Navigating and sharing the unsolvable enigma of the divine

An elementary school teacher watched as 6-year-olds drew pictures. At the back of the class sat a little girl who normally didn’t pay much attention. She loved to draw, however, and for 20 minutes she sat with her arms curled around the paper, totally absorbed in her creation. The teacher noticed her intensity and asked what she was drawing.

Without looking up she said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.”

Surprised, the teacher blurted, “But nobody knows what God looks like.”

The girl said, “They will in a minute.”

God is a mystery.

One of the dangers of preaching is that when I speak, I explain things in a way that suggests that God is always logical, always makes sense and can be easily explained. God can be reduced to five laws, described in four points, and followed through three steps.

God can’t be contained or domesticated. God is an ocean, not a swimming pool. To plumb the depths of God is to discover deeper waters still.

God created the world, but how did God create the world? The Bible says that in the beginning, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. God spoke: “Let there be light!” And there was light. How does God create simply by a word?

The miracles of the Bible are mysterious. Water to wine and lepers cleansed with a word or a touch or a little spittle. The cross is a mystery. How did Jesus take the sins of the world upon himself? Salvation is a mystery. Sanctification is a mystery. Heaven is a mystery. Life and death? Mystery. The incarnation — God coming into the world as a baby in the manger? Mystery. The Spirit’s working in our lives is a mystery.

Perhaps this is why the Bible often calls people of faith “stewards of the mystery.” Not perfect, not certain. Just stewards. Keepers and caretakers and messengers. The mystery dwells within us. God lives in broken, messy people like you and me.

Gardner Taylor pondered this question when he said, “God might have found so many other ways to spread the Gospel of the love of God. He might have written his love on the leaves of the trees and blowing winds would have sent out the news of deliverance and redemption far and wide. God might have written his love in the skies and in the rising sun so that people looking upward could have read the message: ‘God so loved the world that he gave!’ He might have made the ocean sing his love and nightingales chant his praise. But none of these, not even angels could ever preach, however and say: ‘I’ve been redeemed.’”

God has given you stewardship over one small area of this world, with a set of gifts to serve. You are a steward of God’s mystery in this time and in this place. You are God’s creation to reveal God to the world.

Your life is a canvas. What do others see?

Brent McDougal  is pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist Church. The Worship section is a regular feature underwritten by Advocate Publishing and by the neighborhood business people and churches listed on these pages. For information about helping support the Worship section, call 214.560.4202.