“Whew,” the old retired doctor exclaimed, letting out a deep sigh, “It’s a mystery.” With that, as always, he wryly smiled, picked himself up out of his chair, and slowly walked away.
Each time, without fail, he leaves me with the uncanny feeling that he knows something I don’t – that he’s been getting at something in our conversation that I have yet to understand fully. He’s like a master chess player who’s always thinking a few moves ahead of me, his amateur counterpart.
Our conversations are vast and erratic, often skipping from one deep pool to the next, moving swiftly from subjects like the etymology of his favorite words and their Latin roots to timeless spiritual questions and theological mysteries.
And, each conversation always ends just the same – “whew.”
I find myself looking forward to our randomly consistent encounters, knowing that someday I’ll have that eureka moment when the veil is lifted and I finally get it, whatever that might be.
The one thing that has always intrigued me about this retired doctor, so brilliant and logical, is his emphasis on divine mystery, interjecting God’s awe and splendor into the equation of faith and daily life. He knows and has made peace with the fact that he doesn’t know, content with his incapacity to comprehend it all, especially concerning God.
He’s always learning; always discovering; never completing.
I’m reminded of David, who captured his awestruck fascination in scripture (Psalm 8:3-9):
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
You see, it’s the element of mystery and awe in our faith that sustains our spiritual life, humbling us before “our Lord” and beckoning us to grow, to experience and know Him more. Without it, we all too often become complacent in our faith, arrogant, egotistical, judgmental, and harsh.
The unknown, the mere possibility of something otherwise, softens our positions and ushers in the opportunity for grace. It deflects our natural gaze from the seen to the unseen, from the outward to the inward, from the action to the heart. Common ground can be found, beauty and unity discovered in the midst of our differences.
Divine mystery opens questions we’ve failed to ask and welcomes considerations we’ve oft overlooked. What might God be doing? Could He be moving in a way we don’t fully understand? Is He leading the church to a place I’ve yet to go myself? And, perhaps the biggest question of them all, “What if…”
So, let me ask, “Is there room for divine mystery in your faith?”
Maybe, just maybe, we could all use a little more awe in our lives, a few more moments of “whew.”
Today, that is my prayer for us all.