I think we live in a culture that likes mystery, but we don’t want to go too long without that mystery being solved and unraveled so that it answers all of our questions. I can’t imagine too many viewers of LOST being satisfied after this last season if the mysteries aren’t made completely known to them. Or think about how we often fail in our attempts to simply let God remain mysterious in how we does things. We try to answer all questions, and somehow feel like if we don’t have all the answers than we are somehow not being the right type of Christian.
We also take this mentality into relationships as well. When we meet that other person our desire often seems to begin the process of unraveling the mystery that is before us in that other person. That’s why we spend countless hours on the phone talking, in conversation over dinner, emailing, sending texts, playing together, etc. We believe that the more we know, the more mystery that is solved, then somehow we are better off. Or that somehow we are more intimately connected because of the knowledge of each other that has passed between us. I remember many early days in dating, especially back in high school where you spent countless hours early on just telling the other person all about you. The more they told, the more close you felt. We wanted to unravel the layers to get to the core of who they were, their personality, etc. — as soon as possible.
But I’m beginning to realize that we are more mysterious to each other than we often give credit for, or even allow. Last week I wrote on the topic of allowing your spouse the freedom to be who they are, and the mysteries that are often a part of our marriage.
The more work I do as a therapist, the more convinced I am that we can truly never know what goes on in a marriage. And often, spouses can rarely know all the mysteries of the person they are married too.
It’s something that I have to push back on myself about. Some mysteries will remain in my work with people as a therapist, and it’s not my goal to find them out. Some mysteries will remain in our work as a pastor as we try and communicate the work of God in people’s lives. And it’s not our job to have answers to all of them.
Last night I finished Scandalous Risks by Susan Howatch (it’s the 4th of 6th novels in the Starbridge Series which centers on the clergy of the Church of England through the last century. It’s an amazing series which I have read two times before, even reading some of the novels up to seven times. I can’t recommend them enough, and Howatch’s storytelling through various narrators in each novel reminds that we are perceived in many different ways by many different people. That in essence we are a mystery to others, and not all questions can be answered.
As I finished the book last night I read this quote that I want to leave with you…a quote that better says what I have tried to say in the words above.
“But surely you know the whole truth about the Bishop?”
Mrs Ashworth smiled. Then she said: “When I first met Charles long ago in 1937 he seemed very straightforward, a successful young clergyman from a comfortable middle-class home. But the reality behind the glittering image was far more complex, I assure you, then I could ever have imagined, and even now I daresay there are still mysteries in his past which I shall never unravel.” She hesitated but added: “He was a widower when I met him. He’s talked to me about the first marriage, but not in a way that has ever encouraged me to dig deep into what actually happened. I’d like to know more, of course, but I’ve accepted that there’s nothing more he has to say: I’ve accepted that there’s a limit on our knowledge of even those who are closest to us. The older one gets the more one realises how saturated life is in mystery, and the biggest mystery of all, it often seems to me, is the mystery of the human personality.” (pp. 438)