“It’s the asking of the question that is the mystery. Not so much how we find the ways of answering.”—Marcelo Gleiser
I’ve had this quote on a virtual sticky note on my computer desktop for months, wondering about it. Is it profound, or is it just one of those nothings that sound profound? To all the manifold mysteries of the world, can we add the fact that we recognize mysteries? To all of the questions we ask can we add the question of why we ask at all?
It’s funny how we tend to circle round and round certain themes. I can look back over the past several months of writing and see them emerging, and one that keeps recurring is mystery. Back in the spring, when I was teaching literature, I encouraged my students to be comfortable asking questions but also to be comfortable with mystery, to sometimes lay aside question of meaning and just live in the literature.
I’m comfortable with the idea that life is a story, with that Word Who was in the beginning with God starting the whole thing. But I don’t do well taking my own advice, living in the literature of life, laying aside the need to know what it means. I interrogate it constantly. I don’t want mystery; I want to be able to flip the pages forward, at least read the next chapter titles; I want heavy foreshadowing, footnotes, an index, a glossary.
And we’ve heard often enough that life is beautiful, and we know that this beauty, this life, comes wrapped in mystery.
The first mystery which I can remember hearing named is in a rhyme in A. A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner:
Here is a myst’ry
About a little fir tree.
Owl says it’s his tree,
And Kanga says it’s her tree.
Is it that we’re asking the wrong question? Rather than “Why?”, would it clarify matters if we asked, “Whose?” or “For whom?” If I didn’t believe that this life belonged to me, would I be so insistent on knowing the reasons? If it belongs to someone else, might it not make sense for that someone to be calling the shots, and might my small woes and worryings actually be part of the mystery wrapping a beauty in the making?
Fact: this life does not belong to me.
The mysteries: they are frightening, and we long for comfort against the fear of them. And thinking of that, I think of this:
What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I am not my own,
but belong body and soul,
in life and in death,
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
I. Belong. To Him.
This is the way to grow easier with the veils of mystery, to live in the story, surrounded by questions and not always finding the ways of answering them. It is, after all, the comfort which our God consistently holds out: “Fear not,” He says, “for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
We find ourselves swaddled in mysteries, wrapped in questions, but the One who thus wrapped us still holds us, and no one will snatch us out of His hand.
I shall be still, then, and wait for the day when He removes the wrappings of mystery and shows me the beauty, face to face, when He turns over the last page and declares, at last, “It is finished.”
Till then, I have just this page, these words, this mystery, and a life that does not, after all, belong to me.
©2013 by Stacy Nott