more in the pursuing stage? I think so. I have long left the stage of needing to be convinced that there is a God. I seem to be in the stage of wanting to know God, to be more aware of God's presence in my life - more purposely, less accidentally.

So, how about you - seeker or pursuer and what does that mean to you - I'd love to hear from you.

Photo - SS - Maui sky - "Hymn at Dusk"


  1. A few things come to mind. First, I think of the story of Elijah on Mt. Horeb in the O.T., how wind shatters rocks, the earth quakes, and there is fire but no Yahweh. The revelation is after the fire, in a thin small voice, the sound of silence. Only those who will listen will hear... Your description of "pursuer" reminds me of this, of listening with deep intention, a merging of will and grace.
    The word "pursuer" also brings to mind the story of Jacob's encounter with God (Genesis 32:22), the physicality of it, of wrestling with God. I'd have to review the story to remember the context of Jacob's encounter but this image I have, of wrestling with God, is one of resistence/control. So, I guess, what the word "pursuit" raises for me is not only the possibility of a deepening in our intention, a renewel in our relationship with God, but also the possibility of spiritual violence, the danger of turning away in our desire and pursuit, failing to pause gently, and to listen. (
    Clearly, this is not what you've described in your post, it's just something that comes up for me...)
    And the word "seeker" reminds me of that yearning, a remembering of sorts, simultaneously pulling me toward God, connecting me, while also reminding me of my otherness, the limitations of my knowing (as human) and the tensions in my experience of God and practice. Does that make sense? I haven't quite articulated it. Perhaps it's worth reflecting on a bit more.
    I appreciate these questions and this space for exploration and look forward to hearing more!

  2. e.o.w. - thanks for the comment. The voice of Yahweh heard in the still small voice has always been one of my favorite stories.....seems us humans are always looking for our Yahweh is a big and godly fashion, we forget the small gestures that beckon us regularly to his presence!
    ...and Jacob was definitely a pursuer. He did not want to let go once he perceived he'd found his deliverer!
    I'm not sure I get your drift re the spiritual violence of pursuit and the turning away.....
    But I am right with you on your seeker definition - yes, this is a subject I'll be rolling around in my head for a while.
    Thanks again for commenting!

  3. beautifully considered and presented! i love the concept of pursuit. i have considered it often in regards to people--how do we continue to lovingly pursue those who act as though they do not want to be caught yet in our hearts we know they long to be "caught" and seen...and vice versa, what is it like to be the one who desires to be pursued. how beautiful it is to consider God in this way.

    good wrestling here. kind of how i imagine jacob's wrestling match :-)

    i think i would classify myself more on the pursuer side while leaving the seeker door open for views that i may not have encountered yet. i don't want to walk that precarious ground of thinking i "know" all there is to know :-)

    now...after reading e.o.w.'s response, i am reminded of how important it is for us to determine how we and others define words! i'm not sure we are saying much different things, but perhaps we are not defining them the same.

  4. Somewhere I recall a poem about pursuing God until he catches you. I don't think it was The Hound of Heaven, at least I hope not. Maybe it was George Herbert or John Donne.

  5. I am a seeker. I seek the face of Christ in those I meet. I seek God in many places, but I do not pursue God. Pursuit, to me, implies overtaking and capturing. God is neither elusive nor attainable. And yes, I have thought about God as the Pursuer, as in leaving the 99 sheep behind to go after the lost one.

    Interesting topic. I enjoyed reading your blog and the responses.

  6. Wren, so happy to see you here today and to read your words regarding seeking the face of Christ in those ou meet. I understand your definition of pursuit - very logical and straightforward definition. My wavering from that definition would have to do with seeking, thinking I've found, and then the hot pursuit that makes sure I don't miss out on what God is offering me and granting me. God will never be overtaken but might get lost to me from time to time when I drop back from "keepin' up" ......seeking, pursuing, whatever it takes I'm in it for the long haul and glad you're there too!