I don’t recall a single instance of the word “mystery” or the concept of a “mysterious God” crossing my path in any profound way in well over a decade of committed evangelical Christian living. That’s not to say it didn’t, of course, because I’ve never been known for my memory and I’m aware we all have pretty significant filters through which we receive all that life sends to us. And I'm equally aware that some peoples' experiences were or are much different than mine. But it’s been a profound reality check for me in the past few months to realize that something so many, even within the broader scope of Christianity, associate strongly with the Divine, has never even been part of my vocabulary.
Like so many, I’ve come from a world of blacks and whites, you’re in or you’re out, this way or the highway. And of course, I spent all those years being sure I was in, I was right, I was on the way. I was humble enough and certainly genuine and well-meaning, but I was also completely engulfed in the security of certainty and the pursuit of formulas and promises with guaranteed results. I knew that I knew that I knew X and Y and Z because the Bible told me so, or maybe because my pastor’s interpretation told me so, or maybe because my perception of what was said told me so. Either way, I knew that I knew.
And then, life happened, by which I mean I passed through my early twenties and found that loss and disappointment and betrayal came pouring into my world without cause or explanation. Despite being in and right and knowing all that I knew that I knew, pain didn’t knock or wait for me to open the door. It just came barging in, oblivious to the “I’m Covered” and the “You’re Not Welcome” signs.
All of a sudden the things I thought I knew that I knew, I didn’t know anymore. I was faced with the disillusionment of “unfulfilled promises”, the shame and guilt of wondering what I’d done wrong, why being in hadn’t been enough, and the anguish of questioning what more I could have done. I had no framework in my faith to process these realities - loss and disappointment and betrayal were things of the past. Except they weren’t. They were my present, my current realities, and I was completely unprepared, totally caught off guard and absolutely at a loss as to how to cope.
I sat in my pain and disillusionment for a long time, peaking out every now and then to see if it was safe to start loving or trusting or laughing again. I usually found that it wasn't. Somewhere along the way, though, the word "mystery" took root in my heart and as with any word that grabs ahold of your soul, it started to turn up everywhere I turned.
“The Divine is Mystery.”
This is so far from any label, any description, any box divinity or faith ever fit into my life before.
“God, the Unknowable.”
Oh, no, that’s not what I was taught. God is a 10 week Bible study. God is a certain style of worship. God is this structure or these doctrines or those rules, well-defined, clearly articulated, studied, certain, sign by the X. Welcome in. (Of course, I would have said all along that God is bigger and more personal than all those things, because that was the right thing to say. But the truth is, I, like nearly everyone around me, had the Divine stuffed into a nice little ring box with a bright white bow tied on top. We knew exactly who God was, what to do with our lives and what to expect in return).
But now, oh, with three and a half years of tiny, nearly invisible soul-steps behind me, I have the smallest bit of perspective and the greatest bit of hope. I am aware of the mystery, this beautiful word that forever has rooted itself in my life. Mystery has opened my heart up to much, not the least of which is hope. I so appreciate authentic, brave voices that honor the struggle, embrace the questions and accept the mystery.
“I’m so tired I don’t even reach for my Christian umbrella anymore. I just put my head up and soak in every drop I can find, because God is God and I know the things they are saying are true about Him even if they don’t use Christianese. In fact, in some ways, He seems bigger to me when they talk, because He doesn’t exist in the confines of what I can understand, control or teach in a 6 week Bible study.”
Thrashing About with God, Steward
“The Christian faith is mysterious at its core. It is about things and beings that ultimately can’t be put into words. Language fails. And if we do definitively put God into words, we have at that very moment made God something God is not.…The mystery is the truth.”
Velvet Elvis, Bell
"The search is the meaning, the search for beauty, love, kindness and restoration in this difficult, wired and often alien modern world. The miracle is that we are here, that no matter how undone we’ve been the night before, we wake up every morning and are still here. It is phenomenal just to be.”
I don't aim to make mystery my God, but to necessarily open my heart to a world of mystery in which the Divine surely dwells, whomever & wherever that may be. May the Light of uncertainty shine on me.