Recently I bought Josh Garrel’s new music album, Home. Several times in this album, he uses this phrase “It’s a Mystery”, referring to God’s kingdom and our lives. It’s a nice song lyric, but the truth is we really don’t like mystery. As humans, we are obsessed with knowing, and often it causes problems for us. We often speak for God as if we know his heart on every issue, forgetting that much of what we say is clouded with our own humanness and has no chance at getting even remotely close to how God really thinks.
The urge to ask why can prevent us from acceptance of what is happening in this moment. I’ve talked with people who suspect they have childhood abuse in their past, and they are downright obsessed with remembering the details so that they can heal and move on. But the fact is, being preoccupied with what happened and why is preventing them from healing. It’s possible to say “I have no idea what happened; it’s a mystery. But the result is where I am now, so I’m going to try to be in the moment and work on that”. The same thing sometimes happens when a spouse is betrayed by infidelity or some other seemingly unexplainable betrayal. “If I could just understand why, I could move on!” While that sentiment is surely part of the process, to get stuck there is a distraction. Moving on is going to be painful and difficult even if you know why. When it seems I won’t ever really discover the why, then my telling myself that I could move on if I knew the why, becomes a cop-out that gives me a pass to not do the hard work.
Paul could have been obsessed with why God wouldn’t remove the thorn he prayed to have taken away. Why, God? Why wouldn’t God help his good and faithful servant Paul with this struggle? Paul would have never reached his place of joyfulness and usefulness had he been thus preoccupied. Why did it take so long between when David was anointed and when he became King? Why did Job have to lose his family along with all his belongings? Why did a God full of grace not allow Moses into the promised land? Why? I don’t know; it’s a mystery. What I do know is that these characters did not allow the why’s to distract them from doing God’s will with joy. Why is a distraction; the need to know pulls us from enjoying God’s provision and instead fills us with a suspicion that things might be “going to hell in a hand-basket” or that God has somehow forgotten that we need deliverance from our present circumstances.
I don’t know why you have anxiety. But if you do, you do. You should pursue all avenues of knowledge and healing. But if in the end, you are just a person who has anxiety, don’t let the endless repetition of “why?” get in the way of being an absolute, joy-filled, all-in disciple of Christ. I don’t know why you drank the exact same amount as your roommate in college and you ended up addicted and they didn’t. You can dwell on the “why?” and the unfairness of that and blame it all on God until your last breath. But then you’d be missing the joy of intentionally embracing life in the midst of the mystery. Don’t let the mystery prevent you from finding healing, from seeking for God’s provision and blessing wherever you find yourself.
And then there is the matter of interpersonal communication. I’m always advocating for more curiosity. For example, if I’m in an argument with my teenager and he yells “you don’t know what it’s like!” you know what the temptation is, right? Of course, to tell him all that I know! “Are you kidding me? I was 17 once! I know how boys think, I know exactly what you’re doing!” Has any conversation like this ever ended with two people feeling closer to one another? Of course not. On the few occasions when I’ve been able to soften my tone, lower my voice and say “You know what, you’re right – I don’t know what it’s like for you. But I’d like to. Help me to understand what you are thinking”, those conversations have always ended well. It’s good to remember that even other people can be a mystery. We might think, based on experience, that we know why our husband just did that or the reason our friend just said that. But approaching the conversation from an unknowing, curious place will usually bring you closer and teach you something.
Isn’t it enough to accept that we don’t know? But God knows. And we will know. Someday. But for now, let’s stick to the things we know for sure. God is love. Therefore we should love. That’s something we can know. For example, our politics might be different. Does God agree with you or me? I don’t know; it’s a mystery. But does God love you and me? And should I love you too? This I can know and do. If I say I can’t love you until I know if God agrees with you, I violate the things I do know.
Accepting mystery means that I give up my “right” to understand the way the universe works. It means I admit that I might be wrong about the way I view things. It’s scarier because it means I might not be in control; I might not be able to say for sure. But it releases me from a struggle I can’t win into a life I can be victorious in. It frees me to love you no matter what; it allows me to let God be God; it lets me trust that He’s got this. My only job is to listen to His promptings and follow Him, not to figure out all the rights and wrongs, or to right every wrong. I can do the things I know to do – love my fellow man, take care of the poor, feed the orphans; rejoice always; serve; the list goes on.
*Read my comment(s). My dear friend has agreed to give her non-therapist view of my crazy ideas to get the conversation started. Jump in!*