Sometimes I wish people could get a glimpse inside my head. With the near-constant amount of faith, doubt, anger, excitement, joy, frustration — it’s surprising that I get anything done.
It’s always amazed me to see people who can, at face value, just believe something, especially anything that has to do with faith or spirituality or the Bible or God or Jesus — with complete trust in whatever it is. You know — that “childlike faith” that those of us raised in the church have been taught to remind ourselves of our whole lives.
Am I just too skeptical? I know that a healthy skepticism is good for one’s faith, but sometimes I get to the point where I doubt my ability to believe in anything.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “mystery” as it pertains to spirituality. The word gets thrown around a lot in Christian circles. Frankly, I’ve always been annoyed by the concept. It’s always seemed to be the magic wand that someone waves to make themselves feel alright. We could even call it the spiritual version of “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” The wizard of Oz.
And I’m not satisfied with that.
I want to see the man behind the curtain. I want to ask him why nothing seems to go right for me when the guy next to me has the perfect life. I want to ask the man behind the curtain why some people believe if they pray hard enough, it will rain gold dust indoors (look it up if you’re curious, but if you’re prone to cynicism like me, I’d advise you not to). At the same time, thousands of children die of AIDS every day in Africa. All that “problem of evil and suffering” stuff that so many people lose their faith over.
But I’m also not satisfied with giving up that easy.
I’m rediscovering the word “mystery” to mean more than just being alright with not knowing the answers. I’m starting to see mystery as something you can engage with, a place where you can kick and scream and laugh and cry because you don’t understand but also know when to concede.
Let’s take a look at the idea of “childlike faith” again. (I’m surrounded by my three kids all the time — so getting in their heads is a little easier for me to do.) The awe and wonder and the anger and frustration that my children exude on a daily basis is amazing to watch and exhausting to experience. They look to me for answers as to why the sky is blue and why the grass is green, why they can’t just eat cookies all the time, how a car engine works or why they are sitting in timeout for the ninth time that day.
Sometimes my answer brings them to a place of mind-blowing clarity, even if I didn’t give them the details I’d give someone with a more highly-developed consciousness. Most of the time, they aren’t satisfied with my answer to anything. This lack of satisfaction brings more questions, sometimes more anger, but at the end of the day, they usually get to the point where they understand that I know what I’m doing and relent.
I think you can see where I’m going with this.
Embracing mystery isn’t about waving a magic wand and blindly continuing on our way. I think we can all agree that blind faith is not only unbiblical, but also makes life really boring.
Embracing and engaging mystery allows us to listen to the constant chaos that goes on our minds and make a bit more sense of it and be able to focus on the things we do know in our hearts.
Embracing mystery is about going after an answer, and embracing all of the awe and wonder and anger and frustration that comes with the fact that some things in this life just won’t have one.
I don’t know why evil and suffering exists. And I don’t think we’re going to figure that one out any time soon. God knows we’ve been wrestling with that concept since the beginning of His creation, but I know that love and grace and mercy and justice are real. I know we can actually do something about the injustice and suffering that constantly surrounds us in this world we’ve been given.
There’s nothing wrong with thinking and arguing and wrestling and struggling with the doubt and frustration in your mind. In fact—we’re better for it. We just need to let our hearts take the wheel every once and a while.