Embracing Mystery

Reflections from Dr. Howell

A new email series, Embracing Mystery, is beginning, and I’m going to shorter emails… “Mystery” is a huge category in the Bible, and in theology, and one we don’t talk about nearly enough. There is mystery in God, in life, in me, in you, in others, in the world. Not a bad thing either: some of our best novels and movies are mysteries.

Of course, we tend to think of a mystery being “solved.” But there is a beauty to the unsolved, or flat out unsolvable mystery. You keep wondering, you keep poking around, you ponder, you look harder. “The unknown is the mind’s greatest gift, and for it no one thinks to thank God” (Emily Dickinson). God certainly is the ultimate unsolvable mystery. Not that we can’t know God. We can know much about God. But even the wisest, holiest theologian only brushes the hem of God’s garment. Our joy is to spend our lives learning more about God, growing closer to God; we never get God in a box – thankfully.

As we reflect on “mystery,” we will walk slowly through a book of the Bible. The Bible wasn’t meant to be read rapidly. You go slow. You re-read what you just read. You ponder, you ruminate, you question, you let it settle, you ask another question, you ponder some more. I want to invite you to join me in a slow reading of Ephesians, Paul’s great and provocative – and comforting letter. It’s about mystery: the mystery of our salvation, the mystery of God’s grace, the mystery of God reconciling all people not only to God but to one another. We need that, I believe.

The coolest verse, I think, is Ephesians 1:9. “God has made known to us the mystery of his will.” There’s mystery in God, in us, in life – but God has revealed it, it’s made known. We can know the mystery of God’s will. We can live the mystery of God’s will.  Join me in this quest called Embracing Mystery!