Finding God in Mystery and Wonder
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." —Albert Einstein
We are believers in the unseen. That is faith. Yet ironically what often draws us into this faith are the wondrous things of this world that are seen and felt.
As we partake in the invisible world of our faith and its mysteries, our inspiration and revelation depend on us looking on our world with wonder and embracing mystery. To gaze closely, and then, gaze even closer. With our creative infilling, we joyously accept the unknowns, while aspiring to express what truth we can grasp with our limited abilities. With our curious hearts and minds, we explore a world that can leave us breathless; speechless.
For the Greeks, the word mystery means something hidden. A secret. One that is not meant to be solved but to be revealed. Like the dissonant notes of a jazz composition, mystery doesn’t resolve neatly. Its job is to bring us to that hidden place long enough for us to learn something. And just as a flower cannot be forced to bloom, revealed mysteries imply patience, an anticipation of the process and wonder. As we wonder, our understanding is directed by the Spirit of God that moves beneath the surface of everything, and guides us into all truth.
Wonder engages us in mystery. It invites us in, not to solve problems but to settle into the questions. Wonder is marveling at the mystery and being ok that it leaves behind a bit of ambiguity. The questions are what steer us toward discovery but not necessarily the answers. While the axioms of life, like gravity and mathematics, are well-established and more easily expressed, it is the realm of mystery that artists often find themselves in. That “heavenly lostness” that Robert Frost describes, where we explore the blurry edges, the subtleties, and the abstractions. It is not a quest to define the unknowns, but to soak in the mystery, to let God reveal truth, and in doing so, to lead us outward toward an ever-expanding centrifugal circle of revelation.
Giotto’s frescoes brought heaven to earth in the way he painted heavenly imagery in azure and gold. In the same way, we help others look beyond the physical and into that depth of mystery as we depict our visions, in an effort to lend them our eyes, our ears, our heart to experience how the mystery has been revealed to us.
Exploring scripture, we see God as a God shrouded in mystery—mystery to be discovered, and mystery to remain. The incompleteness of mystery is there to remind us of the unfinished state of things—a reality that is not quite realized yet.
"Truly you are a God that hide yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior." (Isaiah 45:15)
God hides Himself in order that we may seek Him. What we value, we seek out diligently. And we believe the seeking is just as important as the finding. God has imprinted his fingerprints on creation and embedded His heart and mind into everything He has made. When we look closely, we see a hidden working of God’s power and wisdom occurring in the world and in us. When we pause and wonder, in that stillness we feel the closeness of the creator, just as observing a piece of art connects us with the heart of the artist.
Revealed mysteries have power to transform us and inspire our art. Within a tiny seed lies everything that is needed to grow a towering Redwood 40,000 times its size and span a lifetime of two thousand years. It is not a foolish waste of time to sit and wonder—the moment of revelation sparks growth and helps us form connections and see new conceptions of reality.
"I asked for wonder, and He gave it to me." —Brennan Manning
Mystery invites us in, not to figure everything out, but to be swept away by it. That is why it is called faith—it lies outside the realm of things we can fully explain with words. The mystery of the Incarnation, His transfiguration, resurrection, and His ascension draw us into a Story that pulls us ever upward and inward. Reverent in our awe, we look with wonder at the created world in order to catch a glimpse of God and how His continuing Story overlaps with ours. The intricacies and genius of a flower; the inherit wisdom of a butterfly in migration. We are noticing something that has God’s fingerprints, and we won’t walk away from it without carrying a bit more of His revelation.
"Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." (1 Corinthians 4:1)
If we are anything as artists, we are stewards of revealed mysteries. When Dante came face to face with God in the final act of the Divine Comedy, he was confronted with “l’amour che move il sole e l’altre stelle”—meaning the “love that moves the sun and the other stars.” We live, move, and have our being in a universe formed with love and fashioned by the Spirit—and we accept this place as the space God chooses to reveal Himself to us, an infinite universe of truth and beauty that is gloriously mirrored in the world around us. Our privilege is to steward and give of these found treasures, discovered in a realm of mystery and wonder.
Words and Photos—Evie Shaffer