Where you have absolute solutions,
you have no need of faith.
Faith is what you have in the absence of knowledge.
The reason this clash doesn’t bother me any longer
is because I have got, over the years,
a sense of the immense sweep of creation,
of the evolutionary process in everything,
of how incomprehensible God must necessarily be
to be the God of heaven and earth.
You can’t fit the Almighty into your intellectual categories.
~Flannery O’Connor from The Habit of Being
It’s when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
~Denise Levertov “The Mystery of the Incarnation”
We want God to fit into the holes of our comprehension exactly like a puzzle piece falls into place in the space meant just for it.
But He doesn’t. He won’t. The holes aren’t God-shaped. They are ragged and changing moment by moment.
The holes of our understanding gape so large that only God knows it takes the glue of faith to bridge the gap.
Perhaps that is what “holy” is all about.
Oh, is it not enough to be
Here with this beauty over me?
My throat should ache with praise, and I
Should kneel in joy beneath the sky.
O beauty, are you not enough?
Why am I crying after love,
With youth, a singing voice, and eyes
To take earth’s wonder with surprise?
I, for whom the pensive night
Binds her cloudy hair with light,—
I, for whom all beauty burns
Like incense in a million urns?
O beauty, are you not enough?
Why am I crying after love?
~Sara Teasdale from “Spring Night”
When you stand before the most amazing sunset
or when you see the beauty of a human face,
whether it’s a little baby
or a lovely wise old person,
there is a haunting quality to it,
as though it’s not just complete in itself.
It’s a signpost to a larger truth
that is just around the corner,
just out of sight.
We can’t grip it,
can’t get our hands on it.
It’s as though we’re hearing the echo of a voice,
and we’d love to hear whose that voice is
and what story it’s telling.
Part of the joy of beauty
is the realization that it is part of a larger whole,
most of which appears to be just out of sight.
We are drawn forward toward something…
and left waiting, wondering.
~N.T. Wright from Life, God and Other Small Topics
Beauty is the link that connects,
the magnet that brings us home,
to look beyond,
to think more deeply,
to believe in something beyond our grasp~
Beauty leaves us crying after love
that bleeds for us
and heals all that is broken in us.
By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.
Here are two mysteries for the price of one — the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus. . . .
Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.
~J. L. Packer from Knowing God
…any father, particularly an old father, must finally give his child up to the wilderness and trust to the providence of God.
It seems almost a cruelty for one generation to beget another when parents can secure so little for their children, so little safety, even in the best circumstances. Great faith is required to give the child up, trusting God to honor the parents’ love for him by assuring that there will indeed be angels in that wilderness.
~Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
This is a reassuring truth: watching our children leave our home to a life of their own, I trusted in God’s providence there would be angels in the wilderness waiting to guide them (and indeed there have been and continue to be).
In turn, every day as I head to work in my clinic, I have opportunity to be an angel in the wilderness for children who have left their parents’ home and are seeking out their own path, sometimes choosing one that is twisting, rocky, full of pitfalls and perilous.
Despite my own weariness, holding this perspective helps me greet each new face with a mother’s embrace.
The hen flings a single pebble aside
with her yellow, reptilian foot.
Never in eternity the same sound–
a small stone falling on a red leaf.
The juncture of twig and branch,
scarred with lichen, is a gate
we might enter, singing.
The mouse pulls batting
from a hundred-year-old quilt.
She chewed a hole in a blue star
to get it, and now she thrives…
Now is her time to thrive.
Things: simply lasting, then
failing to last: water, a blue heron’s
eye, and the light passing
between them: into light all things
must fall, glad at last to have fallen.
~Jane Kenyon “Things”
Things we think will last won’t.
As transient as a storm-birthed rainbow,
Light passes between things and us,
illuminating a pathway
to something far more lasting.
So we follow, falling, always falling,
failing ourselves to last
until lifted up into the light
Gladly we reflect the Light
… And now in vast, cold, empty space, alone.
Yet hidden deep within the grown-up heart,
A longing for the first world, the ancient one …
Then, from His place of ambush, God leapt out.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
That’s the mystery of us.
But then there’s the mystery of God,
lying in ambush,
waiting for the fulfillment of time,
the nexus of his grace and our vulnerability.
~Kathleen Mulhern “Hangs My Helpless Soul on Thee”
Sometimes, during a long night of fitful sleep,
when nothing makes sense and worry takes over,
I ponder the mystery of how our brains were made to wonder at all.
I long for a simpler time,
for clarity of purpose,
for laughter through tears,
for gratitude even in hard times.
Yet as I toss and turn,
I know my God lies in wait for me,
as He watches for the moment
when being ambushed is exactly what I need.