Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about the mystery of life (God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas (Westminister, John Knox Press, re-edit, 2010). It is a long reference but worth the read---
The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty. A human life is
worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery. We retain the child in us to the
extent that we honor the mystery. Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes,
because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery. They are not yet finished
with this world; they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we
do. We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary of our
being, because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal, and
that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery…. Living without mystery means
knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life, nothing of the mystery of another
person, nothing of the mystery of the world; it means passing over our own hidden
qualities and those of others and the world. It means remaining on the surface, taking
the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated and exploited, and not
going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation. Living without mystery means
not seeing the crucial processes of life at all and even denying them.
The phrase "It means remaining on the surface..." struck a chord when thinking about spiritual depth and shallow living. Life without the mysteries of God is an empty life, a life lived on the surface, a life without depth. Modern sophisticates tend to exempt the mysteries of life from the agenda in two very specific ways---
1. Culture avoids the supernatural by downplaying the mysteries.
Rational, secular living is the result of pretending mysteries don't exist. A
culture bent on quantitative measurement, sharp definition, critical thinking,
and empirical data extract the supernatural from the seams of life.
De-mystifying Jesus, the Gospel, the New Testament, and other liberal studies
have raised doubt about the existence of a Creator God, providential leadership
in all things, and His sovereign guidance of life. Interestingly enough those
trends were the result of what historians have labeled "the enlightenment".
More like "dis-enlightenment" if you ask me. Still, they are the remains of a
liberal theology that makes much of man and little of God. As King David
wrote, this kind of life is vile and empty. He wrote, "The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none
who does good" (Psalm 14:1, ESV).
2. Shallow living ignores the mysteries by making everything a mystery.
The modern pretense in shallow churches and spiritual leaders is that every
solution to the sinful nature of man is hidden in the mysteries of God.
Therefore humans cannot overcome the curse of that sinful nature and grace
gives us license to live the life destined for a fallen world. As a result, there are
no moral absolutes by which life is lived. They are hidden from us in the
mystery of His ways. You know how this plays out. God is love. God gives
abundant grace to sinners. We are all human. And, more. When everything is
mystery, nothing is mystery.
Daily I am reminded of the truth God gave Moses. He wrote---
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed
belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29, ESV
God has chosen not to reveal everything to us. But, He has revealed something. There are mysteries hidden from our view. There's revealed truth also, so that we can hear His Word and obey it.
An example? Here's the one I hear most often---
What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV
These words are often quoted to people experiencing grief, tragedy, or some life hardship. We can't even imagine what God has prepared for us.
But, in the next sentence, God placed this mystery within the grasp of mere humans. The Apostle wrote---
These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches
everything, even the depths of God.
1 Corinthians 2:10, ESV
See, there are revealed things too. Spiritual leaders live in the balance of what He has revealed and what is hidden in the mystery of his ways. And, they lead those entrusted to their stewardship by them and to them.
This depth of living and leading in the mysteries and revealed things of God is the zone of genuine spiritual leadership.
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