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.