40 Words: “Mystery” (03.08.2016)

Where has lent been taking you? Where has this journey led you?

I can become pretty fascinated with words and phrases. I find it interesting how we assume that some words mean one thing, when upon closer examination we discover that there is a nuance we are missing. Over time it is been forgotten, or changed by culture.

Eugene Peterson wrote once that in prayer we come to face to face with the possibility of words coming to mean what they really mean, which can be a pretty scary thing. But rather than focus on just that, I was thinking this morning about a phrase and a concept that is easily thrown around in circles of faith, but is seldom really thought about.

A journey inward is a journey into mystery. We discover things about ourselves that we never realized, we come face-to-face with aspects of our personality that we have either forgotten about or never discovered. As I’ve said before, to in this sense Lent is likewise a journey into this same mystery. Through our disciplines and abstinence and fasts, God reveals things about our lives and character that we were unaware of.

One of the phrases that Christians throw about quite easily is “God knows me better than I know myself.” The Bible reinforces this in writings like Psalm 139, when the writer writes that God has knit him together in his mother’s womb.

But the implications of this are fascinating to me: because it means that ultimately at the bottom of who we are we are a mystery, not just to other people, but to ourselves. We tend to assume that a contemplative, inward journey will lead us to a more concrete awareness of who we are, but oftentimes the opposite is true: as we go into ourselves more and more what we come to discover is that there is less and less about ourselves to understand. We realize that we are deeper than our possessions, deeper than our circumstances, deeper even then our emotions. Likewise, we come to see that our motives confuse us; we believe certain things with our minds, but actually behave in ways contrary to those beliefs. Ultimately it’s as if we are unknowable even to ourselves. It’s at this point, we are reminded that we are not called to trust ourselves for life or salvation; we are called to trust something—someone—else. At this point we can literally take ourselves out of the driver seat even have our own lives, and rest a shirt the one who ultimately knows us is guiding us.

Welcome to the mystery that is you.
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