Knowing the Mysterious
July 22, 2017
I enjoy people-watching, whether in a crowded cafe, the grocery store checkout line, or on Facebook. I look and imagine. I see and wonder. Always curious. Even when I’m 39,000 feet in the air, I look out across the earth’s curved horizon and wonder about all the people down below. What are they doing? How are they feeling? What pains, hopes, and dreams do they each have? And what can be done to bring a little more love, joy, or peace into their lives?
My curiosity about the ins and outs of the human heart and the desire to be of some help has led me into a career in marriage and family therapy. I have the privilege of walking along side people as they struggle to understand themselves and others, to learn to forgive, to grow, to love, and to really live.
It is a given in my field of work that most of us become therapists in order to fix ourselves; I’m guilty as charged. I enjoy watching people go about their lives and appreciate sitting with people in the therapy room, because these are the rare times that I’m not fixated on myself. Yet, even the desire to understand others is an attempt to decipher the peculiarities of my own heart. I’m frustrated by the logically contradicting emotions that exist within me; yet I’m strangely comforted by the fact that I’m a complex ball of intertwined polarities that cannot be easily detangled or classified. Many of my clients would tell you that they, too, are comforted by my ability to see them as they really are: both knowable and mysterious.
It is the knowable that takes away the fear of getting close and looking more deeply inside. It creates a solid foundation that builds trust. But it is the mysterious that keeps me in awe of the human heart and spirit. The ability to transcend the confines of personality, circumstance, or history inspires my profound respect. If I ever get to the point of thinking that I know exactly what my clients are going to do and no longer wait with bated breath to see what they will do next, then I should stop seeing clients. My arrogance would squelch any respect that is truly due to the clients and the complexities of the human heart that often defy predictability.
I experience God in a similar way, as both knowable and mysterious. He is knowable, and I can approach him and connect with him. He has revealed himself. He has spoken clearly. He wants to be known by me. But despite all that, he is still mysterious and so other than me that it boggles my wildest imagination. Just when I think I’ve figured him out, I encounter some new aspect of his character that challenges my comfortable, settled perspective—and it humbles me to admit that I cannot possibly grasp the totality of God.
In the Bible, the Apostle Paul is overcome with the great mystery of God’s dealings with human beings, and he is moved to cry out, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:33, NIV). May I never lose the sense of awe of God!