32: God is a mystery.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
10 When they were alone, the people around Jesus, along with the Twelve, asked him about the parables. 11 He said to them, “The secret of God’s kingdom has been given to you, but to those who are outside everything comes in parables. 12 This is so that they can look and see but have no insight, and they can hear but not understand. Otherwise, they might turn their lives around and be forgiven.
Mark 4:10-12 CEB
Oh how I loathed the phrase "God is a mystery." I banished it to the far reaches of my vocabulary, promising to never utter it out loud, and shun those who utter it themselves. I believed it was a cop-out; the mystery flavor of the theological world. In my circles of influence it was used when someone was afraid to search for the answer, knowing their belief system would crash around them if they questioned the wrong way. I knew when someone threw that statement my way, they were setting up a defense of sorts.
See, I love to ask those really difficult questions. I simply want to know the answers. It’s who I am. I am is a truth seeker, and I live into that. I know what it’s like to live into the lie. It’s like Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House where everything just looks beautiful, but really there’s a black death slowly killing everyone within it. When everything looks beautiful, we are more compelled to live in the lie. That phrase was a way to shut the door on the conversation and continue the facade.
So near the end of my my seminary career I took a class in Eastern Christianity. It was led by a former Eastern Orthodox Priest, someone who really knew his stuff. We looked at icons, and worship. We also delved into theology. In Eastern Christianity, “God is a mystery,” are the keys to the kingdom.
Oh how my eyes involuntarily rolled when I heard him say that phrase. I couldn’t see God as a mystery. Within my context, it was used as a cop out. In my context it was a conversation ender. Yet, he fleshed out the words in a way that made me sit up.
He told us Western Christianity, specifically seminary, was all mind and little Spirit. Theology is analytical in nature in the Western world. Eastern Christianity, conversely, is all Spirit and little mind. It was his belief when the two Churches split, they each took a vital part of the theological journey. They were both right, and the correct answer was to bring the two theologies back together.
I took it to prayer. I journelled it’s truth. “God is a mystery” is both an unanswered question, and beyond our understanding. God is bigger than any of us can comprehend. More majestic than majesty, more epic than we can fathom. At the same time, God is Truth. Truth is something that has an answer. We can find it and see it. In some cases, God is a mystery because we just haven’t yet discovered that specific Truth.
Our God journey is full of duality. If we push too deeply on one aspect, we break it’s tension with another. I’m grateful for a former Eastern Orthodox Priest giving me tension. God is a mystery.
Let us pray:
Dear Lord, from the depths of the cosmos, let me sit in your wonder. From the edge of my pen, let me find your Truth. Amen.