Curations: Mysteries, Yes
This week we have been remembering and celebrating the life of Libby Turner, whose memorial service in her hometown of Rock Hill took place on Monday, and whose celebration of life will be Thursday at Augusta Heights.
In the service at Rock Hill, I shared a poem by Mary Oliver that seems to capture Libby's personality...as well as an important aspect of our faith.
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the mouths of the lambs. How rivers and stones are forever in allegiance with gravity while we ourselves dream of rising. How two hands touch and the bonds will never be broken. How people come, from delight or the scars of damage, to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.
Libby was always a person of curiosity - searching for understanding and insight, never settling for easy answers. And yet so often, our life of faith has become about finding the answers, having the answers, and giving the answers to others, instead of cultivating curiosity and wonder and awe at the presence and workings of God - calling attention to where and how we see God ("Look!"...), celebrating at God's wonders ("and laugh in astonishment"...), and drawing closer to God through it all ("and bow our heads").
I think we need to reclaim the value of mystery in our faith. After all, faith that has all the answers is not faith. It does not require trust. It does not allow for something beyond those answers. It stifles the expansive transcendence of God.
This is where the Eastern Church can help us. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Sacraments - what we sometimes define as "visible signs of an invisible grace" (communion, baptism, etc.) or acts in which God is present in a special way - are called the Mysteries. Which makes sense, because how exactly God is present is a mystery. (And grace is always a mystery. As a mentor of mine used to say, "If we could understand it, it wouldn't be grace!")
But I think we can flip that, too. That is to say, we may more fully experience God's presence and grace when we are open to mystery - to awe and wonder...when we don't have all the answers...when we are stretched in our uncertainty and (as we sing) "for grace to trust him more..."
What are the mysteries you are wrestling with right now? How might you (even without answers or certainty) experience God's presence in the midst of that mystery?
How have you experienced a sense of God's presence or grace in a time of curiosity, awe, or wonder?
What practices could you put in place, in your life, to cultivate an openness to mystery?
But we speak God’s wisdom, a hidden mystery, which God decreed before the ages... (1 Col 2:7)