The mystery of God. Many of us gladly claim that we embrace the blessed mystery. However, if we are honest in our contemplations we soon realize we are very far from embracing it, let alone, catching a distant glimpse.
We have moved from having faith in God and in the One Whom He sent, to topical stances that have nothing to do with eternal life through the Christ. The blame for this way of thinking does not rest solely on us. We have been taught, especially here in the western church, to see the world, the scriptures, our salvation, our God, through a black and white lens.
I have heard many statements like these from followers:
“If creation did not happen in a literal 6 days, then the Bible is a lie.”
“Once the rapture comes we will finally escape this evil world and live in heaven for
“If there is not an ‘eternal hell fire of torment’ then there was no point of Jesus
dying to save us.”
“Well the Bible is very clear on the matter of [Fill in hot topic].”
It brings up such a sorrow in me that I probably mask it with too much frustration in the moments. There is danger in taking such strong stances on topics like these as part of the foundation of our belief in God, because once we discover that the statements we have staked so much on are either wrong or may have no solid answer at all, our faith is at risk of being pulled out from under us. Literally destroyed. There is no freedom, growth, or resting in the mystery when we have been taught to draw certain lines in the sand beforehand.
Acknowledging a lack of clarity about the afterlife, evil in the world, who’s in and who’s out, the infallibility of the Bible, the technicalities of creation or sexuality, or any of the hot topics of the day is neither chaos, compromise, nor failing as a Christian. It is accepting the mysteries of God. Putting our faith in these things is to reject the very teachings of our Lord. We will surely die on those hills.
However, God incarnate gave an answer that challenges and bypasses our clever Christian prerequisites to eternal life and places us before mystery. We still struggle with His freeing words to this day.
“25 And a lawyer stood up and said “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.’”
– Luke 10:25-28
We immediately begin flipping through the pages of “buts” and “howevers” we were taught by a mostly well-meaning church culture. It seems a troubling and almost heretical thing that we are called to accept – to simply love God, others, and leave the rest to the mysteries of God. We cannot get our heads around this Gospel because we have been conditioned to feed His life-giving words through the filter of amendments we have so graciously added to our Lord’s message.
When did we start allowing that conditional state to close our minds and hearts to such a direct answer? What if we decide to actually accept what He said? We must have a mind that accepts the space in-between where all clarity is not promised but where trust lights the way to Life.
Thomas Keating writes, “It is the opening of the mind and heart—our whole being—to God, the ultimate mystery, beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. Through grace, we open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking…closer than consciousness itself.” That mind seems lost to us. It seems lost to me many days. My heart has always strived toward this mix of silence, excitement, love, and mystery. But it has been at odds with a world—and unfortunately a church—bent on removing us from the contemplative mind we were meant to embrace.
Preconceived notions of what is essential to be a “Bible believing Christian in America” has been instilled in us, along with many doctrines that have no origins in scripture. As my eyes are opened to these things, as I am convicted of sins, as God reveals truths, I must embrace the contemplative mind in that moment and decide to be converted. And then I must refuse to return to where I was before. Continual renewal of the mind–this is the way of our Lord. The more I learn, the less I know. I am convinced this is essential to healing and growth. That is conversion to freedom. But we act like we don’t want this freedom.
We need to defend something. We need lines and control. We unwittingly turn assumptions into doctrine because we fear the mystery that reveals God to be much bigger than our understanding. “How is it they live in such harmony – the billions of stars – when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their minds about someone they know.”- St. Thomas Aquinus
Why can we not sit in silence before Him—taking each thought captive and casting them into His mystery, releasing our breath into His presence, and resting in Jesus’ answer to the lawyer? The mystery can take care of the rest until it is time for us to understand or until it is revealed in the silence that the answer is not for us. Thomas Merton wrote “the simplest way to come into contact with the living God is to go to one’s center and from there pass into God”.
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16
Embrace that mystery with a contemplative mind and be continually converted to freedom.