The Christian worldview is chock full of mystery. How Jesus is both true God and true Man; how God is Three Persons but One Substance; how Jesus comes to us–body, blood, soul, and divinity–under the appearances of bread and wine: these are some of the great mysteries of our faith. We are steeped in these mysteries, and we are comfortable (for the most part) that our finite minds cannot fully comprehend the greatness of God. After all, some say, how much of a god is a God who is completely understood?
The mysteries of each other, however–those mysteries engender more discomfort. Whenever we hear of a tragedy intentionally perpetrated, the first question is usually “Why?” Why would someone do that? We seek to understand, because somehow understanding brings with it some measure of comfort.
But what if we can’t understand? And what if the mystery is closer to our own hearts: someone close to us who has hurt us unimaginably? When we try to sort out “why?” or “how could he?”–well, that mystery is almost unbearable.
I had always held closely a hope that when my father died, the mystery of his activities and his intentions would be solved. He passed away recently, and along with the grief of losing a parent and the shock of its suddenness, comes the grief that the mystery–instead of being revealed–has instead become more clouded and more strange.
What do we do when we must live with the mysteries of a human soul that we cannot penetrate? Clearly, I will not know more about my father’s thoughts, motivations, or activities in this life. The pieces simply don’t fit together no matter how many times I have turned them over in my mind.
When a painful mystery of life so presses upon our minds and hearts that it feels like murky waters poised to engulf us, it seems to me that we have two options. We can struggle against it, flailing our limbs in an attempt to stay upright. We can try to analyze the mystery and expend untold energy and time trying to unravel events, sort out truth, and understand the motivations of another’s heart.
Sometimes, though, we simply can’t fathom the answer. In that event, not all is lost, for we can learn to float. We can submit to our human nature. The fact is, we were not made to know all–certainly not the workings that lie at the bottom of another’s soul. We can adopt a posture of humility and lie peacefully atop the surface of the water. One way saps strength; the other preserves it. One keeps our eyes fixed on the sphere below; the other trains our eyes toward heaven.
Fortunately, truth isn’t only a set of facts but is a Person. I can choose to rest in Truth, who is Jesus Christ. Here I accept the finite nature of my human mind and yield to the God who is infinite but who loves me so completely that he came to me in history and comes to me in the Mass. I don’t understand the mystery of my father, but He does. Furthermore, if it were to my soul’s good that I unravel the mystery surrounding my dad, He would show it to me. He hasn’t yet. He might one day, but today and all days, I can rest in utter assurance that not knowing must be for my best.
When you encounter a mystery in life that cannot be solved–learn to float. You might catch a glimpse of heaven.
Text copyright 2018 Amanda Woodiel. Photo by Pexels (2016) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain.