Good Writing and the Mystery of “All”

I am currently in the midst of a pretty serious addiction. I am addicted to Stephen King books. You may have picked this up on the blog, but I think it is good to get it out there. I love his books (although I have yet to read any actual horror novels), and I have allowed him to take up most of my recreational reading for quite a while now.

stephen-king-quoteBut yesterday I realized why I like him so much. One of the things that makes him a brilliant writer is the way he constantly leaves you in suspense. I go back to a book every day because as the story progresses there are more and more things I don’t know about. There is a mystery or some ominous revelation or a cryptic comment which keeps me going back so I can discover the answer. And this is not just true of King, I just think he is especially good at it.

A really good book leaves you with some mystery. As you find more and more out about the story, there ends up being more and more you don’t know. So you keep reading. The unknown is what is keeps us going back to the story. If we knew everything that was going to happen, we wouldn’t read the book. (Unless you are one of those sick minded people who read the last page first. Seek help!) You will never read the word “predictable” as a compliment for fiction. We go back again and again because we know there is more to discover.

This week’s reading in Colossians is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. Mainly because I love Paul’s use of “all things.” I think a theology of God in all things is something we need to recapture as Christians. We tend to spend a lot of time regulating the distinctions between sacred and secular and determining where God is and isn’t. Turns out this is superfluous. God is in ALL things and has poured out the Spirit on ALL people.

So what it means to be a Christian is to discover what is already true. We are learning to awaken ourselves to the constant presence of God in all things, and learning to live into our true identity as a carrier of God’s Spirit. This is tough work, because “all” is a big word. It shows us the mystery inherit in following Jesus. There is always more to learn about ourselves and the people around us and the presence of God in even the mundane and Ordinary places. The unknown is what should keep us going back.

But even though we gravitate towards the unknown and mysterious in a work of fiction, we flee the opposite direction in life. We like life to be predictable (although we rarely say this out loud) so we can control and manage it. We do the same thing with God. We don’t want God to be mysterious. We don’t like God being in “all things.” Because a mysterious God who is at work in all things cannot be controlled, boxed in and appropriately managed.

But the mystery of God is the beauty of God. There should be always more to discover. We should want to go back again and again because there is more we don’t understand. Instead of causing anxiety, mystery should create a sense of reverence, wonder, and awe.

If we really push into it, we don’t want a God we can manage. We want a God who is writing a good story – unpredictable, keeps you longing for more, but gives you enough to keep going in the midst of uncertainty.

May we learn to embrace uncertainty and mystery so we can continue to find the God who is in all things and holds all things together.

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