Sunday, March 11, 2007

Embracing the Mystery



It’s one of the paradoxes of studying theology, I suppose. Seems like the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know! God has graciously given us in the Bible all that we need to know with respect to our understanding of Him and how we are to respond and act in faith. But I’ve found myself at times yearning for a better grasp of areas that seem vague and mysterious.

This past week, however, I looked at mystery from a different angle. For the first time, really, I felt a sense of gratitude for what it is that we don’t know.

Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

Exodus 33: 21-23

We learn in Exodus that there is mystery in the visage of God. He has lovingly shielded Moses from a view of His face, because we are told that seeing the face of God would be fatal. (vs. 20)

So inside this mystery—how the spirit of God might manifest physically—we learn that Moses has been safeguarded. There’s protection in that mystery.

How about the mystery of how angels and demons interact… and how they might engage with us in ways we cannot see or know? We are told very little in the Bible about the exact nature of spiritual warfare in the heavenly realms. My professor, Dr. Ronald B. Allen, has said that he believes this remains mysterious because “we might not get out of bed in the morning” if we knew what was really going on around us.

Is this, perhaps, another mystery that protects us?

How about the mysterious inspired authorship of certain Psalms? I was re-reading Psalm 91 this past week and was reflecting on a comment Dr. Allen made about certain Psalms that lack attribution. How a rendering of some psalms without certain specifics, particularly those that comfort us in times of trouble, could be God’s way of gifting us with a message that readily transcends ancient context, allowing us to more easily apply the truth to our own lives.

I noticed for the first time this week that Psalm 91 is not attributed. We don’t know who wrote it. We don’t know the specific circumstances or situation. We can’t form in our minds a clear picture of a scenario involving known ancients. But we can close our eyes and very easily make this incredibly comforting Psalm "our own" as we cross the faulty bridges of life. Knowing that “… he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways….”

Psalm 91 was a principal source of comfort to me during the cancer journey. I encountered it several times during the most difficult trials. It stirred my soul and gave me hope. This week, I had one more reason to be thankful for this Psalm; I could thank God for its mystery.

I have to wonder, with respect to God’s economy, if sometimes less really is more.

(Photo by inkswamp; see http://flickr.com/photos/inkswamp/ for restrictions.)
On my I-pod... Jesus Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood

6 comments:

James Somers said...

Great post, Sarah...I would have to agree. We really have no idea what all is happening around us...only that it is a raging war. It would probably stagger our minds to see it on a daily basis...howbeit, we have been give a glimpse, such is when Elisha prayed for his servant's eyes to be opened in the seige, so that he could see the army of the Lord encamped about them.

Here's a thought...we are to walk by faith and if we had sight, where would faith be? Jesus told Thomas, blessed are they that believe having not seen...Hmmm.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

wonderful build to this post, James.

sometimes when we take the boys to the movies we'll have to suffer through trailers that are really intense and sometimes creepy. this becomes less of a problem as they grow older. but still something that concerns us. when we sense something coming that's bound to ignite a month's worth of nightmares, we tell the boys to close their eyes. this is a natural almost instinctive action on our part because we care.

imagine how much greater is the level of caring on the part of our Father... and the extent to which He protects us! shielding us, perhaps, from utterly traumatizing visages of evil.

great point about faith... which is the "bottom line" as it relates to divine revelation that we have been graciously taught but have not personally witnessed.

michael jensen said...

I haven't anything more apposite to add.

Have you written about your experience with cancer elsewhere?

Sarah Onderdonk said...

i speak about it from time to time and have a manuscript about "endurance" nearly finished (first chapter excerpt in archives... Sept or Oct). in january, i was contacted by a publisher about a fiction book (spiritual warfare stuff)... i have a grand total of 3 1/2 chapters written and really need to figure out where i'm going with it. until then, i think i'll just keep blogging and procrastinating...

re. the cancer... it was a life-altering "gift" in many respects. we encountered God in the most precious and amazing ways.

della said...

Great topic, Sarah! Mystery is good. I think we would become bored and complacent without mystery. God created us with this need to connect and relate and to be intimate. But, in all our relationships, do we not long for at least a hint of intrigue and mystery? And I'm not talking of wearing masks or playing games. I'm talking about that special thing, that quality which I am obviously struggling to find words with which to describe.

Do you think there will be mystery for eternity? I do.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

i agree, Della! it's what we like about Clint Eastwood (and Todd Onderdonk :).

yes, i think most certainly there will be mystery in heaven (and most certainly we will be OK with that).