Mystery, Hints & Signs

We drove on the freeway for a while, but away from the hills to the north of us. In fact, I couldn’t see any mountains ahead of us. Confused, I asked again where we were going…. So in the midst of the mystery, we see hints and signs that catch our attention and evoke excitement of something unseen but wonderfully imaginative.

A memory came to mind during my morning walk today. It took place when I was of elementary school age. I remember waking up one Saturday morning to find my parents busy making preparations for a family outing. My mom told me to put on some nice clothes. When I asked where we were going, my dad said, “We’re going hiking on a mountain.” That didn’t make any sense. Why would my mom tell me to put on nice clothes to go hiking. But I did what I was told.



After my parents piled my brother and I and an ice chest into the car, we started off. We drove on the freeway for a while, but away from the hills to the north of us. In fact, I couldn’t see any mountains ahead of us. Confused, I asked again where we were going. “Hiking on a mountain,” was the answer. This time I pressed further, “What mountain?” I remember my dad grinning at my mom and saying, “The Matterhorn.” Even back then I knew the Matterhorn wasn’t a mountain in southern California. So I sat back and tried to figure out this little mystery.



A little later, I noticed signs stating, “Disneyland.” Could it be? We’ve never been to Disneyland before. Nah. But then we passed another sign, “Disneyland: Next Exit.” And we exited the freeway. No way! Excitement, laced with uncertainty began to build. Was it just coincidence? Several miles later we came to a sign saying, “Disneyland Parking” with an arrow pointing toward a driveway. And we turned in!!! My brother and I went nuts. “We’re going to Disneyland!!” The entire time, my parents were smiling.



_library_graphics_prdisneysigntmMystery. Hints. Signs. That’s life in God’s kingdom. We never know the full Story, mostly just shadows. In our culture, knowledge is power. But Job 12:13 states, “True wisdom and real power belong to God.” I find it interesting that the original sin was eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Again, knowledge is power. It fosters independence and when used improperly, it can subjugate and oppress.



Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think God ever asks us to shut down our minds and reason. He has given reason as a gift to explore and ponder great mysteries. It is a powerful attribute that we wield in our stewardship of creation. But our reason has limits and cannot penetrate very deeply into the mysterious and unfathomable. There are things that can only be known by revelation. And for many of us, myself included, that is a painful fact to live with. I want to know.



There are many theories of epistemology. Modernity taught an epistemology of certainty. If we tried hard enough, dissected small enough, explored long enough, we would know. And by knowing we would be able to control. But that has proven to be a pipedream. Postmodernity, in many ways, reacts to modernity with an epistemology of doubt. No one can really know much of anything. Knowledge is simply individual perspective. But I think we will soon discover that this will run out of gas as well.



I like what N.T. Wright calls an epistemology of love. We know by entering into a relationship of love and trust. How do I know my friends and family love me? As factual as their love may be, my knowledge of their love flows from relationship and not from pure demonstrable cognitive knowledge.



So as we journey in our formation, our community and our mission, we may not have all the answers. We may not know everything we want to know. In fact, knowing myself (I won’t even get into that one right now), there will be times when I am dead-wrong. But we walk in relationship with One who does know – One to whom belongs all wisdom and power. We can trust his leadership and care. In fact, perhaps depending on him is actually more formative than the gaining of knowledge.



So in the midst of the mystery, we see hints and signs that catch our attention and evoke excitement of something unseen but wonderfully imaginative. And when a sign finally evokes understanding and awareness and passion, we discover something greater than knowledge. We discover character. And we see our Father smiling.

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