George Carlin pokes fun at the priests and nuns of his youth, who whenever they were asked a tough theological question would respond with; “Well…it’s a mystery”. Like Carlin, I left the Roman Catholic church as a young man, not out of any disagreement or dissatisfaction – just disinterest. Maybe the church didn’t have all the answers, but, at the time I didn’t have too many questions, either.
25 years later I had plenty of questions and finally found the answers to all of them, in the Bible. Like Saul of Tarsus, the scales had fallen from my eyes. But unlike Saul, who caught only glimpses of God, as through a glass darkly, for me everything was crystal clear. The Bible had become the Rosetta stone of my life, and I no longer needed to stumble about, hoping for the best. Every question, every concern, every choice that I was presented with could now be handled with absolute certainty, simply by opening the Good Book. Those who did not, or chose not to, have access to the Bible were as blind as I used to be.
A few years later I am no longer so sure about all that the Bible has to say. Things that I was once so positive about – who Jesus was, what God wants of us, what God’s plan of salvation is ( or what salvation even means) – all have been turned on their heads. (As David Gray sings, “I used to be so definite“). The stark relief of Biblical blacks and whites that I once cherished are now like sidewalk chalk drawings in the rain. The colors run together, some of the images becoming blurry. The pictures are no longer static, intricately detailed and well defined. Changing and shifting, the colors blend and flow, each drop of rain adding to, as well as taking away from, the softened tapestry, yet the beauty of the art still shines through. If the paintings themselves are no longer quite so well defined, so obviously apparent, they now stimulate the imagination, inviting each of us to become active participants as we are called to bring our own unique perspectives into play.
It may seem risky to look at God in this way – fewer absolutes, more possibilities, with no real boundaries. But might it not be riskier still to take the infinite God, creator of the universe, and define him precisely, and only, as how we encounter him in scriptures? When we lovingly open ourselves up to the im-possibilities of God we will be invited into encounters with the Unknown. In every picture that God paints us into, in some mystical and mysterious way, we will also find Jesus.