Language fits over experience like a straight jacket. William Golding

But beyond learning how live in grace and truth, the other thing that some Christians have a really hard time doing is living with the grace of mystery. I remember one time my son and I were discussing dinosaurs to which he was speaking about some aspect of the issue very definitively. He demanded: “Dad, I’ve spent lots of time thinking about this and I think I’ve nailed it. I know I’m right!” While he may have thought about the issue a lot and perhaps he was right, I suggested to him that in some areas definitive thinking can also sometimes be wrong. As the infamous 13th Chapter of I Corinthians maintains, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Those who have entered into a friendship with Jesus can live in the tension of looking through that darkened glass.

One can learn how to live a life where we don’t have all the answers.  A friend’s two year old drowns in their backyard pool—you don’t have to say a word. Silence is golden in times like these and when your friend asks that inevitable question, “Why did God allow this to happen?!” It is okay to just listen and sit with them in their pain. With some things that we experience in life, there are not always hard and fast answers. When a friend who is a remarkable and giving person, loses not one or two, but now three children to miscarriages, when she asks that same question, “Why does God allow this happen to me—doesn’t he understand how much I desperately want to be a mother and have a child of my own?!”—again, in these times, we see through a glass darkly.

In my own life, I have had to second-hand face these same types of questions. Julie’s parents were killed when she was just five years old. From what I’ve been told they were a wonderful couple—her dad a principal of a Christian school and her mom a devoted nurse and mother. But on a Friday evening while driving home to Michigan, a car veered into their lane and they were hit head on by an oncoming truck. Instantly, they were killed as Julie and her sister were left unharmed in the back seat. Instantly, life was dramatically changed forever for her as her mom and dad would no longer be able to be there for her. Some years ago, I was listening to a song and when I heard the lyrics I instantly thought of Julie and her loss.

I always knew you
In your mothers arms
I have called your name

And when you write a poem
I know the words
I know the sounds
Before you write it down
When you wear your clothes
I wear them too
I wear your shoes
And your jacket too

I always knew you
In your mothers arms

Rest in my arms
Sleep in my bed
There is a design
To what I did and said

Vito’s Ordination Song – Sufjan Stevens

When I listened to those words, “I always knew you in your mother’s arms” that was an image that Julie on many occasions painted for me of her own mother. We inherited from her grandmother the rocking chair that Julie and her mother would sit in when she was a little girl and this is the prominent memory she has of her mom. As the song ended the first time I heard it, the words haunted me as Sufjan Stevens uttered, “There is a design to what I did and said.” In an experience like Julie has lived out in losing a mother and father who loved her dearly, what was the purpose of them being killed on that Indiana highway? While there is a comfort in God saying to her that she can “rest in his arms;” there are still multitudes of questions that go unanswered. Julie, like you and I, live our lives by looking through a glass darkly.

Again, we don’t have to have all the answers to life’s questions. Life is complex, beyond our imagination and while God has a tremendous plan for our lives, each of us in some way or another will face tragedies and loss in some way. In doing so, we will face all kinds of questions that for now just do not have answers. As Albert Einstein said, “The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious.” Now that I am in my fourth decade, I have learned that life can sometimes be cruel and difficult at times. I have faced many challenges, in which I have cried out, God—why?! Why is there such extreme poverty? Why do children have to be hurt in some form or another? Why do people do such awful things? Why does my friend’s marriage have to fail? Why did that tornado have to sweep through that town and wipe everything and everyone out? Why is there disease and death? Why do I have to die? Why?!

A book like The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis can be helpful in trying to understand life’s complexities and challenges. I remember reading his infamous words that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” And this brought some form of answer, but not until I continued on and heard his words, “God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love.”—this was the real answer I sought. I am his first love and no matter what I face that will not change, and that will not alter his plan for my life and the life of my family—no matter what we have to face—good or bad.


An important area of our lives that some of us need to grow is learning how to live in the place of mystery—the place where we don’t have to have all the answers. In what areas of your life, do you need to do this and learn to be okay with “looking through the glass darkly?” How in your life can you become a better listener to God and to others and not always have to have the final word? How can you “let God be God” and simply rest in that assurance?

In: Friend to Jesus
Tags: , , , , , , ,