from The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg
|“But faith . . . taught me the lesson: to live in the mystery, even to love it.”
from Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
This summer has allowed me to do things that I have not done in awhile: one is to read – just read for myself, not in preparation for a class or because I have to, but simply read; two is to do a little traveling and being with family members that do not live nearby; and three is to spend more time with my grandchildren and experience everyday life through their eyes, and part of that experience is seeing the joy, the wonder, and the mystery that is revealed when viewing the world through the lens of young children. However, in those moments of wonder comes the opportunity for deeper, personal reflection and introspection: just what is the mystery of life? How does one live in it and into it? How does one learn to love it?
One of the books I’ve been reading is Patricia Lockwood’s memoir, Priestdaddy, and while my writing here is not the dreaded book report, I was struck by the above quote as Lockwood reflects upon her life and notes the influence of faith and her father. As believers, we can see (though often not very easily) our faith allows us to embrace life fully – a life filled with ups and downs, with the knowns and unknowns, with blessings and challenges, with joys and sorrows.
With the roller coaster ride that is life come anxiety and doubt and fear and the question of how we put our faith into practice and embrace the mystery and live fully and completely. A couple of years ago, in the HBO series The Young Pope, the central character, Lenny Belardo, responds to the question, “How do you overcome fear?” with this answer: “By giving into the complex and unfathomable architecture that God has designed for us.” That complex and unfathomable architecture is part of that mystery of life. The prophet Isaiah explained it this way:
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55: 8 – 9 (KJV)
A large part of our faith must be acknowledging that we are not going to comprehend fully the ways of God. Watchman Nee, the Chinese minister and teacher, wrote that “faith looks not at what happens to [us], but at Him Whom [we] believe.”
The apostle Paul tells us:
12 In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face-to-face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now. 13 There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13: 12 – 13 (TLB)
The late George Harrison posed the question “What is life?” Although his song is a love song and certainly not a theological treatise, he does emphasize the great significance of love in our lives –
“Tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side”
For me, that great mystery of life is solved in great measure by coming to the realization that the good news of the Gospel, God’s love and grace for us, does indeed sustain us, for what would our lives be without His love; who we would be without Him by our side?