The Beautiful Mystery
“It’s a beautiful religion,” she mused, “and I wish I understood it more. No. I don’t want to understand it all. It’s beautiful because it’s always a mystery, like God Himself is a mystery.”
Truthful words uttered by young Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She ponders these truths one Christmas while attending mass in her Brooklyn Cathedral. She is no stranger to hurt, hunger, even death, losing her father at a young age. She knows what it is like to question.
Life is full of disappointment, doubt, dread. But the cross of Christ is paradoxical at its core. Death and life meet in one fell swoop.
It’s beautiful because it’s a mystery. Always.
Who can know the mind of God? Who can search out His ways? The longer I journey with Him, the more I resign myself to the not-knowing, the providence, the mystery.
And there is beauty in this.
This God-Man made Himself nothing. Taking on the form of a servant. The One Who wraps Himself in light shed His glory and became One of Whom men hide their faces. He exchanged residence in heaven to walk upon this earth, filled with sin, sorrow, and shame.
He Who knew no sin, became sin for us. His own Father turned His back away from Him so that He experienced the ultimate disappointment. Shamed, He hung on a cross.
“...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.“ (1 Timothy 3:16)
God Himself is a mystery. He revealed Himself in the flesh. Emmanuel. God with us. During this advent season, we anticipate His coming. His presence on earth brought us life. His death and resurrection secured the way for His Own Spirit to dwell inside us. Great is the mystery.
The beauty of this mystery is that in our darkest moments, we have this hope. The apostle Paul talked about it, describing it as a “secret”. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12b-13)
I find it intriguing that Paul chose the word “secret” here. It has the sense of mystery, or wonder. He could’ve used a variety of words such as “prescription”, “solution”, or “formula”. I have found the solution of being content, or I now know the formula. But instead, he capitalizes on this idea of mystery. I have found the secret of being content. There is a secret to being content in any and every situation.
The secret: the mystery of Christ.
Christ in us, Emmanuel, gives us the strength to face whatever lies before us: the not understanding, the “if onlys”, the want as well as the plenty.
If there is one thing I have learned in this mystery we call life, it is the presence of Christ changes everything. There is a strength drawn from His indwelling spirit that cannot be bottled or prescribed. It is a mystery in the most beautiful sense. He provides the root system when the winds sway our spirits. He remains our anchor when the circumstances of life swirl in chaos around us.
I can do all this…through Him.
So as we journey into this advent season, may we remember the shadows of life are always eclipsed by the beautiful mystery of His coming. He made His presence among us, and within us.
It’s beautiful because it’s always a mystery, like God Himself is a mystery.