Tag Archives: God

The desire for mystery

The movie opens on a pile of top hats in a forest.

A man explains the 3 steps of a good magic trick. And the real story begins, the story that happened before all this. We meet the black box that duplicates anything. Top hats. Cats. People. You wonder: How can this possibly end well? And yet, the ending, ambiguous and uncertain like that of many recent movies, somehow satisfies. It’s designed not to let us figure it out. We’ve seen a mystery and we love to try to pick it apart, even when we know we won’t be able to.

Of course, not knowing can be frustrating. Spiritually, we often want God to come right out and dazzle us, confront us with a powerful display. We’ve heard stories of him doing that, famously. But he remains concealed and we’re forced to search. He wants to be invited. No forcefulness on his part. He wants our faith.

There’s something in the searching that’s like breathing. A longing he wants us to experience. It grows beyond what any of us could have anticipated through the tension of never quite reaching that full reveal. In Sex God, Rob Bell says there’s something to be protected in marriage, and when we don’t protect it, the mystery goes out. In a similar way, you may have sensed God preserving your faith with mystery, respecting the relationship. Honoring the intimacy with modest restraint.

I’ve heard many well-intentioned Christians try to prove the resurrection, defending biblical accounts against doubters. Something gets missed in these sermons. I don’t think the point is to prove anything, as if we can. I think the point is to preserve belief. Denouncing supposed “certainties” of science—Da Vinci Code, the lost tomb, or whatever—that certainly helps preserve belief. But purporting to “prove” the gospel account, is to my way of thinking, misguided.

Maybe this resurgence of ambiguity in stories is evidence of something deeper at work. Maybe we’re longing for mystery. I believe artists and writers are more naturally in tune with this—whatever you want to call it—the zeitgeist, the collective unconscious, the modern spiritual climate. Where does that desire for mystery come from if not from God, who waits for us to listen to give us the hidden words of creation? We sit still and we listen and we trust. And the words show up.

Think about it. Even those who have seen miracles have to trust what they saw. Everything requires faith. Even truth has different expressions, angles, translations. So seeking the mystery of God, rather than the assurance of concrete answers seems so much more compelling to me. As a writer, I want to watch for serendipitous connections and dig deeper when I see one. A hunch, a feeling that you need to investigate, mention something, make a change. I want to seek that out. And God promises that when I do, I will find what I seek. It really does work. Give it a shot sometime. Then sit down and tell us about it.

I’m relatively certain this desire for mystery will only continue to grow in a culture hell-bent on naked exposure. Wonder is to faith as meaning is to truth. The mystery of God allows for endless exploration.

Extreme Makeover Reality Challenge

TV writers and award shows have complained about all the reality shows. And truly, they’ve been justified for most of it. The shift toward increasingly violent and immoral popular public “reality” games will eventually get out of hand in the new Rome. But until then, there’s one Sheri and I never miss. Sunday nights on ABC. You watch it and you can’t help but feel the world is going to be okay. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Helping people who help people. I mean, who thinks up this stuff? (As it turns out, this guy.)

Tonight’s episode, one long-awaited by southern Coloradans, took place in a little town a few miles east of Colorado Springs. The famous designers and construction dream-weavers dropped in on the Barrett family from Peyton, Colorado. The family says they’d “reward more kids if we only had a little more room.” essentially comes down to rewarding people for doing it right. We need more shows like this. We need more public spectacles like this. The few who have chosen to sacrifice for others, who have lived by the backwards principles of the kingdom, and made the world a better place for all of us through their inspiration, these deserve more attention.

This show creates the kind of feel-good fun we should be having in our books. And doing something good for people in the process—how could we not want that? There are a handful of books turned movies that probably fit the bill here as well. Catherine Hyde’s Pay It Forward comes to mind. And the previews for Jennifer Weiner’s second novel look promising. And Tuesdays with Morrie, of course.

Okay, the point is, What can you, writer friend, do to match the good vibes EMHE is putting out? Of course, I’d like to say I just don’t have the experience and connections Tom Forman’s built, so it’d be easy to sidestep the thought. But I can’t deny that I want to be a part of something so positive and with such impact on the culture. So I’m asking all of us: Are we available, even at the expense of our own pet works-in-progress? Are we willing to lay it down if God asks?

Maybe we can make up our own little contest. Call it the Extreme Makeover challenge. Whose WIP measures up to the good EMHE is doing? Is your goal to have that work go the distance? And if not, are you willing to ditch it for something better? We all only have a few good years. What’s your contribution going to be? If you’re not sure, the good news is you’ve still got time.

So here it is. The criteria: leave people better off and inspired to give to others. And maybe you’re not laying out the plan for the full fire-insurance every time, since the hard sell tends to freak some people out and convince them to close the door. But maybe you can offer just enough “reality” to get people familiar with the principles. Is this worth your blood, sweat, and tears?

Are you showing them something real?