Friday, July 1, 2011

Problems and Mysteries

“A problem is something which one runs up against, which bars the way. A mystery, however, is something in which I find myself involved” (philosopher Gabriel Marcel).
I have, on occasion, left the keys to my car in the ignition and locked the door.  I return to discover that I can’t get in the car, and I’m far from home. I have a problem. 
Problems can be amusing (like playing “Angry Birds” on my iPad), frustrating (like locking my keys in the car), or challenging (like solving a Rubic’s Cube). Problems call for the application of thought and technique and most can be resolved in time.
But there are some issues that do not yield to objective thinking and method. These are the big questions, the deep mysteries of life: Is God good? Does he love me? What will happen if I give myself wholly to him? Can I know his love and acceptance?
These are not problems that can be solved by calculation; they are mysteries. They demand “involvement,” a choice, a commitment, a childlike leap of faith.
In George MacDonald’s novel, The Golden Key, he tells the story of two child, Mossy and Tangle, who possess the key to heaven (Jesus), but who struggle with much uncertainty and doubt along the way.  At one point Mossy asks the Old Man of the Earth, (the symbol of deep wisdom): “Tell me the way to the country whence the shadows fall (heaven).”

The Old Man of the Earth stooped over the floor of the cave, raised a huge stone from it, and left it leaning. It disclosed a great hole that went plumb-down.
“That is the way,” he said.
“But there are no stairs...“
“You must throw yourself in. There is no other way.”


1 comment:

Christine said...

This... is the story of my recent life. Moving to Rwanda and such. A priest prophesying to me that my ministry is a path of continual surprises... I just show up, go where I am sent, and find out why later. Sometimes much later. Other times right away, which is usually a nice bit of Skinnerian encouragement.

Anyway, thanks for reminding me of the joy of mystery, and its distinction from problem. I like living mystery much more than focusing on problems. And quite often the mystery poses as a problem, until one says, "Well, Lord, the car is locked and I can't go anywhere... is there a reason for this?" Quite often, at least in my case, there is.

 The God-Man “If ever we get hungry to see God, we must look at his picture.”  “Where is that, sir?”  “ Ah, Davie … don’t you know ...