Some mysteries exist because what can be known has been withheld. Some mysteries exist because what can be known has not yet been found, while other mysteries exist because we don’t have a way to understand what can be known – as it is.
A mystery is not merely a secret kept from us. Jean Vanier beautifully explains the difference:
A secret can be divulged, and then there is nothing further to discover. But a mystery is never exhausted; we can always plunge deeper into it. And I say “plunge” deliberately, because a mystery is something we inhabit. We don’t contain it; it contains us, because it is larger than we are. A secret dwells in us. But we dwell in a mystery. A mystery can contain all of us, each with the singularity and uniqueness of our own secret, in relationship with the secret of others.
In one sense the conception and birth of a child is a mystery…but not really. We know the mechanisms of conception and birth. What is the mystery? Isn’t it more true that knowing about how a child comes to be created in secret, does not really explain the mystery of life? Isn’t it – the awe this secret creates in us?
In a way, the poet has an advantage to give words to that which engenders awe.
Consider Psalm 139:
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvellous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You. (NKJV)
Embedded in this Psalm is the seed for exploring the mystery of our worth – for our worth isn’t so much about us, as it is about the God who ascribes worth to us. The mystery is that we have worth to God and we can plunge ourselves into His inexhaustible value.
Note, especially, verse 17.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
Unfortunately English finds it difficult to capture the double meaning of the words “to me.” The Psalmist is singing “how precious are your thoughts about me that you show to me, O God!”
Of course God’s thoughts are precious on their own. The poets go into great length on this in many of the Psalms. God’s thoughts needn’t be about us to make them precious to us. But that God’s thoughts are about us is astonishing. This should not make us think we are the narcissistic centre of a small galaxy. No. Our worth says more about God than it says about us. The writer of Psalm 8 puts like this:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
The Psalmist considers creation that engenders awe – the heavens, the moon and the stars – in order to consider something else that creates awe – how God would be “mindful” and “caring” of mankind.
Who are we to God that He is thinks of us at all? Or as Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message:
Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?
The mystery of our worth may not interest everyone. I know people who have not struggled with self-hatred as expertly as I have. People who, mysteriously to me, have just known they are loved, and they feel happily content with their knowing. All I can say is that this is not my experience. I grew up with what I mockingly call a well refined Germanic sense of self loathing that stained how I saw myself, others, and God.
Thus, I am on a journey to uncover, disclose, and otherwise, expose the glory of God in Christ’s amazing way of investing value in each of us as we enter into relationship with Him. To me, this is more enigma than dogma.
Will you join me?