Have you ever been enamored by a child’s sense of wonder? Their incredulous awe in myths like the tooth fairy and Santa, their wide-eyed anticipation of unwrapping a present?
We are most inspired by the unknown.
A magic trick — how did they do it?!
A movie with surprising plot twists.
A news scandal shrouded with mystery.
We are drawn to the unknown because it tickles the innate sense of curiosity within us to discover and explore. Mystery invites participation, not for the sake of removing what is unknown, but to ignite a passion for learning beyond what is certain and be changed through the process.
Why is it then, we insist on equating our Christian faith to certainty? We sing about a Blessed Assurance and hold intensive meetings to discuss the essentials of faith. We share testimonies of God stories to shelve any doubts of God’s existence. We preach the same sermons, pray the same prayers, tell the same stories, week after week to convince ourselves it all is still true.
Is this what our Christianity has been reduced to, more of the same? I am sorry, but I simply cannot muster up anymore enthusiasm for such a formulaic faith; it’s like taking elementary classes all over again. I already know that two plus two equals four.
I am longing for the gift of uncertainty, a type of profound mystery that welcomes questions, a faith that requires a leap of faith to sustain. I don’t want to be told the answers to life’s pain. I want to live through the darkness and grope for God’s Holy Hand.
I want to sit in the pews and contemplate the complexities of human relationships instead of listening to another self-help sermon. That older gentleman in the pews, holding his adult disabled son’s hand, how does he find strength to be faithful? Where is the source of his love? The screaming toddler who won’t respond to the mother’s efforts to calm him — why is he struggling? The vessels for stories all around me compel me more than the programs listed in the bulletin. I want to search for God by mining the lives of God’s image bearers.
In the fast-food version of Christianity, God is packaged in accessible three-step programs, delivered in different ways: skits, sermons, Bible studies, movies, songs, and dance, but the goal is always to serve up the same, bland, sanitized spiritual food. If I know exactly how the characters of a story are going to end up (repented, reconciled, redeemed), then I cannot feel invested in the journey. These are pre-programmed characters — propaganda puppets. I don’t trust they speak for the God of this crazy big universe.
I long to see through a glass darkly, to see just an outline of God in a fog, because I fear the crisp and clean images of God are mere illusions. When God is definitively contained in creeds and doctrines, we have concluded the search. Then what?
I want to keep searching.
I don’t mind coming together week after week, taking the same old bread and wine, breathing the same, repetitive prayers. But with every rote movement, I want to be scratching over the picture of God we’ve carved out, because there is something buried deeper to be uncovered, to be sculpted, shaped, and revealed.
I want to shed a million different lights on the image of Christ. I want the astronomers to go further out into the wide expanse of space, and the biologists to discover even more minute units of being: what makes up the atom, and what makes up what makes up the atom? I want comedians to come up with funnier jokes, painters to produce never-before-seen colors, and technology to weird us out again and again and again.
And I want to keep searching for God, even when I’m not sure God exists.
I want to be the child on Christmas Day — dubious of how the elf on the shelf got in the house, curious about whether Santa indeed ate the cookies, uncertain what gifts lay under the tree, but filled with wonder.
I want to be led by the God of Mystery and not by the Idol of Certainty.
Cindy Brandt blogs at cindywords.com and serves on the board of One Day's Wages, an organization fighting extreme global poverty. She studied Bible/Theology at Wheaton College and holds a Master of Arts in Theology from Fuller Seminary.
Image: Blurred Christmas scene, Meaw story / Shutterstock.com