In looking back over six decades of life, I find the path behind me strewn with clarity. God is faithful. How could I have ever doubted? Yet when I am hedged in by difficult circumstances and unanswered questions, not knowing the end of my current story can feel lethal.
Flannery O’Connor said that “mystery as it is incarnated in human life is the main concern of the fiction writer.” In real life, this is every man’s story. We can relate; and it’s nice to have the helm of turning the pages when you’re ready. Pace yourself, linger, remain in control, and then bring yourself to the conclusion.
The Gospel is described as the “fellowship of the mystery.” We see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; we only know in part. The final transition is certain but still unclear: “What we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” In the meantime our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” and the joy of discovering Him is what sustains us.
Even so, mystery wields leverage over us and it is not confined to hard circumstances alone. Adam & Eve failed to navigate the restraints of mystery while living in a perfect garden of light. The secret and hidden things that God was protecting them from, once tempted, they believed they were entitled to possess. Entitlement is not a bedfellow of mystery.
This scenario in Eden leaves me both challenged and comforted. Perfect, unhindered fellowship with God; no sin nature clamoring from the dark depths of the soul, and yet “not knowing” was the bait of Satan that entrapped them. What chance do “I” have, handicapped with life in the jungle from a young age, saturated in years of utter deception? Yet I am comforted in that mankind was intended to live amongst mystery, divinely sequestered from full knowledge. This is God’s “normal.”
Another pristine garden – the womb of Mary – was the first earthly residence for the Son of Man. The One who authored Eden’s tree of life was now the “last Adam” on a journey to another life giving tree, one whose fruit could be accessed by all. The Cross made a way for “whosoever will”, an open invite to come “taste and see.”
Mary knew the sweetness of birthing this promise of the ages. She would also know the bitter side of inaugurating this “fellowship of the mystery.” Simeon prepared her for that: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Pursued by an infant-killing death squad, mother of the controversial Rabbi, eyewitness of Innocence crucified – perhaps in the end she questioned once again, “How can this be?”
Unlike the novel, the reins of real life story are often beyond our grasp.
Peter took Jesus aside one day and began to rebuke him over talk of death and resurrection. This piece of the story seemed mysteriously out of place in the midst of ministry success and rising popularity. Jesus replied, “Get behind me Satan. You are not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of man…If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
Mary lost her life that day. There’s something about being visited by a heavenly envoy, the angel that stands in the presence of God. Ask Daniel and Zechariah about Gabriel. Heavenly revelation cannot be bought but it carries a price tag. It is all consuming.
Mary found her life that day. Though she only knew in part, she knew. “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me.”
Like Mary, let us choose to embrace the process of the glorious riches of this mystery – Christ in you the hope of glory – mystery incarnate.
The Author & Finisher has your story written in His book.