Living Mystery

 

My wife is a walking enigma at times. It’s a strange thing to see – that face you have come to know so well sorting through thoughts and emotions that you will never see nor understand. We had a moment where I hugged her in the kitchen and she didn’t let go. When I asked what was wrong, she replied “Nothing.” I asked what she was thinking about. Her response? “I don’t know.” She didn’t let go of me for ten minutes and she has still not given me a real explanation behind that moment.

Maybe I am completely ignorant to the ways of the female species and I shouldn’t even bother to understand. A part of me thinks this feeling is a byproduct of God’s design. Men and women will never fully understand each other, yet we need each other. I would say the same is true regarding human beings and God, but God doesn’t need us. To some, that fact may seem disconcerting, yet I find it somehow reassuring. He doesn’t need us, yet he wants us. He doesn’t need us to live, but he sent his Son to die so we could live. To the human mind, the concept doesn’t make any real logical sense. Pretty much everything about God feels like it doesn’t make sense most days, yet I choose to trust and follow Him (as best as I can, which doesn’t feel like much some days). With God, you have to learn to accept the mystery.

The idea of mystery doesn’t align with some worldviews. Many atheists view the lack of tangible evidence of God as proof of his nonexistence. Mystery it seems, is a slamming door instead of an invitation to step inside and explore. Rationality is a wall that attempts to keep the mystery at bay. I’ve heard many notable atheists say they love their spouse, and I find that an odd thing to say because I believe that many of us feel deep down that love is a mysterious thing. They may dismiss it as the feelings and attachments created by evolution related to the biological urge to reproduce, but is this answer really satisfying to our souls? If instead of saying “I love you” to my wife in her moment of mysterious vulnerability and emotion, I instead said “I feel strongly about you because I desire to reproduce with you because of my biological and evolutionary programing,” would that make her feel cared for, protected, and treasured? I highly doubt it. In fact, if I had said that, she probably would have punched me in the arm and made me sleep on the couch. I feel we yearn for the mystery because the mystery means there may be more.

I have learned to fully accept that my wife is a mystery that can never fully be solved, much like my son and the God that spoke all things into being. But, just because I’ll never those mysteries doesn’t mean I should stop trying to figure them out. Quitting eliminates any chances of learning and growing, not only in my relationships, but also in my own character as a husband, father, and man.

Years ago, I read an article about the end of the TV show LOST. Many lamented at the lack of real answers to many of the long-running questions of the show, and the writer of the article said that the answers never would have really satisfied anyway, and I agreed with him. Very few people would have gotten an answer and said, “Oh, so that’s why X happened. Ok!” Instead, it would have been more along the lines of “Wait, THAT’S IT?! Really?” He argued the pursuit of the mystery was what made the ride special, and I choose to look at my life the same way. The pursuit is the point.

I will never fully understand LOST.

I will never fully understand what runs through my son’s head.

I will never fully understand the woman is who is my wife.

I will never fully understand the God who saved me.

But I will never stop chasing the mystery.

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The Role of a Lifetime

 

On March 9th I will be accepting the role of a lifetime, a role that will play a part in defining my legacy on this planet: on March 9th, I will become a husband and father (step-father).

No pressure right?

This is a role I accept gladly, and a challenge that I look forward to. This was not my mindset a year before the time of this writing. Last January I was in a relationship that was heading for a crash and a burn, and both parties were at fault for various reasons. We wanted fundamentally different things, and I feel we were both attempting to force ourselves into becoming things and people we really weren’t. When it ended in an especially painful way, I came to a horrifying realization – I had spent a large majority of that relationship lying to myself.

At a point during that relationship I convinced myself that I never wanted to be a father. There are various reasons why I came to this conclusion, but the most fundamental reason was simple: I was selfish. I saw children as an inconvenience to what I wanted and fatherhood as a sort of resignation from a life of adventure and new experiences. In retrospect, it’s easy to see that attitude for what it really was, and to see me for what I was back then: a selfish coward who didn’t know what he really wanted.

After that relationship ended I took some time and intensely examined myself, and I didn’t like what I found. I found that I was more concerned with being “nice” than truly being a man of real principle. I stayed in my relationship because I was afraid I would never find better, and what I thought was great about that relationship was based on what I imagined it was and could be, not for the reality of it. I discovered that I had lied to myself for a large part of it and should have ended it sooner than I did. All in all, I discovered I was weak, selfish, and self-decieving. The deception was the most concerning one of all. I saw a quote from Dostoyevsky that really struck me on this issue:

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

 Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

I decided to never deceive myself again and deal with myself with complete transparency. It was a painful process, one that took me to places that I didn’t want to mentally or emotionally journey to, and it broke me in many places. But, through it all, I was able to rebuild through God’s grace. When I emerged on the other side, I promised myself that I would never be that man again. Less than a month after I made that promise, I met the woman who will soon be my wife.

In the past I would have brushed over her because she had a child from a previous marriage, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t be selfish or afraid, and I made that leap of faith. Now, I cannot wait to be a father to her child and the best possible husband to her. I cannot help but put them before myself. And I firmly believe that God helped bring us together, partially because I took that leap and trusted that promise.

The promise that I made to myself came out of a place of prayer and pain. The thing that solidified it in my mind was a line from Hillsong’s song So Will I (One Billion X). In the song, after singing of God’s power over the universe and galaxies and every single thing in existence that He created, it ends on an intensely personal line that simultaneously devastated and strengthened me: “You’re the One who never leaves the one behind.” God would never leave me behind, yet in my selfishness and weakness in my past, I would have left some behind. It was in that moment that I promised God and myself that I would strive to never leave one behind.

Soon, I will be responsible for leading and loving two of those that God wouldn’t leave behind. How could I love that same God with all my heart and not do the same? How could I be a good husband and a good father if I didn’t strive to do what God does daily for me?

The point behind all this is that you cannot deceive yourself and be selfish and trust God fully at the same time. Because I trusted, because I allowed truth to change me through meditation, introspection, and prayer, God brought me to place and to people who change my life as much as I hope I change theirs.

Trust in truth. It may burn, but it also refines.