Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Are You Comfortable with the Mysteries of God?

When I set out to write my antagonist for The Baker’s Wife, Jack Mansfield, I was nervous about how people would respond to him. Though I’ve always thought the most frightening villains are the ones in whom we can see ourselves, Jack is my first bad guy who is also a Christian, a deacon, an upstanding citizen in his church and community. I feared he would offend my fine, church-going, upstanding readers.

Instead they’re saying that he’s my best villain yet. They don’t know I put some of my own worst qualities into Jack: the overwhelming need to be right about God, for example. I spent a lot of years believing (as Jack does) that if I just lived a “right” Christian life, God would bless me. Always. If I had trouble, God would point the way out of it. My faith would help me shine through the character-building trials. I would always come out on top.

photo credit: Maciek Pelc

Here’s the problem with this way of thinking:
(1)    It locks God away in a box.
(2)    It emphasizes me instead of Him.
(3)    It lacks humble awareness of my own humanity

Again and again, I am confronted with my capacity to be very, very wrong. Sometimes trouble gets the best of me. Though I cling to faith and ask God for wisdom, the best choices are not always clear. The longer I persist in my faith journey, the fewer answers I seem to have about the way God works in the world, and the more mistakes I seem to make.

And the more I have to trust Him.

At such moments a person who doesn’t want to abandon faith can make a choice: She can turn away from her own understanding and learn to get comfortable with the mysteries of God (as we are advised to do in Proverbs 3), or she can go off the deep end, as Jack did, insisting that human understanding is the pinnacle of godly living.

It sounds silly to state it that way, doesn’t it? I don’t want to be Jack. But in order not to be Jack, I have to be comfortable walking with God and admitting I don’t understand everything about Him. It’s a limitation of this life:
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror,” Paul said. “Then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).
Does it make you uncomfortable to admit what you don’t know about God? Why or why not?


Anne Mateer said...

I think the older I get and the longer I walk with God, the more I appreciate that I can't understand everything about Him. I don't want to serve a small God, certainly not one that my measly brain can attain to understand. I want to rest in something bigger, wiser, more powerful than myself, and to do that, I have to make peace with the fact that I can't know Him completely until I see Him face to face.

Jack in The Baker's Wife (I'm halfway through) reminds me a lot of Javert in Les Miserable and I've always been fascinated by Javert's reasoning behind his actions. Because of that, I've loved getting into Jack's head a bit and exploring how he thinks about life and the world.

Cheryl said...

Not any more. I'm distrustful of anyone who claims to know God's will, to know what he will and won't do, based on this, that or the other (usually Scripture quoted out of context.

There is no way a mortal mind can totally understand that which exists in the realm of the supernatural, which is where God resides.

Erin Healy said...

Amen, Anne. I hadn't thought about the comparison to Javert. I like that, because in a corner of my heart I've always had sympathy for Javert, the kind of sympathy rooted in sadness. And I agree with you, Cheryl, though I also believe God wants to make Himself known to us. Humility in approaching Him seems to be key.

Olivia Newport said...

What a beautiful post.

Erin Healy said...

Thanks, Olivia.

Jennifer K. Hale said...

I love this, Erin!
It does make me uncomfortable to admit what I don't know about God, but I'm learning that those mysteries define our faith. I could definitely classify as a control freak, so realizing that I have no control and that God is not obligated to clearly spell out all the answers for me--well, it can make me a little nuts. I can see clearly how he's teaching me that my strength is not my own and no matter how hard I push, I just can't do everything myself.

Nellie Dee said...

OK. Now I know I will do everything I can to get my hands on a copy of this book asap.
I tried to stop at my local bookstore tonight, but was interrupted by a phone call which kept me from getting there before they closed.
Your post echoes my current feelings, discoveries and questions. I am definitely also uncomfortable with those who so boldly claim to know what God says or how He directs their every move or thought. BECAUSE it makes me "feel" like there is something wrong with me because I do not know.
If it's ok, I may reference your blog in my post tonight.
Thanks, Erin.

Erin Healy said...

Jennifer, I too am a recovering control freak. I'm 41 and for at least 20 years--possibly longer, though I didn't recognize it--God has been gently exposing the truth that I control far less than I thought I did. At first I resisted, but more and more, I find freedom and comfort in handing over the reins to Him. Nellie, feel free to reference my post. I hope it encourages others too!