A Good Mystery

7

No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  –1 Corinthians 2:7

My favorite detective show?  Scooby Doo. A gang of squirrely teens riding around in the Mystery Machine fighting crime.  Still love that show.  (Except, of course, for Scrappy).

Collecting clues.  Acting on hunches.  Dramatically unveiling the bad guys.  This is not just Hanna-Barbera material, there are dozens — maybe hundreds of different tv detective shows that have been on our TV screens over the last half-century.

What’s your favorite?  Dragnet?  Cagney & Lacey?  Twin Peaks?  CHIPS?  Murder, She Wrote?  Cop Rock?

I could fill this page with examples.  From Blue’s Clues to Sherlock, it’s a persuasive genre and people watch hundreds of hours of it.

People love a good mystery.

Which does not include, for many of us, the faith kind.  When it comes to faith, it seems we want certainty, instead of mystery.  Here, I think, is why:

Many detective shows follow a mystery – to- certainty formula like this:

  1. A mystery presents itself.
  2. Clues are discovered.
  3. False leads are followed.
  4. The main character has a hunch.
  5. A chase of some sort ensues.
  6. The bad guy is captured.
  7. All is explained
  8. Life is good.

Nothing better than that, right?  A satisfying sense of certainty, wrapped up in an hour.  It makes us feel that all is well with the world.  That problems are solvable.  That a good mystery is nothing that a couple Scooby snacks can’t conquer.

The problem is, faith doesn’t always feel like a good mystery because we tend to not get past #5.

  1.  We encounter a mystery (i.e. Is Heaven a real place?
  2.  We gather clues (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience)
  3. We follow false leads (bad teaching, cultural influences, our own unhealthy desires)
  4.  We get back on track, and have a hunch (Maybe Heaven is both a place and a way of life?)
  5. We chase down our hunch until…we get lost, or confused, or doubtful.  When no perfect answer appears, we give up, or take an easy way out.   We reject mystery.

And so, we turn to easy answers that only a literal, law-based Christianity can provide.  Or we convince ourselves we have too much to do on a Sunday morning and stop doing the work of faith-learning.  Or we substitute the satisfaction of the 1 hour cop drama for the ongoing reward that comes from a lifetime of investigating.

No, it’s not easy.  One question can lead to three more.  There is little room for “Just the facts, ma’am”.  Investigating faith stuff can feel unsettling and never-ending and elusive.

But I’m here to tell you, it’s the best.  The best kind of mystery of all.  For one thing, it’s not always so uncertain.  There are insights and A-HA moments and the kind of knowing that only comes from years of seeking.  There is measurable growth and maturity.  There are an infinite number of clues to find along the way.

But for all that, the Christian Life is still a life of mystery.  A life of wonder, and questions, and seeking, never fully completed.  Always more to know.  Always a deeper relationship with a never-fully knowable God, who knows us insight and out.

So keep searching! The very best of mystery awaits.  Remember, faith means being a detective on the longest, most rewarding case of your life…

even when things get Scrappy.

Have a great week,

Mitch

scrappy

Literally.

bible-Sunlight

You know what I’m a little tired of?

The word “literally”.  I am literally tired of the word literally.

But so is everybody else.  Especially when it’s misused.

“It was so funny I was literally dying!”   No you weren’t.  You were laughing.  Use better English

So yeah, overusing “literally” in common speech is annoying.

But you know what concerns me even more? (And will possibly get me some hate mail…)

Overusing “literally” when talking about faith.  More specifically, the Bible.

There are many Christians who read the Bible “literally”, like a book of facts.  Like the answer key for everything.  A Book that has no discrepancies and no falsehoods.

I understand  why people are attracted to that form of faith.  It means putting your faith in one source, one place in the whole world where human infallibility can’t corrupt.

The Bible becomes an anchor of singular truth, cast down from God to keep the faithful from drowning in a world of chaos.

I kind of get that.  It sounds easier than the doggy paddling my faith must do from time to time.

But here’s what I wonder:  What use is imagination if the Bible requires none?  Or doubt, for that matter, in the face of the literal truth?  Why did God give us discerning brains but then lay it all out for us at face value?

Why, after all, do human beings need the Bible to be, from cover to cover, literally true?

I, for one, think the Bible is indeed inspired by God, but written through many different people, in a variety of cultures and settings.

I think the Bible contains life shaping instruction and wisdom, but that it has to to be fleshed out with my whole being.  My mind, my traditions, even my experiences.

I don’t think of the Bible as a Fact book, filled with one unerring detail after another, but rather as a Truth book–to be uncovered and interpreted–even argued with!

By reducing my use of the word “literally” when talking about the Bible, it means the Good Book is to be used in conjunction with the rest of my life, not hovering over it, set apart from it.  It becomes the supreme faith tool, not just an answer key.

Living faithfully without the “literal” tag means a life with more uncertainty, more wrestling, and more searching for God throughout the world.

And I literally wouldn’t want it any other way.

Have a Good Week,

Mitch

misuse-of-the-word-literally-jar