Leaning in and stumbling over
“It is a world of magic and mystery, of deep darkness and flickering starlight. It is a world where terrible things happen and wonderful things too. It is a world where goodness is pitted against evil, love against hate, order against chaos, in a great struggle where often it is hard to be sure who belongs to which side because appearances are endlessly deceptive. Yet for all its confusion and wildness, it is a world where the battle goes ultimately to the good, who live happily ever after, and where in the long run everybody, good and evil alike, becomes known by his true name....That is the fairy tale of the Gospel with, of course, one crucial difference from all other fairy tales, which is that the claim made for it is that it is true, that it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still.”
~ Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale
Mysterium tretendem et fascinas
“To the words and how we live between them. And to us and how we live between the words.” Thank you, Carrie Newcomer. Mysteries speak to that living between space. That space that holds a meandering path through people and places and things. Sometimes that meandering feels like it is as easy as an activity of connecting the dots. Other times the space feels like a maze where there’s no way out. Mysteries remind us that we don’t know everything, never have and never will. Mysteries invite us into the space of not having all the answers. Mysteries can sometimes just give us permission to relax. Other times they might invite us to explore, to stretch beyond what we can see. And still other times mysteries just companion us – gracefully whispering in our ears that (maybe this time) we don’t have to try so hard to figure it out.
These COVID-19 days bring up all kinds of not knowing, throw a spotlight on uncertainty, show us moments of not having the needed / desired answers. The boundary lines are moving all the time. What is safe? What is not safe? Who is sure? What is unsure? Is this the final precaution? What will be changing later today? Tomorrow? The day after that? It’s a mystery.
I’m drawn to Buechner’s notion of mystery. Even in just those few words I feel myself leaning in and stumbling over. My heart feels at home, for instance with that first sentence, words about “magic and mystery,” “deep darkness and flickering starlight.” My head and heart understand and resonate with these images that speak to these days. I was stopped, however and had to read and re-read his continuing words, “Yet for all its confusion and wildness, it is a world where the battle goes ultimately to the good, who live happily ever after, and where in the long run everybody, good and evil alike, becomes known by his true name....” I don’t know what that means. I don’t know if agree, if I believe it. Uh oh. Wait. Maybe this, too is a mystery.
And so now I find myself circling back. Maybe this is one gift that can come from keeping our heads and hearts open in mysterious times like these. COVID-19 days like these. It’s not that there’s no place to rest. Our lives demand that. But these times are teaching us that there is not (yet) a stopping place. If it is true – and not just something found in fairy tales that “the battle goes ultimately to the good,” then it matters greatly that we stay engaged, that we participate, that we not quit. If we do continue to be engaged, if we continue to participate, if we persevere and do not quit then maybe in the end we will be “known by our true names.” It is our living between the words in these days of not yet knowing or seeing, that we will come to be truly named and known. These days are shaping us just as certainly as we are shaping our days.
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Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Her passions are listening to her sons, John Brogan and Sam sing; great conversations, long walks and baseball.