Room for Mystery

I love mystery stories.

I love the sense of awe and wonder when I get to the big reveal and I am totally amazed at how the hero (probably a certain mid-nineteenth century British consulting detective) sifted through the misdirection and minutiae to uncover the truth.

I also love the process of taking in all the information for myself and trying to figure out what is going on before I get to the end. (The more insignificant it seems the more important it really is, right?)

I enjoy this process so much that I like to go back and reread the same mystery story again because I pick up different details/clues/hints along the way. Each new detail that I discover reveals more of the story and the more I am drawn into it.

This is what all the studying for my Theology courses this semester has been like.

Just like going back to the same mystery story mining for more details, the more I study who God is the more details I pick up. And the more details I see the more I am in awe of Him.

That is a beautiful truth about our infinite and perfect God.

Because God is Creator and we are his creatures, we can only know God insomuch as he reveals himself to us. Even then, we are unable to fully grasp who he is because of our fundamental difference in nature: he is infinite and we are finite; he is perfect and we are broken.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is a “you’ll never get to the end of the story so don’t bother starting” situation. No, this is a “the story is indescribably beautiful so keep keep drinking in its beauty with each day of your life” situation.

It is a noble task to devote oneself to knowing him more and more each day even though we will not know God fully until the day we stand face-to-face with him. That is why I believe there is also room for mystery in getting to know God.

In my recent reading I came across this prayer from Augustine’s Confessions in which he captures the beautiful mystery of God’s nature:

Most high, utterly good, utterly powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful and most just, deeply hidden yet most intimately present, perfection of both beauty and strength, stable and incomprehensible, immutable and yet changing all things, never new, never old, making everything new and “leading” the proud “to be old without their knowledge” (Job 9: 5, Old Latin version); always active, always in repose, gathering to yourself but not in need, supporting and filling and protecting, creating and nurturing and bringing to maturity, searching even though to you nothing is lacking: you love without burning, you are jealous in a way that is free of anxiety, you “repent” (Gen. 6: 6) without the pain of regret, you are wrathful and remain tranquil. You will a change without any change in your design. You recover what you find, yet have never lost. Never in any need, you rejoice in your gains (Luke 15: 7); you are never avaricious, yet you require interest (Matt. 25: 27). We pay you more than you require so as to make you our debtor, yet who has anything which does not belong to you? (1 Cor. 4: 7). You pay off debts, though owing nothing to anyone; you cancel debts and incur no loss. But in these words what have I said, my God, my life, my holy sweetness? What has anyone achieved in words when he speaks about you? Yet woe to those who are silent about you because, though loquacious with verbosity, they have nothing to say.

What an amazing sense of wonder and mystery at our good and great God who is immutable yet changing all things, who is wrathful yet tranquil, who pays debts despite owing nothing.

So my challenge to you is to embrace the mystery of getting to know God. Continue searching for more and more details that unravel a fuller picture of who God is. But also take time to sit and enjoy the glorious mystery of his incomprehensible nature.

I love you, Church!
Nathan Ehresman