Monday, June 11, 2007

Leaving Room for Mystery

I love thunderstorms. The sweet smell and feel of rain after a hot, dry summer day is so refreshing. Nature’s fireworks in the sky are beautiful to me. But I know that they can be scary, too. My grandmother used to hide in the bathroom whenever the rumbling would start! My children aren’t fond of the storms, either.

Tonight as a storm raged at bedtime, they didn’t want to go to sleep. I assured them that I would sit in their room with them. To help keep them from being afraid, I told them to think about God and the angels bowling up in heaven, making all the noise. I know that is obviously not the case. They do, too, but it seemed to provide some comfort and gave them something to think about as they drifted off to dreamland.

It also got me thinking about what heaven might be like. We know heaven exists and that it will be a place of perfect happiness. We know we will be united with God and with the loved ones who have gone before us. Yet, so much is mystery. What will we do there? My children often ask if their toys will be in heaven. I tell them that in heaven they will have all that they need and desire. I wonder also if there are toys in heaven for the children who are there. My family has often joked that my grandparents and great-aunts and uncles are all up in heaven playing cards, their favorite pastime here on earth. I wonder. I would like there to be libraries and art museums in heaven. I would like there to be beautiful fields and flowers. I know that heaven will far exceed any visions that my imagination might create, and I can only hope to one day have the opportunity to experience it. For the moment, it is clouded in mystery.

So much of our faith is rooted in mystery. We cannot hope to fathom God. We can experience God and read His word in Scripture, but understand God? That is beyond our human capability. We can speak of the Trinity using theological terms like “homoousious” and “economic” and “immanent” and yet, at the end of the day, it really defies understanding. At the sacrifice of the mass, we witness and believe in the miracle of transubstantiation, but no one can explain how it happens. Even Thomas Aquinas after his years of study and writing was forced to concede it was “all straw.”

We don’t like mystery. We like to understand things. We like clear-cut processes and directions that make sense. We like to be able to find the answers to our questions. This isn’t how it works with faith or with God. We catch a glimmer and that glimmer sustains us. We hope for a future in which it will all be clear. In the meantime, we can learn to embrace the mystery. We can experience awe in the presence of a God who is so powerful that we cannot even begin to fathom the depths of His existence. We can be thankful for the opportunity we have to be a part of God’s incredible creation.

My mother used to tell me that we would get our answers in heaven to all the questions that haunt us here. I hope so. Who knows? Maybe we will even see the angels up there bowling.

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