of mysteries, again

Luci Shaw again, because that’s what I’m reading:

“Many . . . have a stunted view of art as something nonessential, an option, but not an important one. In so doing they ignore the gratuitous beauty (which means a gift of pure Grace, quite undeserved) which the Creator included in Creation, and the senses he endowed us with which can respond to that beauty. To have a functioning cosmos would have seemed enough. Beauty is an added bounty, and because the benefactor is divine we ignore or disdain beauty at our peril, no matter where it is found.” Luci Shaw, The Crime of Living Cautiously

The morning was born in fog, spread with webs which turned to magic with the sunrise. Cars appeared nearer than expected: nothing, then headlights, then gone away behind me. Halfway through my drive the gentle gray became a glowing white, and then steadily burned away, until the fog was merely a Rococo softening on the edges of things.

Today I read poetry I love to my students, purely because I love it, and because, on the last day before our exam review, I felt justified in abandoning anthologies and critical acclaim for simple delight. I told them, again, to let go of their frightened need to know the answer, challenged them, again, to learn to live with mystery.

even weedsBeauty is itself a mystery, more than the sum of its parts. In an aesthetics class once we watched a video about beauty: the mathematical proportions of beautiful faces, the oft-repeated ratio of beauty in nature. But we don’t go about measuring ratios and proportions, and, even if the numbers are true, there’s still the “why” left unanswered: the mystery that waves in the red clover on the roadsides, ripples with the wind across the pond. Grace.

When we run from the rooms that contain mystery, we flee the bounty of grace: this more-ness that defies scientific explanation. Creation is not a fill-in-the-blanks quiz; there is no bank of words which handily match questions. The answers are themselves questions: Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place, that you may take it to its territory, and that you may discern the paths to its home? Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, and guide the Bear with her satellites? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, or fix their rule over earth? (from Job 38, NASB)

And they frighten us, we who carry encyclopedias in our pockets, who substitute for the mystery of friendship the collection of facts gleaned from a facebook profile. Come and sit across the table from me: I am more than the sum of my facts, more than the ratios of my face, the uneven coloring on my lashes, more than my profession and my hobbies and the eight states I’ve called home. I live a mystery, and you live a mystery, and this is grace.

Ignore it at your peril. You may hide in your encyclopedias, your profiles and ratios and study guides, but the world is larger than that, and truth comes with the sudden surprise of miracle, breaking the rules of the world, slicing your careful answers as with a sharp sword: the crucified man-God disappeared from the tomb but left His graveclothes behind Him, the man born blind had the blindness scrubbed from his eyes with warm mud, Legion left the demoniac and drove a whole herd of pigs to drown in a lake, stone hearts find the fossilization falling from them and send warm life surging through cold limbs. The fully functioning cosmos is beautiful.

The mystery haunts every room, intrudes on all our safe places, rearranges the expected order of things. Give up on banishing it: welcome it in, study its face, roll its words over your tongue. Will you understand? Perhaps not, but you’ll find, perhaps, that answers are not so essential as you once imagined, that mystery wears a smile, that grace makes beauty out of the lopsided, the disproportionate, the strange. . . .

That, when God beheld all that He had made and called it “very good,” He meant it.


©2013 by Stacy Nott

6 thoughts on “of mysteries, again

  1. “Come and sit across the table from me: I am more than the sum of my facts, more than the ratios of my face …. I live a mystery, and you live a mystery, and this is grace.” This. Is. Truth. I love it. This might be my favorite blog post you’ve written yet. Thank you.

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