The Mystery I Live

a woman hiking in the fog

Our scars travel with us through life. Not just our own scars, but scars of our friends and family that become the fabric of who we are. I remember my first experience of losing a friend to death. A group of us had traveled by train to Fred Waring’s choral workshop in Pennsylvania. While there we were informed that Bob Keefe, a fifteen–year-old classmate of ours, had been killed while water skiing on the Scioto River. We were stunned and sorrow-filled.

Thoughtfully, a service at a local Catholic church was arranged for us to attend to mourn our loss corporately.

I have heard people say that our trials are ways in which God chooses to teach us. This is outrageously offensive to me. Sometimes the trials are seemingly from the pit of hell and not God at all. Nevertheless, all suffering changes us. We are transformed by events whether they happen to us or to others.

It’s a mystery how our character is shaped. It can be one sentence of attunement that changes our heart. We might not even know the person or like the sentence. But if it brings alignment to our thinking, feeling and being, it becomes an altar in our heart and our life. It is a signpost, of sort, that guides us on our path.

All forms of mystery take our breath away. There’s a reverence of awe in our heart and mind. This comes with the bigness of creation and the smallness of being. It can come by watching shooting stars or by almost drowning in a wave that smashes you hard on the ocean floor. We are tossed about on this journey called life. Even the angels are in awe of us.

These mysteries are stored up in a deep well within us. They aren’t seen, but are felt. We can’t predict the sentences or valleys that will shape us.

A sentence my dad said to me while getting into the car after a piano lesson, “Your smile lights up the world.” Or being called in early from the playground and having your teacher tell you, “Our President has been shot.” How many sentences of goodness or harm does a life hold? How many incidents of a lifetime fall away while others are treasured and held tenderly, sometimes never spoken about out loud?

Mystery has long-lasting power. When my husband comes to hug me with tears on his cheeks and says that I am forgiven. When a long distant friend calls on the morning of 9/11 and her voice shakes with fear and the only goodness she can muster up is that her parents are no longer alive to have to witness another trauma. How is it possible that the tone of my voice and the words chosen to speak can be the greatest goodness of my husband’s day?

“There are four marvelous mysteries that are too amazing to unravel- who could fully explain them? The way an eagle flies in the sky, the way a snake glides on a boulder, the path of a ship as it passes through the sea, and the way a bridegroom falls in love with his bride.” Proverbs 30:18, 19

There is no resolve to the paradox we live with on this side of heaven.

One phrase can capture us and change the course of our life.

One sunset can bring us to tears with wonder and awe. One friend loses another baby to premature death. Another friend’s addicted son is found dead by a local landmark. Another friend celebrates an investment that is worth millions of dollars. Another holds her twenty-fifth grandchild. There is death all around us and there is joy abounding alongside of it.

How does a girl in 1967 awaken in the wee hours of the night and listen to “Walk Away Renee” and feel the presence of God and the hope of heaven? How does that eerie song evoke the same strange feeling and hope fifty years later? How will I ever be able to live through a day if my husband dies before me? How will I know what to say to my friend whose son no longer lives?

We are asked to hold both death and resurrection each day as believers in Jesus Christ. Sometimes that is the greatest ballast of all time: His death and resurrection. Sometimes his death falls off of me like sweat in a hot yoga class and his resurrection is too wild to take in. Some mysteries cause me to kneel in adoration of Jesus’ obedience to His Father. How did he willingly stand before the court of law, carry his cross, and be crucified? How is it that God became man and that we trust in a triune God? This mystery is too great, yet this mystery I live.

This post originally appeared on Red Tent Living.